Beer Me That Job

July 25, 2011

There are just so, so many things that bother me about the job search process.

For instance: why is it that nowadays, if you want to send in a resume to a job that’s located on a site that isn’t Craigslist, often they make you register with a multi-step process for their own stupid site, which then begins to send you more spam than exists in the entire state of Hawaii? News flash: If I’m looking for a job, I need to be checking my email account for serious job inquiries or, like, videos of kittens happily attacking watermelons sent from friends who want me to be less depressed about the dejecting work of job applications. I do not need it bulked up with requests for me to apply to jobs for which I would never apply and so, you know…I didn’t.

“Job available in your field: Prison Barber” Is it? Is it?

Or bulked up with ads directed at me, the job seeker. Alleged head-hunting agencies that—if really scammy—want you to pay to play, or—if merely sleazy, useless, and opportunistic—desire for you to go to their advertisement-marinated web page that no one actually uses to find jobs. Hey, glad that while I can’t find a job, you’re able to make lazy cash off advertisements springing up in my face like so many unwanted joke nut can snakes.

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Job peanuts.

Don’t believe me that they’re not there for you to apply to jobs? Actually attempt to apply to a job on one of those sites some time. More often than not, you can’t submit what you need to, it’s unnecessarily convoluted to the point that you end up just not applying, or you have to sign up for more advertisement abuse in order to submit a resume.

Departed are the days of sending in an application directly to the company via email or in a very simple one- or two-step process. Dead and buried are the days of just going over the building and handing the resume in.

(Yeah, try this some time. Then as you leave, hide and watch the receptionist unenthusiastically use it as a great big wrapper for stale gum.) Just, really. In a vast majority of careers, the physical resume is all but obsolete in the eyes of an employer.

Which is fine. All I wanted to do was to email the damn thing in anyway. But it’s just never that simple.

There are other things I loathe about the job application process, too. For example, feeling like the worst sort of corporate whore, having to sell yourself on your cover letter to please the sadistic evil hiring machine of the non-desperate, already-job-havin’ HR dementors while they muse over your life’s accomplishments in the most trivial of manners and make capricious decisions about the fate of your life.

Or that’s at least what it feels like. I know and love a few hiring managers—family members and friends. That’s really not dementors. …that we know of… But I’m fairly certain that all the hiring managers who’ve gone over my resume and cover letter have been exactly like this. Evil suckers of hope and identity.

But most of all, what I cannot handle about the job search process is the interview. The terrible, horrible, stinking interview.

Very possibly it’s just that I’ve always been as inept with interviews as I have been with auditions or, say, blind dates. I lose all semblance of personality (or even what a human is and how it normally functions) when faced with the daunting task of “BE CHARMING AND SAY ONLY THE RIGHT THINGS.” What the hell? It’s like someone telling you, “Be funny.” Or, “Be interesting.” Or, “Be sexy.”  Uhhhhhh. Ummmmm. Buuuuuuuh. *blink, blink, rub eye, blink*

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“Is this sexy or interesting?”  “No, but it is funny.”

You can’t put someone on the spot like that and expect them to perform well. Least of all me. It’s like I completely lose the ability to comprehend the fundamental makeup of humor or normal speech patterns at that moment and instead sit thinking totally functional and moderately intelligent thoughts with a horrified expression on my face, unable to make them come out of my mouth. It’s amazing—another person’s power to abduct attributes you might otherwise rock when not having to try at them. In these situations, rather than funny, interesting, or sexy, I instead break down into a grotesque amalgamation of the antonyms of all three—a character I think of as Abused Meg.

Abused Meg has had handed to her some of the most ghastly, miserable experiences known to man or woman and is therefore now no longer able to talk with the usual shape or wetness of her former mouth, cannot consider numbers or manifest emotions with certainty, can’t find an appropriate volume at which to express her monosyllabic sentiments, has never seen the sun nor heard loud noises, is constantly on the verge of tears or hiding in her own arm crevice like a sad baby Dracula, and otherwise behaves just as an abused, neglected dog might. At best, she has no personality at all; at worst she’s strange and alienating with the ability to rob anyone else in the room of a sense of normalcy. I am not good at interviews.

And the thing with interviews is, you just can’t ask the freaking questions you want. Mainly—how much will I get paid, and what are my benefits? I don’t get why this is such a taboo. You’re not supposed to ask that until right before you get the job. Why are we all wasting so much time?!

