Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Zen and the Art of Looking for a Job

Today has been a test of my faith, willingness and humility unlike any I've faced in the past 32 months. A day where someone looking for a job has three interviews should be a banner day, right? Therein lay the test. How do I get through a day that on the surface looks ideal, but is really just a nightmare? And not only get through it, but leave myself in a position to have a choice of which job I want.

To get you up to speed, let me back up. Last Friday, I called Job A -- which is the job I want most -- to finally schedule a second interview. I had already met with the owner of the company, but I still had to meet the general manager. Now, just to get to this point has already required the patience of Job, the willingness of Abraham and the determination of David (of Goliath fame) because it took more than two weeks to just schedule it. That, however, was a piece of cake compare to the three months it took to get the first interview. So, believe me when I say I was stoked when we settled on Tuesday at 2 pm.

Fast forward to Monday afternoon around 3pm. I get a call from (this one I don't really need to disguise since it's a large corporation) Target. Can I come in on Tuesday at 1pm for an interview? Since I hadn't gotten a single call from any of the other applications I'd filled out or resumes I sent up to this point, it was only natural that they would want me to come in at the only time I was unavailable. I asked about an earlier time, and was told the only other time they could talk to me would be Wednesday at 9am. Fine. I can do that. But it was mildly shocking to think that there were only two hours in the entire week (and the store is open 8 am to 11 pm every day) they could see me.

Regardless of the inconveniences, I have two interviews set up. This is great. It was a beautiful day on Monday so I took the bike out for a ride. I didn't notice that I had missed a call until I got back to the house after 5 pm. It was the owner of Job A. She needed to reschedule our appointment because of a dentist appointment. Could I be there Wednesday at 2 pm instead. No problem.

Now, because of the lack of proximity between the Target I had to go to in the morning and her office, the logistics would be slightly complicated. For those of you unversed in San Diego public transportation, it sucks. That's the official technical description on their website in fact. Normally, I would just ride the bike wherever I need to go, but the distance between where I live and the Target was a little too far for me to do that and still look like I was going to a job interview, unless the job was gym locker room attendant (a position no one ever seems to be hiring). At this point, it's still Monday evening and my philosophy is never worry about or plan for something until the deadline is breathing down your neck.

Since I have no interviews scheduled for Tuesday, I decide to ride the bike down in the morning to Job C, which I have been referred to by someone I used to work with the last time I lived here. After jumping through what seemed like a silly number of hoops just to get the owner/manager (who knows?) to hand me the application, I filled it out and headed back home feeling pretty good about my job opportunities and my job search efforts. Life is good.

I was only home about 20 minutes when Job C owner calls and gruffly tells me that he needs me to come in the following morning (Wednesday) at 8 am for my interview. Sigh. No can do, sir. I can do Thursday or Friday at 8 am. No, he won't be at work again until next Tuesday. I'll call you some other time and reschedule. It was beyond lost on me why we couldn't just reschedule for Tuesday of next week right then, but I thanked him and hung up.

So, now we come to this morning. Any decisions about bike or bus to Target were rendered unnecessary by the driving rain I woke up to. I had already Google mapped the trip via pt on Tuesday, but I did it again to be sure. It would take two buses to get there. Great. MTS recently eliminated transfers, so if you have to take two buses to get somewhere (which you have to do at least 75 percent of the time) it costs $4.50 each way. No matter. Off I go. While I was showering and dressing, the rain had stopped and the sun was coming through. It was warmish when I stepped out on the porch so I grabbed the umbrella, but left the jacket. It can go from jacket weather to beach weather in the course of a couple of hours here thanks to the strength of the sun. You really don't want to be lugging around a leather jacket all day when you needed it for all of 20 minutes.

So I get to the bus stop with a couple minutes to spare. All is well. When the bus pulls up, I drop to the back of the line because I don't have a bus pass and it takes longer to feed the bills in than it does for the others to flash their passes and keep moving. Just as the doors open, so do the skies. Now, I'm eighth in line and fumbling desperately to get my umbrella out of my bag. Needless to say, by the time I get on the bus I'm drenched.

By the time we get to the transfer center, the rain has stopped. The second bus arrives and drops me off about six minutes later, but I'm still another 5-7 minute walk away. It was at approximately minute 3 that the rains started again. I'm not that fond of any kind of rain anytime anyway, but I'm particularly not fond of rain that comes down so hard it comes through the umbrella while I'm walking to a job interview.

But I know me. If I let myself express any minute amount of frustration, my day will be ruined. So I pep talk myself the rest of the way. No mumbling. No audible sounds of disgust. No gestures of irritation. Above all, absolutely no negative texting or status updates on Facebook. There must be only positive energy being sent to the universe.

