Thursday, May 14, 2009

Rant: entry level job hunting

This post was written before the worst of the economic downturn and I have since become thankful to have a job that allows me to pay my bills. After a nearly 6 months of back and forth in which my status changed from no to yes to probably to maybe, I now have a new job. I will be a Revenue Examiner in Birmingham, Alabama. Praise God. This was first written after I was initially told of a rejection and felt that the selection process was grossly unfair. I stand by much of what I have written. Please don't condemn me for a bad attitude. I hate job interviews but I should not have to go through it again for a very long time.
Many readers of my website and blog have reported being inspired by my positive attitude in spite of difficult circumstances. I try to be as positive as I can with my posts but after another crushing rejection, today will be the exception. Looking for a job is one of the most dehumanizing things that a person ever has to do. Those of you that know me well can tell simply by looking whether I am feeling good, bad or somewhere in between. Heck, I even overheard my best friend’s father once say “Justin looks really bad.” In a job interview, you are under a microscope and every detail is closely scrutinized. In the few interviews that I got in the months after the energy crash, I had no chance at all because the employers certainly knew that there was something wrong. Actually, I was in no condition to do any of those jobs and probably would have ended up fired if I got an offer. The biggest obstacle to getting a decent job is inexperience. Simply working a full-time job for 2+ years and having a Clemson MBA are not enough. You must have experience with many of the same job duties and/or work in a similar industry. If more than 3 months pass before getting a job, the attitude is often “What is wrong with this guy? x months and he doesn’t have a job in his field. Something must be wrong.” If the candidate can get an interview, the most likely result is the same as before. The candidate is rejected because of inexperience. These idiots don’t seem to understand that a candidate must be hired at some point to gain experience. My least favorite interview question was as follows: “You graduated in May of ’05, what have you been doing since?” Simply looking for a job doesn’t cut it. What if I told the truth? “I had a breakdown shortly after graduation and ended up on anti-depressants and still have had little relief from my symptoms.” That’s suicide. If I did not stretch the truth and if I made any mention of my illness, I may never have landed any job. How about this one? What was your greatest work related accomplishment? Avoiding keying errors is not very impressive but that is the only accomplishment possible in my job.
If every employer had a 2 year experience requirement, no college graduate could ever get a job. One person told me off the record that he doesn’t like to hire new graduates not only because of their inexperience but because they are “so darn immature.” That may be true. However, imagine what would happen if a hiring manager publicly made generalizations about those over the age of 50. They would certainly face an age discrimination lawsuit. As long as any form of prejudice exists in our society, there will be discrimination but unless the manager is stupid enough to say that his/her prejudice was the reason that a candidate was rejected, nothing will happen. There is one explanation for rejection that I dislike more than the experience requirement. “Your personality type is not the right fit for our organization.” Is this a workplace or a fraternity house? True, if a person comes off as arrogant and offensive in an interview, then a legitimate case can be made but I can say with certainty that very few would draw that conclusion about me. Upwards of 80% of job vacancies are never advertised but filled through a friend or acquaintance. So, if “Mr. Popularity” cruises through college with average grades, he is likely to have an easier time finding work than somebody who tries their best, makes good grades but may not have as many friends in high places because his/her personality happens to be a bit on the introverted side. I work in State government, which is notorious for hiring based on personal connections rather than qualifications. If a “C student” knows the right people, he or she will have the inside track over an “A and B” student. Some companies will only hire local candidates. If you dislike your current city, you may be stuck there for a very long time. I got the initial job offer to do glorified data entry with an “Accountant” job title in Montgomery. I was beginning to develop a network of friends in Birmingham so I wasn’t thrilled about moving because I didn’t know anyone in the area and most people my age are married with children. Still, I gladly accepted the offer. In retrospect, it was probably the only job that I could do that paid a livable salary. At the time, I had only been diagnosed and under the proper treatment for adrenal fatigue for 2 months. I thought “Fine. I’ll work here for 12 months until my health improves then I’ll have my year of experience and will be able to live where I want.” This time around, I got a grand total of 1 interview in 2008 and 2 in 2007. As much as I try to put a positive spin on my job duties, companies realize that my duties are mundane and nothing like what I would do in the private sector. I have met some nice people here but I struggle with loneliness and sadness especially on the weekends. In any smaller city, if you are still single at 25, it might as well be stamped on your forehead and Montgomery is no exception. Co-workers who are my age talk constantly about their significant other and their children so what do I have in common with them? I am routinely left out of conversations. For those of you unfamiliar with Alabama, moving from Montgomery to Birmingham is not just a single “step up.” Birmingham is a MUCH nicer city with a well educated, friendly population that for the most part shares my Christian values. Oh yes, it also ranks #3 in runners per capita and I have met several who are near my ability level. Some people tell me that I should be thankful that I have a job. 93% of the workforce has a job and many have growth potential. With a advanced degree, I better not be in the 7%. If I was confident that I could find a job within 2 months, I would quit and move right now but I am neither willing nor financially able to risk what could potentially be another year of unemployment. In the words of Mike Gundy: “That’s all that I’ve got to say. It makes want to puke.”

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