May 7, 2010
Looking for work and feeling like a piece of s---
I was talking to someone I know who has been out of work for six weeks. He feels pretty lousy. He spends his mornings looking through Craigslist and other services that list jobs in his field. He sends in his resume, cover letter, work samples. He doesn't get called back.
Six weeks in to his job search: .He feels like he's letting his family down. He feels like he's letting himself down. All he's worked for in his life--it seems meaningless.
I hear of people--mostly professional men, actually--who have been out of work three, six, eight months. This person I know--he's just in the beginning stages of this weird sort of misery and despair.
I ran into a neighbor the other day at Pacific Bay Coffee Company. She herself works as a consultant, juggling several jobs to keep her family afloat. These are jobs she never expected to have. Her husband is a commercial architect. Or was, until he was laid off from his job eight months ago. This couple had come to the United States--specifically from Europa and to the East Bay--about six years ago so that he could take a well-paying, challenging job here and so that they could give their kids a taste of an American suburban life.
This neighbor, who has dual citizenship, loves it here in Walnut Creek. And so do her children, so much so that she decided that she and her kids would stay here in Walnut Creek, and her kids would stay in school here--she didn't want to uproot them from their friends and neighborhood--while her husband goes back to Switzerland. To work. He finally landed a job--all the way back across the Atlantic.
"So much for coming here to live the American dream," she said, and she searched her laptop for cheap fares to Europe for the summer. The family will be there or here together during summers and Christmas holidays.
That person I know: He had a job where he managed all sorts of projects and people in a very tough competitive field, and he had to work across all sorts of media and industries.
"I feel like I'm so under-qualified," he said.
He talked about specific job skills he didn't have that these vacant jobs were looking for. The skills mostly had to do with the ability to work in certain computer programs.
Feeling useless and under-qualified: that's exactly how you feel when you're out of work and e-mailing your cover letter and resume off to prospective employers these days. You send those pieces of yourself off and never heard back. Is anyone out there to actually receive them?
I was there myself after getting laid off seven years ago. I went up to sign up at a Walnut Creek temp agency, where I learned my Word skills were not quite up to snuff. They gave me a pitying look and suggested I'd probably only qualify for the lowest paying temp jobs.
Of course, I could pay to take a course. Sure, I thought. Take a course in this one software program out of how many software programs these days that might just be useful.
I left feeling dejected, but also a bit angry. Sorry, but getting a bit better at Word is not that hard.
Fortunately, I managed to land another job soon after that interview at the temp agency.
Actually this person I know mentioned the computer skill he needed to make the cut for a few of the dozens of jobs he was applying for. The jobs he's looking for are not technical jobs, and the job that I landed required just that skill. I didn't have it either when I was hired. I learned it on the job. I got to be pretty good at it.
As it happens, I had other qualities and skills and work/life experience that were far more valuable for this particular position.
It's just sad when I hear these sorts of stories, and I wonder, have we evolved into such an era of specialization that most of us are technically unqualified for many jobs we could do perfectly well?
Or are there just so many applicants for every one job?