Got Degrees. Now What?

Just got home from work again. Seven days down, fourteen more to go until I get two whole, glorious days off. Then it’s on to the 6am shift for the rest of the year. The work BFF and I were talking about how great it will be to have days off again and to have afternoons to get things done. A bunch of us at work were talking the last few days about the strange hours and long stretches we’ve been having to work lately. It actually lead to a small mini-flip-out with the manager the other day, which is what started all of this talk.

I was chatting with the girls and the manager in the office while we grabbed promotional materials and organized for our holiday displays. Someone mentioned what they were going to do on their day off, and I jokingly said that I was counting down the days until I actually got a day off and that I can’t keep doing these long stretches much longer. The manager chimed in and said that the only reason I have any long stretches is because I sign up for them, taking people’s shifts on my days off. For the last long stretch, this was mostly true. I had offered to take a few shifts, switch a few shifts, and come in on days off to cover for people. I was supposed to get two days off one week, but those got taken away when a co-worker had to take a leave of absence. Since I already had that weekend booked off, I didn’t make a big fuss when my days off were taken away. This time, with the stretch I’m in the middle of, I didn’t take any extra shifts. The manager just scheduled me for 21 straight days. He tried to deny it, which is when I snapped a little.

All of our weekly schedules are on the magnetic board. I started pulling schedules down off the board, throwing them all down on the desk and laying out my schedule for him. I stood there and counted off the 21 days in a row that he scheduled me for. His response: Well, why don’t you just take a day off or call in sick one of those days?

The reason a lot of us have to take these stupid long stretches is because we can’t afford to just take a day off. Like I’ve said before, if I give away a shift or call in sick then I’m losing 5-8 hours of pay. If I give up a Tuesday night shift, the boss isn’t going to just add five more hours to my schedule later in the week. I have to hope that: a) it gets ridiculously busy and they need the extra help and have to call me in; b) a co-worker gets sick or injured and needs someone to cover their shift; c) a co-worker’s family member get sick or injured and they need someone to cover their shift so they can take care of them; or d) someone dies. The company is not in the business of just giving away money. When I give away those 5 hours, they’re given to someone else. Those hours aren’t banked somewhere for me to use at a later time.

The funny thing is, the work BFF and I both went to school so we could get jobs that are not in retail. We both worked towards careers where we were either salaried employees, or we would have set hours and wouldn’t be scrambling to pick up shifts all the damn time. Unfortunately, with the job market and economy being what they are in many fields, neither one of us has been able to achieve that. So what to do with those degrees I went into so much debt to earn?

I have two degrees a B.A. Honors in Criminology, and a B.A. in Psychology. I had a plan when I went into school to get these degrees. I had a career picked out, and was going to work towards a very specific goal. Unfortunately, a few different things derailed that plan, which lead me to where I am now. There is a huge part of me that still wishes I could have a dream career in some sort of criminological field. I read over true murder stories, keep up on certain crime statistics, I even have the outline I wrote for a Masters Thesis I wanted to do if I ever got the guts to go to grad school. Hell, maybe for fun I’ll work on some of that research! But what do I do with these damn degrees?

Of course, the Queen of the Internet Jenna Marbles has already tackled this problem herself. As another dual-degree holder working on something she didn’t go to school for, she had to find a way to use her degrees so they wouldn’t go to waste. Now, her ideas are a more hands-on approach to using the actual physical degrees than I’ve been looking at. I mean, I didn’t even get mine framed. Hell, I haven’t even picked up the second degree from the school yet! The first degree is still in the cardboard envelope they gave it to me in, sitting in a plastic shopping bag with my college certificate, wedged between a dresser and some shelves so they don’t bend. Someday I’ll frame them and hang them up. Today is not that day, so I really can’t go with any of Queen Marbles’ ideas here.

