Job Hunt Mach 2

Posted: January 26, 2013 by S. Trevor Swenson in Life, Me & Mine
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
I am the 81st down from the right

I am the 81st down from the right

Like millions of my fellow Americans, I am out of work…again. A few years ago my employer of 17 years and I engaged in an F Bomb exchange which excused me from the ranks of the employed for a couple years. Do I regret our four letter word rock opera? Yes and no, but it is spilled milk now. I felt slightly vindicated when I put an “I Hate Pigs” bumper sticker on his BMW to celebrate my one year anniversary away from the job. I actually ran into him during the holidays this year. We shook hands and were cordial to one another.

I have landed 3 jobs since then. One where the owner took an instant and intense dislike to me. Not much one can do about that. (I once asked my former employer “What the Fuck is your problem with me?’, and we know how that worked out.) The general manager hired me and on my first night of training I was introduced to the owner. I extended my hand to him and he gave me a look of utter and complete disgust. I was actually impressed as I have been working on that look for over 20 years. Well played, Sir! It was a facial expression reserved for finding a hair in your food and it was depressing. I thought I was finally turning the corner, only to have a job dangled in front of me and ripped away after 4 hours. I felt a little better after noticing that this place has a “Help Wanted” sign in their window every week. It seems the owner takes an instant and intense dislike to lots of applicants. Finally! It’s not me, it’s you.

"Oh, darling, I simply must have a Sazerac. Do be a lamb and fetch me one."

“Oh, darling, I simply must have a Sazerac.
Do be a lamb and fetch me one.”

The second job was at a posh and stuffy four star restaurant. I’m not posh or stuffy. (I’m…puffy.) They wear white dinner jackets. I’m more of a leather jacket kind of guy. I lasted 3 whole weeks on the job. It wasn’t for me, and I wasn’t for them. I’m accustomed to fast, turn and burn bar tending. This place demanded that each drink take half an hour to lovingly construct. The drinks were excellent and the man who designed them is world renowned. I just wasn’t the right man for a place that wanted a 28.5 millimeter lemon twist to rim the glass 6 and 1/2 times counter clockwise, while whistling Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Flowers, and precisely measuring 16 ingredients to craft a gin and tonic. I’ve checked the want ads; this place is always looking for staff as well. So, I got that going for me . . . which is useless.

Finally, I landed a job at an Irish pub in my neighborhood. I really liked my job. I liked my co-workers, I liked my bosses, I liked the customers, and those who I didn’t care for so much provided me with some fantastic material for my writing and comedy. It was never extremely busy, but I was working again, making money and going to school… what I like to call “having some semblance of a life” I was doing well and considered myself lucky.

I was at this job for a year…almost exactly a year. I spent the slow summer months anxiously awaiting the lucrative football season in Fall. As luck (or lack thereof) would have it, during the first football game of the season, while traversing three little steps in the pub, I felt a sickening pop above the heel of my left foot. Apparently the warranty on my Achilles tendon had just expired. I would be in a cast for the next 3 months. With the exception of McLimpy’s Tavern on E 14th St, no one was hiring staff members in casts so I spent that time catching up on “PARQUE ALEGRIA” my favorite Spanish language soap opera, applying fat from various comfort foods to my thighs, butt and stomach, and fighting my very own version of the Hundred Years War with the New York State Workers Compensation Board and my employer’s insurance company; Apathy Mutual of Hoboken. “We Truly Pretend to Care”

After I recovered, I discovered that my job was not waiting for my triumphant return. My boss told me to bring a note from a doctor and then promptly stopped returning my phone calls and had always “just stepped out” whenever I stepped in. My (former?) co-workers greeted me with a slightly embarrassed humble-mumble-chumbles. People don’t get fired anymore…they become more of an Orwellian “un-person” or more accurately an unemployed person. New York is an “employment at will” state, meaning a company will fire you if so inclined. And it seemed my boss was SO inclined.

It was back to the job hunt for the boy.

"Hi, my name is...."  "YOU'RE HIRED!!!"

“Hi, my name is….” “YOU’RE HIRED!!!”

Had I learned anything during my first crack at being a man of leisure? Yes. I learned that the job market sucks, that many bar owners prefer breasts to experience, I learned that I had gotten spoiled having the same job for 17 years. However, I am a firm believer that we cultivate a great deal of our own luck. The more I am out there, the better my chances of experiencing some good timing or luck. I am also glad that it is winter. The cold weather has added to my motivation in terms of not having to relocate from my apartment to a refrigerator box with a breakfast nook out by where the buses don’t run. Plus, I don’t show up to open calls and interviews drenched in sweat. It’s a bummer to call and thank someone for an interview and have them say “Oh yeah, you’re that sweaty guy, I remember you, Uh, we’ll let you know” I can just imagine some manager writing “Too sweaty” on my soggy resume. Yuck.