I understand that employers want a person who is right for the job and dedicated to the work. I get that. That makes for a more pleasant work experience for all and a more dedicated worker. But here’s a thought that is applicable for every single person I’ve ever met—unless there’s something truly horrific about my current job, I am leaving my job to look for either comparable pay or a vertical move of some sort, like more pay and better benefits. If money weren’t important with regards to the job, I wouldn’t be working in the first place. I’d spend my time … I don’t know … rowing a fucking boat or painting pictures of me rowing fucking boats. I wouldn’t be sitting in a cubicle taking orders from people. Right? And you—the job dangler—are remarkably stupid in not acknowledging that out in the open and right away.

So why can’t I ask on the first interview—or hell, before I go take off work to waste my time and the potential new employer’s time—what the pay is going to be? Then let’s see if I’m a good fit. Because I tell you what—even if I really love a potential job, I—like most everyone else—do not live in a career utopia fantasy. I have rent and bills to pay. I have to eat. I have a life outside of work I’d like to continue living in a similar fashion or better. I need to find a new job that’s going to pay me what I need to make in order to do all these lovely lifey things. And nearly everything beyond that is a minor deciding factor. The order of importance has to be: 1.) Do I vaguely want to perform this job/am I qualified?  2.)Does it pay what I need/want to make?  3.) Literally anything else that might be a point of interest. It doesn’t matter.

Number 1 is taken care of when I apply. I got the job description, I’m interested so far. Number 2 should be next. Number 2 should always be next. There is no point proceeding if number 2 is a deal-breaker. PEOPLE—NUMBER 2!! Come on.

So, yeah. This is the aspect of our job culture that I think I find most aggravating and wasteful of everyone’s time and energy.  And so does Abused Meg. As she shambles off into the shadows, totally freaking out all who exist there with her wide-eyed weirdness.

**I should note that this is not about a current job search I’m doing. In fact, I’m on the brink of going down to part-time work in a month so I can start full-time grad school (Yaaaaaay!). But being around others who are currently looking for jobs, it brings me right back to that same old rant in my head. Why the senselessness? Why the time-suckage? You know what? Let’s all just quit our jobs and join a commune.

Or go back to grad school.

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Or, more affectionately titled,

Shit I do for money.

Harmless Enough

I believe it all started when I answered an ad on Craigslist asking for depressed individuals to participate in a study for $100. Hell, I’d been known to shed the occasional tear at a Hallmark commercial… a tear that then lasted for a few months or so. Humor aside, I’m a perfectly well-adjusted person, but I’m comfortable relating that melancholy and a somewhat nervous disposition (think a Niles Crane-level of neurosis) have been more than occasional companions of mine. And I live with them, but I never realized I could make money off them. Is this wrong somehow, capitalizing off deep and very real troubles? Selling the drama, as it were? Dammit, no. It’s getting some of the money that I spend on all that therapy back. Ha.

So, I answered the ad, I went to an office, they had me answer some questions, I looked at a web site advertising antidepressants and told them how effective it was in giving me information about its product, and—badda bing, badda boom, in under an hour I was handed an envelope with my name on it. $100 cash sat winking at me from inside it, and I was escorted out. Brilliant. Thank you, depression (thank you India, thank you terror, thank you disillusionment)! You just bought me a much-needed trip to the hair salon. Now I can have my perm and eat it too.

No, that didn’t work.

Anyway, that one was perhaps the easiest of the ads I’ve answered. And the least humiliating. And I have found that there’s rather a lot of totally legitimate ways I will contribute to science and consumerism for the exhilaration and intrigue of it all while enjoying a small monetary token of appreciation for my time and dedication. Or, rather, a lot of shit I will do for money.

Most recently, I participated in another study, this one having to do with anxiety and how it affects the body. This one was less of a casual stroll in the arboretum of money trees and actually more like running the emotional gauntlet for two very long, very taxing sessions. I came out of them looking like a wet, electrocuted, frazzled cat dodging imaginary traffic. But let me back up.

Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder

The study—compensation $130—was done by a psych department of a university looking for (the standard favorite) depressed individuals. Yes, we are the cherished dolls of the testing world. I think it’s that we seem more or less sedentary and willing to shrug when asked to do outrageous things for paltry fees. We use the word “meh” a lot. And I applied for this study because, you know, I cry at the Hallmark commercials.

