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The Politics of Job Hunting

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Before I get started here, I need to preface this article by qualifying a few quick things.

First and foremost, I have been gainfully unemployed for nearly a year now. I won't explain the circumstances, other than that they are related to the recession, which is far from being over, no matter what they tell you. Thank you, Mr. Bush.

Needless to say, I'm also not real happy about it. Just ask my landlord. Better yet, ask my fellow editors here at Blogcritics.

I'm not sleeping well. I'm not eating right. I'm downright irritable. I live in a dump, I drink more than I should, and my feet probably stink to boot. I'm generally a pretty agreeable fellow and all, but these days even my loyal cat Smokey knows when to get the hell out of my way.

But I'm not a complainer by nature (well, okay, not on most days anyway).

I understand why most employers require background checks, and I've also become more than accustomed to filling out very lengthy job applications. Even so, these are often quite invasive on a personal level, and require an accounting of one's personal life that is, well… extensive to say the least.

In the interest of rooting out all the sex offenders, the alcoholics, the terrorists, and the criminals, corporate America is doing a fine job of providing a template worthy of what, I'm quite sure, God Himself will use, come Judgment Day. Beware all ye sinners, because even God knows how to Google search your past.

But the thing is, somewhere along the line we, as a society, surrendered our rights to information that, in a decent world anyway, is supposed to be kept private.  Even though I don't necessarily agree with it, I've learned to accept it.

But secondly, I just want to work, dammit.

Honestly, I do. Some folks on the government dole would prefer to stay there for as long as Obama grants those unemployment extensions. Much as they have thankfully sustained me for the past year, I'm not one of them. Three hundred bucks a week just doesn't cut it in an economy where filling the tank for an interview costs the same as the grocery bill. Never mind the smokes and the beer.

It used to be that applying for work was a simple matter of filling out a basic application, which for the fortunate was followed by an interview where the employer basically sized you up to figure out if a) you were qualified, and b) whether or not they liked you.

Not so, these days.

Having been out of meaningful full-time work for some eleven months now (side gig doing what I love most at Blogcritics for that precious beer money aside of course), I have applied for hundreds of jobs (most of which I am eminently qualified for). What I have found is that looking for work is the hardest full-time job I have ever had. Hands down.

There has to be a balance somewhere.

For those fortunate enough to get to that coveted first interview, what used to be a get-acquainted process of getting sized-up has become something more akin to a very hostile Roman arena where you are the Christian and they are the lions. These days a job interview is more about why they shouldn't hire you than why they should.

Meet the new boss, or maybe not. In today's reality, it's more like you better, you bet (God bless you, Pete Townshend).

But that isn't even what I want to talk about here. I want to talk about the application that is supposed to get you that ticket to the lion's den.

Quick question here:

How many of you keep a record of everything you have ever done for the past ten years, including names, dates, addresses, zip codes, and phone numbers handy? Well, you had best start doing so, just in case of the event you should ever find yourself laid off.

Most of the pre-screening process these days takes place online. And where it used to be about the easy task of securing accounts at Monster, Career Builder, and the rest, and just clicking your mouse to apply for a job — these days that single click increasingly just redirects you to an employer website.  Once there, nothing less than a complete accounting of your last ten years on this earth will suffice. That means names, dates, addresses, e-mails, and phone numbers of everyone you have ever known or ever will.  The Social Security and driver's license number invasions into your private life are now simply a warm-up to the real inquisition.

I don't know about you, but when I leave a job (and I've left many), I usually want to just put it behind me (at least outside of keeping the most basic record). Not possible anymore. Anything less than the sort of full accounting worthy of a courtroom scene from Law & Order will result in a mistrial — or at least get you booted off the corporate website application process.

Somewhere, someplace out there, there is a genius lying in wait who will one day make a killing off of the next great innovation in our increasingly litigious society — defense attorney insurance for the unemployed.

Which leaves the scams.

Membership on sites like Monster and Career Builder virtually guarantees it — as well as all the accompanying spyware, malware, and viruses that are a given for anyone foolish or naive enough to sign up for them in the misguided hopes of actually landing a job. Talk about a screening process.

Trust me. I've had to wipe my computer more times in the past four months than I've had to wipe my ass. I wish I could say it was because I was busy pleasuring myself to porn or downloading suspect bootlegs. The sad truth is I've been unwittingly downloading job porn.

