Vincent Safuto’s Weblog

Notes and observations

The ‘fun’ of jobhunting

Columnist David Frum recently noted on CNN.com that the economy is a remote concept to many politicians.

When you’re collecting big paychecks or living off enormous past earnings, it’s hard to connect with those who are struggling just to get a paycheck so they can pay their bills. Nowadays, elected officials never take vows of poverty, though they whine when a job “only” pays $200,000 a year. Try living on freelancer checks, and you’ll soon see why some of us believe that every politician is out of touch.

Politicians and their immediate families have no worries about employment because there are countless nonprofits eager to hire a politician’s of-age children for a six-figure salary if they figure they will have an “in” to the really big dough, and maybe a government contract. Nonprofits are always “raising awareness” of something – nose-picking, goat molestation, etc. – through walking, running, eating, drinking or belching, and someone always has to “market” the event.

This is different from the “marketing” normal people do. Marketing jobs for the non-elite are usually door-to-door sales or telemarketing. For the elite, marketing is getting your picture taken and having it run in a magazine over ad copy. Nice work, if you can get it, and they can because they have the right last name.

For the 99 percent, landing a job can be a brutal experience, and a humiliating one, too. A recent experience I had bears this out.

I’ve been applying for jobs, though I have a freelance gig with a local newspaper. I keep hoping something good comes along, but one that caught my eye advertised an actual salary — $10 an hour – and was a proofreading job. My forte is spelling, grammar and punctuation, so I thought I might be able to get this job and talk up the salary. I certainly wasn’t going to work for $10 an hour, that’s for sure.

The company was hiring through an intermediary, and I showed up at the office massively overdressed. I filled out tons of forms, and this was for a job for which I hadn’t even been hired, and watched an overly-long video on safety in the workplace. I had to sit at a computer and answer questions, and I thought the woman was kidding when she said it was about my drug usage.

Well, I don’t use drugs, but I was asked how much meth I had taken in the past week, how I preferred to abuse prescription painkillers and how many times I had shown up for past jobs high or drunk. Also, there were questions about whether I thought it was OK to steal from the company and lie about being injured.

I knew the “right” answers and gave them, but I was also answering honestly. I “passed.”

Finally, before I could be presented to the company, I had to take a series of tests of my actual job skills: typing, data entry, computer usage. But I could do that at home. First, there was the issue of pay. (The job offered no benefits.)

“I know I put $10 an hour in the ad, but how much do you think you should be paid?” the woman asked me.

I replied that I felt for my knowledge, experience and education, $15 an hour was right.

“No way. They’d never pay that,” she said.

“Look,” I said, “I won’t cross the Skyway for less than $12.50.”

“I don’t think I could even get you that.”

Initially, I was going to just go home, do the test and try to make my case for the higher salary, but I decided the hell with it. It was a long drive to this job, there were no guarantees of anything secure and I would be giving up a freelance journalism gig that was not only very fulfilling and well-paid, but might lead to more such work and maybe – hey, I can dream, right? — in the future a full-time job with those benefits that are a hallmark of the middle class.

For elected officials, the notion that I would be picky about a job and reject it for low pay and no benefits is offensive, but you should notice that their children never join the military (too much work, advancement way too slow), go to work for the Postal Service (too much work, night shifts, advancement nearly impossible) or take unpaid jobs with charities (too much work, contact with lower classes, paychecks too small).

Their kids know that if they wait long enough, Mom or Dad will call in a political favor for them, and they’re on their way to the top. Hey, there are plenty of charities looking for a “name” staffer, and they’d rather give their largesse to someone who matters, not someone who sincerely wants to make a difference and, perhaps, really needs a job.

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April 14, 2012 - Posted by | Life lessons, The jobless chronicles | , , , , ,

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