I went in for the first session, which was supposed to last three hours. I got there 15 minutes early and sat down in the hallway chair in front of a series of rooms. And I could hear two people training in one of these rooms—rooms to which they had had the good sense to leave the door open—discussing parts of what would be occurring at my upcoming second session.

“We’ll be administering the electric shocks so that, the higher the pain level, we can measure the level of neurosis in the anxiety patient.” Ahhhh, great. And welcome to the beginning of the movie Ghostbusters.

 

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I actually had to raise my eyebrows and laugh at that moment. Because what else to do? Say, could you shout that a little louder in front of the anxiety subject, here, buddy? One hundred thirty dollars. One hundred thirty dollars. One hundred thirty friggin’ dollars. Christ.


Session One: How to Turn a Perfectly Normal Person Into a Sniveling Doormat in Just a Few Easy Steps

Finally it’s time to start Session One. This can be otherwise heretofore known as The Inquisition. And you know, despite how many bloody times I’ve watched Monty Python, I still didn’t expect this. Huh. Go figure.

It sort of went like this: Psych student #1 comes in and ties me to a rack. Psych student #2 repeatedly punches me in the gut, puts cigarettes out on my nipples, and kicks me roughly in the shins while calling my mother filthy names for three hours.

Well, that’s what it felt like. More realistically, both (polite enough) psych students ask me three long, drawn-out hours and hours of deeply—holy crap—deeply invasive questions about what being depressed since 14 has been like. Ohhhhh, lovely, thanks. Just buckets and buckets of sunshine. Like an unending vacation within my soul. So, I relate all my most personal and deeply saddening memories to them. I leave wanting my blanket and about 14 Jack and Cokes. But no Cokes.

Next time, psych students, I’m just buying a mood ring and pointing.

Session Two: How to Go From Upright to Fetal in a Few Short Hours

Two days later, I come back thirsty for more abuse. I have my Xanax in pocket, ready like a nervous spy waiting to crush it under my tongue and have this whole thing over with in case of certain doom. And I’ve come this far. I’m intrigued. Electric shock, you say? Induced neurosis and anxiety attacks, you say? …$130, you say? Totally legitimate ways I contribute to science and consumerism for the exhilaration and intrigue of it all while enjoying a small monetary token of appreciation for my time and dedication! Or, shit I will do for money.

It is 5 PM; Session Two has now officially begun. A determined guinea pig, I fill out a consent form for two more psych students—the two I had overheard discussing my shock treatment earlier that week in the other room, not the two who had tortured me with the Ghosts of Christmases Past in Session One. Bring it on, bitches.

I slip on a sort of Lycra swimmer’s cap-type dealie that contains 64 electrodes on it, each with a little cord coming off it which all connect like a giant electric ponytail off the back of my head. And the psych students sit me in front of a computer where I can view a screen of a brain outline and a pictorial representation of all the electrodes sitting on my head. I am, oh, so pretty. Now for the mess.

With needle-less syringes (thank god, because needles have me seeing little birds faster than a springtime hipster fashion line), these two bastards begin poking gel down into the electrodes (and alllll into my hair and scalp… delicious). And I mean they really jam it on down in there, now with these long, pointy wooden sticks (SCIENCE!). This fucking hurts. Now, to be fair, they told me they were going to do this. Still. Would you fuck off?

Also, they’re placing other electrodes covered in gel, which are connected by electric cords, onto the sensitive skin right under my eyes and behind my ears. And damn it, I used to like that place behind my ears. Now it’s all disgusting and running a current. I am at this point fully aware that my head is covered in things. Science has vomited on my cranium. And these psych students are all, “La di da, why don’t you relax and fill out casual forms during this process, and maybe you want to flip through some Cosmo? Isn’t everything lovely and not at all weird as hell in here?” I’m cool, thanks. I’m all caught up on the latest seven methods of making my man crave my fabulous booty. I’ll just stare at the tiny, little boxed room about 20 feet away from me and focus on getting my hands to quit shaking.

“Yeah, but I shoot with this hand.”