Sometimes I go out and just drop resumes off in various neighborhoods with good street traffic and lots of bars and restaurants. I shower, shave and. dress to resemble a responsible and productive member of society. I zip into places and ask “Hi, is there a manager I could possibly drop my resume off with?” Some people are nice. They take my resume, smile and wish me luck. Others are just overtly unpleasant. Last week a haughty Maître’s D sneered ‘”You can leave it” (meaning my resume),” as if it took every fiber of his being to not follow this with “But really, we shant be calling you back.” Lots of hostesses have an utterly charming, smelling-a-fart facial expression when I swing by to drop off a resume and speak to the (never present) manager. Aren’t these women hired to be the “face” of the venue? When did friendliness and basic politeness leave this job description? Should a hostess act as a deterrent? “Sorry to interrupt your texting Ms. Evangelista, I know it’s a lot to ask, but would you be a dove and take my resume, lie about passing it along to the manager and maybe even smile? Judging by your demeanor, you’d think I shambled in here bleeding profusely from both ears and barking in an inappropriately loud voice “Hey toots, where’s the crapper in this joint?”

"Before you hand me your resume, allow me to fetch my rubber gloves and tongs."

“Before you hand me your resume, allow me to fetch my rubber gloves and tongs.”

This time around I seem to be getting more call backs and interviews, which is encouraging. The first time around I could literally go weeks without hearing back from anyone. Of course, I have been to 3 interviews in 2 weeks where the interviewers were incredibly rude and cold. This makes no sense to me. I can understand seeing someone for the first time and deciding that this isn’t the person you had in mind for the job. As much as we like to deny it, we do judge books by their covers, but it’s a good business strategy to paste a smile on one’s face, shake hands, ask a couple questions and muster a friendly “Thanks, We’ll let you know.” Really, the entire industry is based on acting pleasant and nice to people, and especially being able to fake it. Plus, it would be too easy for someone less well-adjusted than I to take offense and call the Heath Department or leave a review on sites like Yelp or Urban Spoon with fictitious tales of rat droppings in the ceviche, food poisoning or rude staff. Plus, you called me. I am merely showing up to an interview that you requested, Smiley.

I step into some places and immediately realize that I stand no chance whatsoever of working there. Lots of Irish pubs only hire illegal Irish aliens, I’ve tried to fake an accent, but I always blow it by humming “Danny Boy” and making some ridiculous reference to Irish Spring soap or Lucky Charms cereal. Other places have nothing but Charlie’s Angel’s rejects struggling with the intricacies of a vodka and tonic. I’m not young and fabulous, so I don’t even bother with chic lounges or trendy nightclubs. I make it a point not to go to places that wont let me in.

The NYC service industry is a unique microcosm. Many places want head shots, bi-lingual a plus and all kinds of other criteria. “A strong background in Northern Italian wines preferred” (For McGinty’s Pub?) This becomes a slippery slope. I think people expect us to embellish, exaggerate and..OK….OK, lie on our resumes and during interviews, but one can’t go too far with this. We’d be found out day one, embarrassed and fired….and being unemployed is embarrassing enough. There was a coffee shop in Union Square that only hired Brazilian models. Another place designed as a honky-tonk that only hired models with a special cocktail dyslexia. “I’ll have a Red Stripe please.” 25 minutes later she would produce a glass of red wine. If you decided to stay and try for a second round, she’d bring Johnny Walker Red. These are the people who are getting the jobs. Yeah, life’s fair.

Maybe I should apply

Maybe I should apply

Years ago I went into a bar in the Village to use of their bathroom. Since there is an unwritten law that people are not allowed to use restrooms without a purchase, I bought a glass of wine that I really didn’t want. It was officially a gay bar (Something cleverly named The Dude Ranch), but in neighborhoods like the East Village, the lines between gay and straight became blurred. People went were they liked the music or the prices. The bartender that day was a swishy, middle aged gay man who was balding with a pot belly. His appearance was decidedly un-fabulous. Still, as I drank my wine and he held court with the handful of customers who were there, I quickly realized he was really funny, engaging and warm. I ended up staying for two more glasses of wine because I had nowhere to be, and we were all having a good time. It dawned on me that this terrific bartender wouldn’t stand a chance of getting a job at 99% of the gay bars in the city. They’d laugh at him and make bitter, queeny jokes about his weight or appearance the second he walked out the door. Then they’d promptly hire the Chelsoid gym rat with no personality, no experience, but who had stapled a beautifully photo-shopped and shirtless photograph of his fabulous self to his misspelled resume.

My point is that the resume my mommy thinks is “Very nice honey” with legitimate experience and references can matter very little. There are many places that are always hiring. They only want the beautiful people working for them. In this economy, the owner of the corner gin mill gets to act like Steve Rubell from Studio 54. I have worked with some very good looking people, and some of them were crackerjack staff members. Yet, sadly it is all too common to find a pretty, yet aloof bartender busily text messaging while hapless patrons wave $20 bills at them in a futile attempt to get the bartender to actually tend to the bar. Eventually, after updating their Facebook status with “My job sucks”, they glance over at the customer, roll their eyes, slam down a bottle of Budweiser in front of them and fetch their change without a word of thanks. Or, when someone orders a scotch and soda, they tilt their pretty little heads and ask “What’s in that?”

