Tuesday, March 05, 2002

Job Search; and recalling Julie and a cat...

I don't have much of anything to say today, but I have a lot on my mind...

I have a job interview at 1pm for a support position in an office. It has very flexible hours, and in the summer it has a lighter schedule. As long as it pays more than unemployment I will be happy.

I got called to sub today by the elementary school, but declined due to the time of the interview. I should have tried to schedule this interview for later, knowing that I would probably get a call, but they were pretty firm on the time. The secretary at the school was very happy for me (I won't give you details about the job, but the office provides services to a collective of local school districts) and she wished me luck. I think she likes me.

A lot of my friends have wrinkled their noses at me because I'm looking at support staff positions instead of professional positions. I roll my eyes at them.

I look at it this way kids:

It's a job. I need a job.

There ARE NO MORE FULL TIME SUPER HIGH PAYING DESIGN JOBS OUT THERE unless you can get in the door nepotistically through a relative or friend.

No one is hiring from the jobs they post on Monster.com or throught the Boston Globe. No one.

I've heard told that companies are posting jobs that don't even exist so it looks like they are not dying. How shitty is that, y'all? A perfect job for you posted by jackasses who aren't even going to do any interviews because they are trying to mask the fact they are going bankrupt.

I have come to accept this fact that I am not going to find another design job anytime soon that pays 50,000 a year. Or 45,000 a year... or 35,000 a year.

In January before I got laid off, the City of Portsmouth was hiring a web designer. I thought about sending in my application, but it only paid $38,000 a year, and I didn't want to lose my job prematurely. I wanted to stick around and see what would come to pass. A week and a half later I found out.

I probably should have applied in hindsight, but I'm glad I stuck it out with the company I was with. I had no idea we were going to take the axe when we did. But what can you do, eh?

Problem now is that I'm not finding a single thing I am qualified for. At all.

The job I am interviewing for is not only an office support job, but it is a creative job -- doing all the writing and communications for the office. So I have a chance to bolster my writing portfolio, even if it is a collection of newsletters. Perhaps they don't have a decent website and I can talk them into letting me do one. Who knows. Anything to build my portfolio.

So for whomever is to hire me, whether this job or another somewhere else down the line:

Dear Mr. Man or Ms. Lady Person:

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to come and interview with you for the XXXXXXX position at XXXXX company/school/office. I trust that you will find me to be an honest and dilligent member of your staff. My goal while working for you, should you choose to offer me a position, is to do exactly as I am instructed, while offering as much support to the other team members as I can.

By looking at my resume, please do not pidgeonhole me as a designer only. I've done several years of support, technical and customer, I am efficient and kind. I have a super sense of humor. When shit is flung at me in moments of high stress, I weather it with good charm and a strong spirit. Unless you are verbally and/or physically abusive towards me or my co-workers, I can do any job you set in front of me. Sometimes it will be cake. Other times, I'll need a book, or perhaps some guidance from you to get me off the ground. But I can do anything you need me to do. I'm just that way. Look at the resume I've given you, and you will see that my vocational pathway has twisted and turned, not because I've chosen that, but because someone has set something in front of me to do, and I've done it well. Very well. I assure you I will do the same for you.

XXXXX company will be a better company for choosing me in this process. I'm old enough to have a lot of knowledge and skill in my arsenal, but young enough to be willing to learn more and grow without grumbling and bitching about what you put on my plate.

If chosen for this position, I trust that you'll be happy with me, and perhaps this will be that job I stay with for many years to come. Thank you again.

With sincere appreciation for your time,


A few years back when Doug and I were living in Atlanta (more than a few... 10 to be exact) I went on a job interview through a job placement agency.

They didn't like my hair cut, the fact I didn't wear makeup, the way I dressed. They sat me down with a stylist ON THEIR STAFF to talk about clothing for interviews, hair dos and don'ts, and how appearance is everything in the world of office support.

I thought it was total bullshit at the time and still do.

I barely knew how to use a computer, and that was anything Mac or Windows 3.11 based only. At the time could type about 45 words per minute (that's wpm for those in the know)... and thought that perhaps seeing someone who could teach me how to use Word Perfect 5.1 would be better than talking to someone about what blouse goes with what pants.

They sent me on an interview with a small mom and pop construction company who needed an office manager. It was way the hell a thousand miles away from my apartment in Decatur, on the far western side of Atlanta. It was a $6.50 job. The agency told me this company was looking for someone who would stay in that position for life... so they informed me that I should say I was looking to get in a job and stay in it until I died of old age.

I told the guy that.

A 24 year old woman saying that she wanted a poorly paid, shitty job a thousand miles from her house doesn't sound too convincing when she says "I'm looking for a job that I'll stay in for the rest of my life, sir!" Pfth. Yeah. Sure you are.

They didn't offer me the job, and the woman told me it was because of what I wore pretty much, not because they told me to fling bullshit at the owner, or the fact I was totally unqualified to do anything involving book keeping, accounts payable/receivable or benefits management.

I ended up going to a temp agency, hoping just to get some pay for some work. They were called Georgia Temps, and were a division of Georgia Pacific, of all things. The staff there was wonderful... super nice incredible women, who gave me a few software tests, showed me how to do some things, recognized that I could figure any phone system out and had a great demeanor on the end of a switchboard (Thank You Jeanne at Gordon College for teaching me all the switchboard ins and outs!).