You see, I’ve been looking at some of the different things I can do now that I have two degrees. I mean, what the hell do you do with Criminology and Psychology? Unless you’re a sexy super genius in a TV crime show, being a criminal profiler is out (even though my goal was something close to that). My grades in psychology weren’t good enough for me to get into a Masters program in psych, so that destroys any dreams of being a counsellor or psychologist. So what other options do I have?

1. Just Be Content in the Job I Have

Ok, I get to play with the surveillance camera at work. And I get to write up the incident reports when we catch shoplifters. I mean, that’s got a bit of a crime-fighting edge, doesn’t it? And sometimes, when we catch a shoplifter and call the police, I get to talk to the cops. Today I got to chit-chat about criminals with a really Sweet constable (who was damn adorable and my girls couldn’t stop checking out).*

2. Go Back To School

Yes, this is something I’ve been thinking of at times. I was all ready to apply to grad school. I had a thesis proposal in the works, a research proposal for my applications, I even had academic references lined up. One of those references is a customer at my store.  It’s almost impossible to look her in the eye some days now. She was so sure I was going to get into grad school at the university I did my undergrad at. Then I would get immersed in some massively messed up crime research on school shootings, and mass shootings, and mass violent incidents, and crime statistics, and I would be so damn happy.

Instead, I chickened out. After getting my references all lined up, and working on proposals, I just didn’t apply. My boyfriend at the time was applying to grad school in his field, and I decided to just find work for the time being. The plan was to work for two years or so, pay off a good chunk of my student loans, pay off the credit cards, and then apply for school. Of course, that didn’t happen. I didn’t get the jobs I had applied to and took a very part-time job in retail. Over the years, I’ve been able to pick up more hours and make a bit more money. But I had to live on credit for a little while. And then kept using credit to keep my head above water and not starve for a while. And now I’m drowning in debt, and can’t even think about student loan payments without bursting out into tears. I know, it’s my own doing, and I’ll fix it all somehow.

But all of that debt threw my plans off, and now I’ve pretty much lost all confidence in myself academically. I’m like the Hiphopopotamus in a rap battle. I would love to go back to school, get a job in corrections and parole. And I’m still looking into that option, it just seems pretty far-fetched at the moment.

3. Go Back To School Online

Ok, this option is looking pretty damn good right now. The other day I made a post about all the different options available for online learning. I’m looking into a few different programs through Athabasca University right now. I’m also looking at just getting a little more education in a few areas that I’m lacking in. I mean, having two degrees is great, but what the hell is it doing for me right now? There’s obviously something I’m lacking in, so I may as well educate myself.

Maybe I’ll get a post-grad certificate in Addiction Counselling, or a diploma education counselling. Or maybe I’ll do something that has absolutely nothing to do with counselling.

Really, at this point, I have no clue what the hell to do with these degrees. I’ve been using the transferable skills I learned and trying to work with those, but it’s only gotten me so far. Maybe it’s time for me to get a new set of skills. Or maybe it’s time I just give up on the degrees and accept that I’ll be a lifer at my current job. What do you think I should do?

 

*he was NOT more adorable than the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend. Not by a long-shot.

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Who Knew A Background Check Would Be So Intense?

I’ve said many times before that I wound up with a boatload of debt thanks to the many years of University I did in my late 20s and early 30s. I’ve got a couple of degrees under my belt, but I still love my retail job and the people I work with. Unfortunately, when you spend that much on schooling, you’re kind of expected to make more than retail wages in order to pay back all those student loans you had to take out to afford it. So, even though I’ve love to just work where I am for many years to come, I’ve been looking at other jobs for years now.

Now, I’m not talking about getting a second retail job or anything like that. I’m looking at government positions, jobs in certain sectors I’m trained in, and careers that my degrees would be useful in. I mean, I out a lot of time, energy, and money into those degrees. I sure as hell want to put them to good use! Applying and interviewing for these jobs is a lot more intense than I had anticipated, though.

Case in point, the process to get a very important “administrative pool” position for a law enforcement agency. I was applying and interviewing to be a roving secretary, filling in when other people were sick or had too much of a workload at the moment. I’d be answering phones, typing up reports, doing a bit of data entry, and working the front desk. It’s not like I was applying for a law enforcement job, so I didn’t expect it to be this intense.

