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.
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.