So, now I’m all hooked up and quite sexy looking, oozing gel and with a wattage that would probably allow me to light a mid-sized desk lamp with my mouth. I’m asked to get up and am politely escorted—my cords being ceremonially held behind me by the psych students like they’re carrying a wedding dress train—to the tiny, tiny, grey padded room that I had been eyeing. It has a chair in it and a door I’m well aware without even being told will be closing behind me. And this psych student man is talking to me like he expects me to sit down in here. A PADDED ROOM, PEOPLE. I look at this man like he’s been smoking my electrode ponytail. Shit I will do for money. Damn it.

I have a seat.

The Happiest Place on Earth

This man I have already come to loathe gets me all situated in my chair, with all the cords coming off my head and face in a comfortable—relative is key, here—place. The walls are a half foot away from either side of my shoulders, and the room is dimly lit with a computer screen in front of me that is turned off. He tells me to look at the X on top of the computer screen for one minute, not to move and to try not to blink too much, and that he’ll be back after that. Now it’s Fear Factor. He leaves the room and closes the door to silence, and I am left in a padded cell with an electric swimmer’s cap and little corded disks stuck to my under-eye muscles, staring at a computer screen that is not on, unable to blink. And I have no idea what’s supposed to happen or when it’s supposed to start. Where the fuck is the Xanax, because I have found Hell. Or I’ve stumbled into A Clockwork Orange.

And dear god, the walls are breathing. I think they’re breathing. Did this sick bastard actually put me into some sort of living, biological room? Is it eating my feet? Is it going to eat my feet?? Okay. Focus, Meg. Focus. Audrey Hepburn. Audrey Hepburn dancing with a celery bouquet in My Fair Lady.  “All I want is a room somewhere, far away from the cold night air, with one enormous chair, oh wouldn’t it be loverly…” It’s calming. Okay, this is better now. Kind of. This isn’t exactly the room she was singing about, but…it’s away from the cold night air. The chair here is…adequately sized…I’m breathing…breathing…celery bouquet…it’s okay…okay.

And the man opens the door again. “All right, that was great. Now we’re going to go another minute, but this time with your eyes closed, please. And remember not to move. Thanks.” Fucking hell. Seriously? You sick sons of bitches. Okay, Audrey. Do your thing. This is way longer than a minute, you Swatch-less assholes. My face is hot, and my pulse is loud in my ears.

Five more reps of this later, and one hell of a mental Broadway sing-song, I have lived—and I swear to god, I swear, that sick bastard psych student looks slightly put out that I’ve survived. Anywho, they put me through a series of other tests, one involving turning the computer screen on and playing 45 minutes of the Worst. Jackpot. Game. Ever. Oy. Why? Science!

Shock It To Me

And then we get to the most thrilling part of this whole thing. I mean, it is Candyland. Really. This is over 45 minutes of piercingly sharp, highly unpleasant, shockingly (almost truly painful) loud noises at totally random intervals. (Yeah, they’d added giant headphones to all the rest of my heavy cranial accessories, I assume, to test my super neck strength). The noises are to induce neurosis so that I am jumping and wincing, having ticks, shaking, nervous. They’re looking to record how my face moves when I’m anxious and terrified. Really, it is awful. To describe it without even a hint of hyperbole, if I had been holding something in my hands, I would have dropped or thrown it every time they queued the noise. It is that jarring. 45 minutes.

And they appear to notice I haven’t involuntarily urinated or anything yet, because they then come in and hook my wrist up to two electrodes that induce electric shocks, which are described to me as “highly annoying” but “not painful.” This…rides the line of that description, shall we say. And—hey, double trouble—these shocks are being given to me at totally random intervals with those wacky, wonderful randomized noises that are being administered. And sometimes, just for shits, the screen says something like, “When a red square appears on the screen, a shock may occur.” So that I can anticipate and dread. Red square. Oh god oh god oh god oh god…phew. *ZZZZTTTT*  AGGGHHHH!!  I develop twitches in this second set of 45 minutes that might endear a war vet. Holy hell.

Finally—finally—the man comes and gets me, takes all that shit off me, and tells me I can wash the gel in my hair out in the sink, but that they are out of towels. Sorry.

Sorry?! How the hell does that happen?! He does have a hair dryer, though. Which, if you have long hair that’s absolutely soaking wet, doesn’t do much in a short amount of time, does it? But, oh well. Swimmer’s cap off, I am happy. It is a false sense of calm. And I still have a whole lotta shakin goin on, by the way, even though I’m no longer being shocked. Twitch. Shake. Shake. Twitch. I am akin to the Taco Bell dog at this moment. But much less possessing of the ability to speak Spanish. Or the desire to poop outside.

