Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Job Hunting in a Down Economy

The failing economy has really hurt folks in my part of the world. Everything costs a little more than it used to and the unemployment rate of 10% really hit home when I was let go from my job in May. Thankfully, my husband and I live a very simple life, so we are able to survive on his minimum wage job and the little bit I get from unemployment insurance benefits. When the weather turns cold though, I’m going to be desperate for a job to cover the higher utilities. So, this summer I have been aggressively searching for work. Having had an opportunity at my former employment to advance my career to the level of Executive Administrative Assistant, I was eager to look for work. I immediately got a lead for an opening at the State college for which I immediately applied. A few weeks later I received a rejection letter. It was a disappointment, but I still had many prospects. I applied for a position with the city and with the sheriff’s office, but was not even considered worthy of an interview.

The merciful thing in all of this is that most employers want you to apply online, where you are met with a civil greeting thanking you for interest in their company. However, I suspect that most employers in this city are using this method to keep serious applicants at a distance while they hire in their nieces and nephews. Other employers are asking that applicants arrive in person to deliver their resume. Unfortunately, by the time you get there with your smiling face, the staff has already been inundated with 500 applicants in three days! So exhausted was the receptionist at the city that she had abandoned her desk. What greeted applicants was a sign pointing to blank application forms instructing completed applications be placed face-down in a basket. I stood around hoping to catch someone in the hallway to ask how soon they might be scheduling interviews, but no one would allow their eyes to be caught or their ears to hear. Later, I heard that a nearby convenience store had received over 3000 applications after running an ad for a store clerk.

The economy has made employers mean. At my former job, we had many openings for unskilled workers at a minimum wage pay rate. We were filling those openings with people who had routinely made $15/hr. A few months before, we would have considered these applicants to be over-qualified and refused to hire them for fear they would leave too quickly. But when the government started bailing out banks and car companies, things changed. Those CDL drivers, construction workers, and professionals alike were happy to take menial jobs. And while some of us did leave for better jobs, most of them stayed and we built a stellar workforce. I’ve also noticed that the descriptions in the job listings don’t say "willing to train" anymore. Employers are holding out longer, waiting for a person who already has the exact qualifications and skills they want. Worse than that, employers are treating their current employees as those who could easily be replaced by someone even better! Because people are fearful, they are accepting abuses they would not have tolerated before.

Yesterday I secured an interview with a CEO looking to hire an assistant. We seemed to have a good rupore and similar business sense. It went so well, I thought there was a very good chance that I might be offered the job on the spot. But suddenly, the interview ended with him saying that he had many other applicants to consider in the days ahead. I think he realized that the probability of finding someone he liked EVEN BETTER might be very high and he didn’t want to settle for me without exploring that posibility. While I understand that perspective, I resent it. It is like refusing to marry the man of your dreams because you might find someone just like him only taller or more slender.

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