Day 4: Wherein I Secretly Pine for a Date to The Big Dance
Blake Mooney was recently laid off from his job at NewMediaCompany.com and has somehow found some time to give a glimpse into the week in the life of a man on the dole. This is his story.
With the exception of big name athletes entering free agency, looking for a job is no fun. It’s like you’re back in middle school during the lead up to the Sadie Hawkins dance - You hear rumors about who likes you and receive insinuating notes in the middle of math class. But mostly, you just loiter around, wearing clothes doused with a spritz of cologne, trying not to look too obvious as you flex your muscles to the girls who pass you in the hallway. Unless you’re a team captain or the most popular kid in the school, rejection is inevitable, passive perseverance a must.
It is an excruciating process, but what are you supposed to do – go stag?
Fortunately, the internet has rendered the expression “pounding the pavement” nearly obsolete. Job searches nowadays consist of getting online and trolling through site after site for the latest jobs, until you find a posting that matches your interests and abilities. Then you write up a cover letter that tries not to sound too desperate or fawning, send in your resume by e-mail and refresh your inbox like a 16-year-old on MySpace.
But if, like me, you worked for NewMediaCompany.com and your job fell between the cracks of two disparate industries, the professional opportunities are somewhat more limited than, say, the average line cook. What’s more, you’re now in competition with your former colleagues – not to mention pink-cheeked college grads – that were laid off at the same time, and are therefore equally qualified for the job and just as desperate to get back to work as you are.
It’s a tough road to tread and I’m wearing Jesus sandals. As part of my unemployment agreement, I’m obligated to make and record five job contacts a week. This is based almost entirely on the honor system, although certain cases are selected at random for further verification.
I choose to believe that by “job contact,” the Department of Labor means casually asking your buddy if they have any openings at his restaurant or simply inquiring about the “now hiring” sign at the local coffee shop. Otherwise, my efforts to find gainful employment have been limited at best.
It’s not just the aforementioned lack of local jobs in my emerging and nebulously defined industry. It really comes down to a single word: Pride. My ego tells me that, by virtue of my professional experience and fancy college diploma, I’m overly qualified, or – let’s just call it what it is – “too good” to fill one of the countless nominal jobs I could easily find in a single day of searching. Granted, my degree was in Communications and, to quote the kicker Lubchenko in the classic Simpson’s episode “Faith Off,” “is phony degree,” but still, I’m a college grad. I was under the impression that piece of paper would entitle me to a salary measured by the year instead of the hour.
So I called a few of my former co-workers who were also laid off to see how they were fairing. One is holding down two jobs – a part-time Joe job and an hourly position at a company that has potential to become a full-time career – the other two are making ends meet between cash under the table, part-time jobs and unemployment checks. All three expressed the same frustration at a lack of jobs in our field, and we’re all eager to throw ourselves into work once we find it. But the only one who is off unemployment confessed that he only got his jobs because he was blowing through his savings and was afraid of jeopardizing his apartment. The rest of us have not yet reached that level of desperation.
Until that moment of reckoning finally arrives for me, the best I can do is continue my daily skewering of Craigslist, wait for Hotjobs to send me an update of openings, and poke around Monster for something that approximates my unique jack-of-all trades, master-of-none skill set.
And when I do get my invitation to the fall formal, I’ll look like Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing. Nobody puts Baby in a corner.
-- Blake Mooney