To those of you who have recently joined the ranks of the unemployed, all I can say is prepare for the adventure of a lifetime, and for the toughest full-time job you will ever have. And know that I feel your pain.

Buyer beware.

To the rest of you out there in corporate America, despite my protests about your methods and all, I can absolutely assure you that I'm your guy, and that you won't be sorry if you sign me up for a lifetime of servitude to, well whatever you would have me do.

Just bring lawyers, guns, and money. 

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About Glen Boyd

Glen Boyd is the author of Neil Young FAQ, released in May 2012 by Backbeat Books/Hal Leonard Publishing. He is a former BC Music Editor and current contributor, whose work has also appeared in SPIN, The Rocket, The Source and other publications. You can read more of Glen's work at The Rockologist, and at the official Neil Young FAQ site. Follow Glen on Twitter and on Facebook.
  • Glenn Contrarian

    Glen –

    Excellent article. You speak for a lot of men and women whose livelihoods have been shattered thanks to the greed of Wall Street.

    Here’s a possibility – if you’ve got a degree, you can probably teach English overseas. You won’t make a ton of money, but you may well have the adventure of a lifetime. My niece in the Philippines makes a living teaching English to Koreans over a cell phone! Just a thought – and good luck!

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    Thanks Glenn. Sometimes writing can be a good substitute for venting when your friends aren’t around. I never did get that English degree by the way, but I appreciate the sentiment.

    -Glen

  • KIM MURRELL

    Hey glen,…that’s why I moved out of Chicago…..It’s a lot easier to be a big fish in a little pond…of course there is something to be said about “QUALITY OF LIFE” outside of going to Walmart , there sure isn’t much to do in Texarkana!!!

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    first, I don’t see how it’s Bush’s fault.

    second, if those sites gave people viruses, there’s no way they’d be still functioning

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    It’s not the sites Bicho. It’s the job postings — many of which are for fake jobs where the fun starts once you go to their websites, and fill out a fake application, and then the e-mails start arriving.

    There is nothing wrong with sites like Monster and Career Builder themselves — they just don’t screen the people who post “jobs” there very well. We’ve even received alerts from the state dept. of employment security about it.

    As for Bush, don’t get me started…

    -Glen

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    Kim,

    I have no doubt you’ll find some kind of trouble to get into in Texarkana. So are they hiring anywhere there (well other than Walmart anyway)…

    -Glen

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    I probably should’ve also mentioned Carigs List in the article. They’re probably the biggest magnet for job scam ads.

    -Glen

  • http://www.indyboomer46.blogspot.com Baritone

    Glen,

    I suppose most of us here at BC have been there – out of work – and going through the hellish process you are now involved in. I have had more than one extended period of unemployment in my adult life, and I’m not sure there is anything more emasculating. It scars you for life.

    I don’t envy HR people with the task they are burdened with, but, nevertheless, I came to hate their guts.

    Fortunately, I have not had to job search during the internet age. I have been self employed for almost 25 years.

    One of my nephews had a pretty good job with a publisher in NYC and he chucked it to move to California to be with his soul mate – or some such garbage. He’s been out there for over a year, and he can’t get arrested. He couldn’t have picked a worse time to voluntarily go unemployed.

    BTW – the teaching English abroad is not a bad gig. I don’t know if they all require a degree. My son moved to Halle, Germany and taught English to adults for 2 or 3 years before he was able to launch his singing career. He didn’t make great money, but it paid the bills. I think they pay a good deal more in Asian countries. Someone mentioned to my wife that their daughter had moved to, of all places, Dubai to teach English and was making the equivalent of 6 figures. Of course, I think it takes like 8 figures to get a burger there.

    Now then: Are there any birth marks on your second cousin’s clavicle? And, if so, does it in any way resemble the outline of a third world country? Elaborate.

    B

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    After the last time I got made redundant, I decided I wasn’t ever going to work for another company full time unless I was in deep trouble.

    So far I’ve managed to keep that going for nine years now and I am doing everything and anything I can to make sure that I won’t have to again.

    I have employed people in the past, and hire and occasionally fire freelancers quite regularly these days, but I make it a point of honour not to treat people in any way that I wouldn’t like to be treated myself.

    This trend of unnecessarily intrusive employment requirements is also going on in Britain but it is nowhere near as bad as it seems to be in the USA. Yet…

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    I haven’t been unemployed as long as you, Glen, but I cannot for the life of me relate to anything you’re experiencing, other than the difficulty in finding something permanent.

