Friday, August 15, 2008

Don't Forget to List Your Loser Jobs, Part One

Yesterday I took a math test for a state job that I didn't really even want. I just like taking tests, especially ones on which I am likely to do well. Or ones with no wrong answers. Like personality tests. Unless there are wrong answers on personality tests . . . never mind, I'm straying from the topic.

I and the seven other people gathered in the crowded minimalist conference room had to answer questions like this:

The X family, with three adults and 4 children is applying for food stamps. Mrs. X received two child support payments last year, each for $300, Mr. X received bi-monthly paychecks of $187.62, Mrs. X's father makes $6.36/hour and worked 485 hours last year. What is their monthly income?

Answer: They need food stamps.

I successfully proved I can use a calculator, round to the nearest hundred, figure out a percentage, and read a paystub correctly. Yay, me! For my perfect score, I received a phone call to set up an interview for today.

A little bit more about the position. I won't give you the exact hourly amount, but it's somewhere in between what these two housekeepers who work for hotels owned by Disneyland make. Think closer to the lower number. And I'm not at all saying they make too much. That is not my point. Plus, this job also includes no benefits for an indefinite period, until a "career" position opens up. "Could be up to a year," said the less cheerful of the two seasoned state workers who proctored the test. Have I mentioned that these lovely people kept emphasizing how stressful this job is? And that it took me 45 minutes to get to the testing site, which is also where the 40 hour a week/six-week training would take place?

And here we all sat, me one of only two under 40; the others were all closer to 50-60, all wearing professional attire, eyeing each other for potential weaknesses. The one who lives in another county and probably wouldn't want to drive an hour. The woman who kept asking questions about when the benefits start and probably would eliminate herself.

I really don't want this job. Can you tell? Do you think the interviewer could tell? I think, maybe. But I went because a) I need practice interviewing (because I hate it and I am bad at it) and b) I really really want people to like me and give me external validation even if they are humorless state workers who are trying to hire people for a job which sounds like it sucks to the extreme.

I'm getting to the point, I really am.

Before this whole process began, I filled out a state employment form online. It was an arduous process which required me to look up various addresses from old jobs (again, thanks for the internet, Al Gore or whoever really invented it). In a normal job application, you just include the most recent or relevant jobs, right? I mean, that's what I do. But, I am unemployed, so maybe I should check on this. Well, I did more than that. I went back several years, but at some point I thought it was enough.

The interviewer called me on the "gaps" in my employment. To be precise, she asked me what I was doing between 1993 and 1999. "I see that you graduated here [pointing to line on application] in 1993 and then you have a job here, starting in 2000. We need to fill in the gaps."

I don't actually have any gaps. Just a lot of dumb jobs. I was 21 in 1993. It was not the pinnacle of my professional career. I was a slacker or I lacked self-confidence or I didn't know what I wanted to do yet, so I did a lot of things. Not all of this went through my head, but I did bluster to explain myself by saying, Ha ha (it seemed funny to me), I didn't know I had to fill in all my jobs way back.

She didn't seem to get it. "You see [pointing to the form again] we need to fill in the information about what you were doing between this and this." And later after I questioned whether all of these jobs were necessary, she said, "Oh yes, you're supposed to include all the jobs. Or the reason you weren't working." She seemed suspicious. Maybe I seemed suspicious. But I was working. I was sometimes working two jobs which is what people do when they need to pay rent. And can't commit to anything. And people annoy them. And they're twenty-four.

I found out later, when I was asking the questions you're supposed to ask at interviews (now I can't find it, so no cool link), that my interviewer got her state job from a job fair at college and has moved up and over within the system since. Her fourteen years (we're the same age!) since graduating look a little tidier than mine.

Must run. I will continue with Part Two later.

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