I was interviewed by two people at Target and both went well for the most part. There was the part about how they only have part time positions available and the pay is $8.50 an hour. That means the first 1.25 hours each time I work will be just making back the bus fare. Lovely.

In between the two sessions there, I got a call from the owner at Job C. Could I be there at 10 am today? Now, I know I told him that I had an interview somewhere else at 9 am. Still, I remember my commitment to only positive energy. So I smile, because I know very well that facial expressions can be heard (if you don't think so, listen to Top of the World and tell me you can't hear Karen Carpenter smiling through that whole song). I explain that I'm still at the other appointment, but I can go there as soon as I'm finished here. Much to my surprise, he agrees.

Even more surprisingly, the entire trip back is dry. I'm in a pretty good mood now. OK. Maybe I can do this after all. We sit down and he starts asking questions, strange ones. Where am I from? Do my parents still live there? How many brothers and sisters do I have. Am I close to any of them?

Do I have, or have I ever had, a substance abuse problem? Now, I'm not even sure that question can be legally asked in a job interview. Still, I answer honestly (but vaguely). That leads to a whole subsidiary set of questions. How long have I been sober? Do I have a sponsor? The only thing he refrained from asking was which substance I had abused. I must have done a good job of swallowing my shock, because the interview continued jocularly, with him doing more of the laughing.

When I left there, I had a decision to make. Did I want to stay in this neighborhood and buy myself lunch or spend another $2.25 to get home and eat there. I decided to go home. As I got off the bus and started the five minute walk back to the house, another downpour. I could feel my resolve weakening, but I redoubled my efforts at positivity. One more to go. And this one is the job I really want. I can totally psych myself up for this.

At home, I mapped my trip for the final interview. This is definitely within bike riding range (but still a two-bus journey). The only question is will I make it there without getting drowned. Since I'm getting dangerously low on money and the sun was coming out again as I was getting ready to leave, I decided to bike. There had been several periods of 20 minutes or more without rain in the six hours I'd been awake; and the weather forecast had the chance of rain at less than 50 percent for the rest of the afternoon. I made it just beyond the point where it was impossible to go back when it started again. Mostly it was just steady and annoying. I had my hoodie so my head was staying dry. The hood was somewhat oversized and sometimes dropped down and covered the upper portion of my face, lending an air of excitement to the proceedings as well.

I got there 15 minutes early, wet enough to mostly only annoy me. The receptionist opted not to tell the owner I was there until I reminded her I was there at about 2:05. Five minutes later she came out to inform me that the general manager had not come to work today and we would need to reschedule.

It was only a split second. I felt my eyes narrow. I caught myself as quickly as I could, but I think she noticed. I know what that look feels like, and I've been told by many people what it looks like. She looked like she might call for a priest. I recovered and told her of course it wasn't a problem and wished her a nice day.

I wasn't on the bike five minutes when the hardest downpour of the day came. In a matter of two minutes (before I could find any overhang to hide out under), I was soaked through. Now I would get to ride the last 15 minutes in a driving rain and 55-degree weather completely drenched.

After everything that had happened to that point, I can't adequately put into words how good it felt to shout at the very top of my lungs: WHAT THE FUCK!!


  1. You need to apply for a Census Bureau job. The pay is great and the hours are the ones you pick. You'd pass the test, easily. Hell, see if you can take a supervisor test like I did and you can really put some of your best skills back to work. Also, it'd look really impressive on your resume, wouldn't last but through the summer at most and you'd have met a lot of local, well-connected people by working in such a job.

    No matter what you choose, good luck. :)

  2. It's so terrible the way the job market is in the last couple decades. There is really no sense of decorum, and certainly no consideration of applicants in this downturn.

    Chin up, man. Sounds like you're managing pretty well.

    Having been on the receiving end of that withering glare (and having been near to calling for a priest myself), I can only say...schadenfreude. It's what's for lunch!


  3. So sorry things went so badly today. Chin up. You're a good man with lots of talent.

  4. Why do I have this nagging feeling that something similar will happen to me next week? Only it will also include looking at apartments in addition to job interviews. And it will happen on Monday. Why? Because I already have the interview on Monday.

  5. Oh Petr! First of all, thank you for sharing this have to admit that you feel better for it! =)
    Now, please end the suspense: what is the status of jobs A,B and C?
    Second, I really hope you know how amazing you are! None of this stuff is easy (esp controlling 'the look' in the face of the (all too many) incredibly ridiculous people in this world!
    Never let it be said that men don't learn from their pasts...=)