Having a resume; it makes me feel all grown-up. I look over my references and continuity and feel proud of myself. Another thing that gives me minor internal hissy fits is when an interviewer takes my resume and wants me to fill out an application. I had thought that the point of a resume is to save time on things like applications. Of course, we can’t roll our eyes when we are handed an application. We have to be cheerful and act as if we were given one off those huge checks from Publisher’s Clearing House. “Oh, goody-gumdrops! You mean I get to hand write everything that is already typed neatly on the paper I just gave you on to a whole new piece of paper?” I loathe these modern redundancies, like when we punch in our account numbers when calling our cable company, and then being asked for the same number 40 minutes later when we finally reach a human being.

It is an employer’s market. I read ads of what they are seeking and it is an extensive laundry list of sacrifice and dedication for the privilege of working for someone. Under “compensation” there is usually a single euphemistic business-speak word “competitive”. Translation: as little as we are able to get away with. Some companies at least try to be creative “Work with a first rate team who are able to think outside of the box.” Well, I suppose that does sweeten the sub-minimum wage pay. While I was working I would look over resumes other people had dropped off. I was also always nice to perspective applicants. It was not uncommon to come across people with Master’s Degrees and Ph.D.’s looking to wait tables and schlep drinks. This made me feel better, while also scaring me a little. I remember showing up to an open call at a popular hotel years ago. I had shown up 20 minutes early, only to join a line of applicants that looked like one of the black and white photos from The Great Depression. In line were stunningly beautiful and handsome young men and women holding professionally designed resumes in sexy binders. They wore beautifully tailored, designer clothes and seemed so sure of themselves. These are the people I am competing with, and many of them are more educated, younger, better looking and possibly more desperate than I am. Personally, if I was in a position to hire, I’d exploit any and all desperation. “Well, you’re certainly qualified; but would you be willing to give me a foot massage and to address me as ‘Most Exalted Daddy Pants’? And by the way, how are you at ‘thinking outside the box?” Looking eager and upbeat takes energy too, more energy than one might think. This made me understand why people stop looking for work after a year or year and a half. It’s tantamount to being pumped up in the locker room for the big game, yet week after week getting slaughtered on the field. The job hunt can be exceptionally draining and soul sucking. It’s hard to keep from taking rejection and a lack of response personally.

Be it ever so crumbled....There's no place like home.

Be it ever so crumbled….There’s no place like home.

I’ll get another job sooner or later, hopefully sooner as my landlord is a little funny about my bringing in partial rent payments in rolled up pennies and nickels and saying “I’ll try to get the rest of it to you next week.”

Comments
  1. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for an entertaining and sad piece. I sure hope you do get a job soon.
    Love, Miss Sweden

  2. Raph says:

    Isn’t that a kick in the nuts? If it’s any consolation, you’re not alone. (And my nuts are sore.)

  3. Thanks Malin. I hope it wasn’t too sad. The condition IS sad I suppose, but I think comedy comes from bad things like sadness, fear and frustration. It is one of the best things about humanity..to take the bad and be able to relate and laugh about it. It bonds us, and laughter is one of the best things in this hard and sad world.

    Yes, Raph…it IS a swift kick to the goodies with a pointy cowboy boot. On the plus side, it has gioven me something to write about and hopefully make others smile and think, AND it will make the job I finally land seem that much sweeter.

  4. harperfaulkner says:

    A great bartender makes all the difference. I have followed (in a non-sexual way) a few of my favorites when they have moved to other bars. I have a bar I am loyal too, but in many ways, I am more loyal to the bartender. Good luck with your job search. Bartending has always been my dream job, but I know, as I’m sure you’ve often heard, I would drink all the profits. HF

    • Thank you so much for your kind commentary. I have been browsing your work and it’s fantastic. It has a Dave Barry quality to it. My apologies if you’re not a fan of Mr. Barry’s work..from me it is high praise.

      • harperfaulkner says:

        Thank you! I love Dave Barry. That is quite a compliment. I’ll be back to your site and follow your job search. When you’re back behind the bar, I’m sure I will enjoy your observations about the patrons. All joy in finding a great place to work. HF

  5. Oh there are some pieces about my customers, so please have a look when you have a chance,

  6. Passing by I found this to be a very poignant post. Your writing has great qualities.

    Shakti

  7. Dazy says:

    Persistence wins the day. Right? Well it should…good things coming your way is my wish for you. Also, I remember paying for gas and cigarettes in rolled coins. Sometimes, not rolled…lol…oy

  8. CeeLee says:

    I’ve nominated you for the Liebster Award.
    You can find the details here http://wp.me/p2MHY5-nl
    I love your style 🙂

And?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s