    Personally I don’t think Monster/CareerBuilder/Hotjobs are all that effective. They’re too generic but they’re where people instinctively log on to find something. That’s probably why they stay in business.

    Try industry-specific job banks, or a state-sponsored one, if such one exists.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    I’ve spent 12 of the last 14 months out of work. It certainly eats at one’s ego. On the bright side, I have had lotsa free time to go to the gym and art museums and such.

    I did finally land a two-month contract gig [ending soon]. By the way, I have not experienced the intrusive personal questions on job applications. Of course they want to know your work history and whether you’ve been convicted of a felony, etc.

    I named some job sites I recommend in an earlier version of this post, which apparently got it rejected. But some are definitely better than others.

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    Thanks for all of the comments and advice everyone.

    As for specific job banks related to my own areas of expertise, I’ve tried them. The way I see it, the two things I know really well are music and writing. The music jobs out there are of course all geared towards twenty and thirty somethings, which is probably as it should be. Unfortunately this doesn’t help me.

    The writing sites are mostly geared towards computer geeks writing advanced code. Although I’d like to think I’m a half decent writer, my only experience with code has been learned right here at BC and I’m still very much learning through trial and error — and right now, the error part of it usually comes up winning.

    Anyway I’m open to suggestions, and as always appreciate them. And if anyone reading has an offer, of course I’m all ears.

    Baritone, I’m not sure I take your meaning about birth marks shaped like countries, but I can assure you there are no Gorbachevs in the Boyd family tree.

    Now If you’ll all excuse me, I’ve got some job-boards to wade through. Thanks all.

    -Glen

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    I have in the past found temping to be a good source of fairly regular income whilst ‘between jobs’. Of course, you have to not mind travelling anywhere at a moment’s notice, being the new boy all the time, doing the excruciatingly boring and mindless jobs that nobody else in the office wants to do, or being abruptly and randomly told halfway through a workday that your services are no longer needed.

    Still, I do recommend it. It can – and did in my case – lead to something permanent.

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    My last experience temping (just two years ago) was one of the more depressing times of my life.

    I enjoyed the job fine, and was more or less promised I’d be hired permanent as soon as something came up. Then one day, everyone was invited to a pizza lunch. I skipped lunch to go, and when I showed up they said it was only for “real employees” and made feel like a hobo at a banquet.

    So I picked up a slice and went home.

    -Glen

  • http://www.indyboomer46.blogspot.com Baritone

    Glen,

    My birthmark reference was just a ludicrous tongue in cheek example of the kind of questions one must answer on some job applications.

    While being self employed has its ups and downs – sometimes some REALLY BAD downs – I can’t imagine working in an office. I actually took an interview a few months ago for a job at an appraisal management company. They even offered me the job. I thought about it for about 2 seconds and turned it down. Had I taken the job, I would now be sitting in a cubicle amongst a veritable warren of dozens of other cubicles working in a high pressure atmosphere with 10 hour days, 6 days a week for about 2/3rds what I make on my own. I went for the interview because of the possibility of getting health insurance and some other perks. They do have a fairly good insurance plan, but it just wasn’t worth it. Hell, I’d have to go to meetings. I never go to meetings. I hate meetings!

    I’m much happier plunking away down here in my cozy little basement office with a TV to my right and my music behing me. And hey, I can go upstairs and take a nap whenever I want.

    B

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    I’m much happier plunking away down here in my cozy little basement office with a TV to my right and my music behing me. And hey, I can go upstairs and take a nap whenever I want.

    …sounds exactly like my situation, except of course I’m not making any money.

    -Glen

  • Greg Barbrick

    Nice article Glen. As you know, I am in a similar situation. But I have a sure-fire plan to never have to work again.

    The Lottery! I invest my entire weekly unemployment check in it, and I just know it will pay off for me one day!

    Hell, I won $32 about a month ago, and that was just the beginning. Happy days are here again!!!

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    You always were a gambler Mr. Barbrick. I believe it was you who once urged me to “roll the dice” more often. Fat lotta’ good it did me…

    -Glen

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    I’ll try this again: job sites I recommend include ‘the ladders’ ‘linked in’ and ‘idealist dot org’ [for nonprofits]

    Maybe writing them that way will get around the filters.

    They all post jobs that a reasonable person might actually choose to work at.

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    I’m already signed up at the Ladders and have a profile at Linked In Handy. I’ll be sure to check out the other one though. Thanks for the tips (and glad they got through)…

    -Glen