Moving on.

To Spit or Not To Spit

I am still sopping wet and being taken into a regular-sized room—relatively speaking—and I am given a tube that I’m told to spit in. And, you know, after the evening I’m having, this doesn’t seem even remotely unreasonable. Fine. Gimme your freaking tube. You have a plugged-in toaster? I’ll spit in your toaster. I don’t care.

I am told to fill it up with my saliva to the line marked on the tube. Only, if you’ve been made to have a couple hours of anxiety attack, how much saliva you think you’ve got, there? This actually proved to be my hardest task that day, and one of the most infuriating. I sit there, in this room, attempting to spit into a stupid little tube through insufferable dry mouth while thinking back on the last few hours and wondering how hard I’d been shocked that I didn’t remember the psych student in there pouring sand down my mouth. Finally I get enough into the tube that he seems moderately satisfied, and I become convinced that the point of this task is not a genetic sampling but a humiliation sampling. I assume he collects it all in a jar. All the humiliation. Like he’s crafting a humiliation necklace to wear and show off to all the other psych students.

Hey, you’re welcome for my spit, Creepfest. Don’t spend it all in one place. Eh. Now I want some soup and my Xanax. And to stop twitching and shaking. But I just can’t seem to stop.

Then the psych guy spends the next half hour to 45 minutes asking me to list all the words I know that start with A, that start with S, that start with R. All the men’s names. And other stuff like that. All the fruits (bitch, please. Don’t get me started. Shouldn’t this one have coincided with “men’s names,” mmmkay?) And oh my god, I cannot do it. Any of it. While I’m unsuccessfully attempting to complete this truly simple task, the man is actually making noises like he’s snickering at me. Now, I believe I know what he’s doing. I’ve read enough psych studies to know about trying to make the subject uncomfortable and see what reaction that has on their ability to carry out a task. But I’ll be damned if it doesn’t work. My mind is a blank. And I’m still shaking, twitching, and stuttering.

“Men’s names? Um…Berl…Bill…Billy…C-Chris…Christomaine…T-T-Tony…Frank…Fle….Flenk? Floshua? None of these are sounding real to me anymore. QUIT SNICKERING!”

Finally, he wants me to look through this book of images of people’s faces. There are two “faces” per page, one on top and one on bottom. But the right half of the top face has been paired with the right half of the bottom person’s face, and vice-versa on the bottom of the page. Also, one half of each face is smiling, one half is frowning. And they’re in black and white. And I’m supposed to say which looks happier—the top or the bottom. Pardon me while I… EEEEEEHAAHAAAA! BLLEEEGHEGHEEHGAAAAAA!!! GLALGELEGLALGEHH! BLAA!  GAAA!

Okay. That’s the most terrifying thing I’ve ever seen. Thanks.

Hindsight Is Not Always

I’m finished after what seems like a full day of surveillance. Clutching my coat and my purse, I spill out onto the street at the end of the night. $130 in pocket, Xanax already quickly melting cozily in belly, positively stammering my street location on the phone to my darling male companion, who is well on his expeditious way to pick me up. My hair is damp and matted, my makeup smudged, and every noise has me ready to dart up a light pole. I am in complete and utter disarray. This will bring us back to the wet, electrocuted, frazzled-cat-dodging-imaginary-traffic look I had mentioned previously.

Finally I see my nice, warm little Hyundai turn the corner, and I keep my back squarely to the whole ordeal left behind me in the lab. As I climb into the passenger seat, harrowed and spent of all my mental, physical, and emotional resources, I suddenly become GLAD plastic wrap; I am in instant cling mode on my boyfriend. His arm is staying fresh for the rest of the night.

“Are you doing okay, baby?” He asks me, and all I can think about is going home.

“Yeah, it’s fine. I-I-I’m…Oh m-man, was that a like stress test on s-steroids. Th-that was just…wow. I just don’t…I c-could not ever go through that again. That was crazy. I’m j—wow.”

“Well, it’s over now,” he assures me, calmly. “We’ll go home and have some dinner, and then we’ll curl up on the couch. It’s done now.”

“Actually,” I brightened, “j-just before I left he said he saw on my charts I was c-claustrophobic. So, next week I’ll be doing a claustrophobia and MRI s-study. $100. Hell yeah!”

Man. Shit I do for money.