They taught me some really good skills for data entry, and how to use Word Perfect 5.1. I got to work at RJR Nabisco at their front reception area a bunch of times. And I got to so some very weird stints as an office girl in a couple offices that didn't have any incoming calls or staff... I thought I was being set up for an episode of "Candid Camera."

The best placement I had was a regular one with a trucking company called Trammell Crow to do end of the month billing and lading data entry for the forms that the truckers turned in when they dropped shippment. The entries all had to be in by the end of the month. I worked with a wonderful, beautiful woman named Vicki who was ill at the time and unable to keep up with the work when the last week of the month rolled in. I sat with her in a cube where they'd placed an extra dumb terminal and she taught me what I needed to know. For eight hours a day at least I'd pound in entries. We were a good team. And while it was mind numbing, it paid better than the other job I'd interviewed for, and Vicki and the other office girls were really nice.

The guy in charge of this area was a nice and very young guy named Phil who smoked in the office (which looking back seems so weird these days...) and he told me all about brown reculse spiders. I had never heard of them before coming there, and from that point on wore boots to the office instead of sandals, and constantly looked under the desk and behind the computer, and up above my head when working. Never tell a transplant about your killer local flora and fauna if you want them to be productive in the office space.

Being put into the office as a temp meant that I didn't get to know a lot of people. I was there a maximum of 7 days a month for a couple of months. But circumstances being what they were, they gave me a small going away baby shower when I left, and I made some nice friends. One of those girls was the office assistant to Phil, her name is Julie.

She had rescued a cat from her neighborhood, he was wandering around her neighborhood crying one day. So, she took him in and took care of him. He was a siamese cat, filthy, and one of his eyes was missing. She couldn't figure out what was going on with him... he was friendly and loving, and had no collar. She figured that perhaps he was a stray or someone had driven him out there in her rural neighborhood and dumped him. How he lost his eye was a mystery.

She needed to go to a vet, but couldn't really afford it and no one was in her area. The vet who had taken care of the cat we'd adopted (Linus, I should write about him sometime...) offered to see him for free after I called him and told him about the condition the poor beast was in.

Julie met me at the vet's office, and we took the cat in. She had washed him up, he looked 100% better, but he wasn't eating and didn't look well at all.

The vet checked out his missing eye, and determined he had a brain tumor that had spread to his eye and caused it to explode. Yup. Explode. The family who owned the cat probably didn't have the heart to put him down, or the money, so they drove him out to the woods and dropped him off. Left him to deal for himself or die.

(sidenote, my tennant is home, just came tearing up the stairs above my head, and she is CRYING her ass off up there. Part of me wants to call and say hey baby, you okay, need to talk? And the other part says - stay uninvolved. If she keeps it up for a long time I might just call... but who knows what her deal is. Hmmmm.)


The vet determined that the cat had about a week or two left, due to the not eating... he wasn't exhibiting any signs of pain, but there wasn't a chance in hell of him making it very long even if Julie could get food in him. The vet offered to put him down for just the cost of the medicine, not the cost for the whole procedure. He did a lot of work with the ASPCA, where we adopted our cat from, and was very caring and understanding. Best (and cutest) vet I've ever know.

Julie knew that she had to put him down but wanted to wait a few days and just be with him. She figured that if he had to go, he should go after being loved for a while. It still chokes me up to think of the look on her very beautiful face and the tears falling out of her huge blue eyes. She took him home. A few days later I met her at the vet again as she dropped him off. She stayed with him, but I couldn't. I sat in the car and wept. It was an incredibly difficult experience for me. I got to play with him before she brought him in, and I remember him purring in the cage as I reached in to scratch behind his ears.

When I left, and the girls gave me that goodbye party, Julie gave me a tall, thin, white wax candle of a siamese cat. It's in a box somewhere in storage, because I cry when I look at it.

I lost track of Julie after she got married and moved to Oregon. We wrote letters back and forth for a while... but she hated Oregon and I knew they wouldn't stay there long. She longed for Atlanta, and wanted to move back. I can't remember her maiden name or married name, and have no idea where she ended up. We've been here for about 6 years now, and she wrote me here, so if she wanted to I'm sure she could drop me a line... I wonder if she thinks of me, goodness knows I think of her every once in a while.

That was 10 years ago in December.

My life has changed a lot. Things have happened (kid, house, kid, dog, dog) and my skillset has evolved and improved.

When I interview I still don't dress up super nice, I'm presentable, I'm clean. I'm just not going to knock their socks off with my blue blazer and business short skirt and high heeled pumps. Fuck that shit.

I've gotten to the point where I know right away whether or not I'm going to be accepted at this particular workplace NOT because of the way I dress but because of what got me in the door in the first place -- my resume.

I feel badly for women who are trapped in a cycle of clothing slavery and are expected to look a certain way, that in order to excel in the workplace it is all about their physical presentation.

How about be efficient, neat and polite? How about great grammar, awesome interpersonal skills and the ability to work hard and do your job and stay out of other people's business? How about not panicking and taking the ball and rolling with it, with a willing heart and kick ass spirit in general?

I wish that the workplace was geared towards these kinds of attributes instead of excellent boobs and asses in a certain blouse or pants.

But I know that is a mindset I'll never be able to overturn. I just gotta show up and be me. Speaking of which. Gotta run shower. Time's running short. More on how things go later on...

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