First, there was the testing. A group of us were tested in spelling and grammar, basic math skills, typing speed, and a short essay. Those of us who passed that went on to the next round of testing in Microsoft Office programs, mainly Word and Excel. Now, this wasn’t too bad. I’ve had a tonne of places I’ve interviewed at have done at least this much testing before the actual interviews. In this day and age, computers are an important part of the workplace. When you have 500 people applying for one position, you want to figure out who is actually proficient in Word and Excel, and who just knows how to spell “proficient” on a resume.

From there, things got intense. I had a group interview. Then an individual interview with a panel of people asking me questions. I had to come back for more testing in dispatch software. Then there were the psych tests. First I came and filled out a few really long psych questionnaires on their computers. From there, I was sent to a city two hours away to see a psychologist and his assistant for a one-hour psychological evaluation.  He picked apart every question I was asked on those questionnaires, asking me stuff about my relationship with my parents and my experience in high school. It was probably the roughest part of the interview at that point.

The most time-consuming part, though, was the background check. They ran a full, in-depth background check on me, which really taught me a few things about stuff you should be keeping a record of just in case you ever need it.

1. Different Types of References

I know that you know that you need to have references ready in case you’re ever asked for one when applying for a job. I needed two different types of references and had to rush to find replacement references in the middle of the background check.

First, I needed professional references. Not just any professional references, either. I had to have someone from my current position, someone from my most recent past position, and someone who could attest to the fact that I can handle deadlines and a high-pressure environment.  Finding someone from my current job was the easy part. We’re all very close and have openly offered to each other to be references if any of us ever need them for something. It was the other two that were a problem. My position before this was a temp position filling in on a sick leave, and the manager there has moved to a new department. And my reference for the third option is a position I haven’t worked in more than 4 years now!

The more difficult part was the personal references. I needed three people that could attest to my character, who had known me at least 5 years, and who knew me well. I chose a close friend of mine who still does a lot of charity work for his fraternity to this day, and who I volunteered with and worked with on a variety of things. We’ve also been friends since just before I went back to university full-time.  My second reference was my mother’s best friend, who I’ve known since I was born. I babysat her oldest daughter. We’ve all hung out together at my parents’ place watching My Big Fat Greek Wedding and drinking wine together.  She knows me almost as well as my own mother knows me.

My third reference originally was a good friend of my dad’s. I’ve known the man somewhat since I was a little kid. I see him at my parents’ New Years party every year, and he stops my parents’ place on weekends sometimes. My dad pressured me into using this man as a reference solely based on the fact that I have known him a long time. He knows nothing about me though. He didn’t know anything about the jobs I’ve worked in, my schooling, hell he didn’t even know that I lived across town from my parents! In the end, the private investigator had to ask for a new third reference, because this man wasn’t able to answer a single question they asked him about me. In a panic, I had to ask another good friend from the fraternity to step in and be that reference.

When you’re being asked for references, I learned, it’s really important to choose people who not only can answer whatever questions the interviewer may have, but they have to make you look good. They have to make you look damn good. They have to make that interviewer think, “Damn! I NEED this applicant to work for me! I can’t live without this applicant working for me!”.

2. A Record of Past Jobs, Managers, Pay Rates, Raises, Promotions, Lateral Moves…….

Ok, you probably have a list of your past jobs somewhere, with dates of when you started and left those jobs. That’s a good start. I needed so much more than that. I needed a list of every job I’ve had in the last 15 years. I needed managers’ names, supervisors’ names, department heads’ names, and the main bosses’ names. I needed to list the physical address and phone number of every place I’ve worked at in the last 15 years, even if those places didn’t exist anymore.

I also needed to throw in an extremely detailed history of the work I did. A job like “barista” was easy because I was a barista the entire time. I just had to list my start date, my end date, my basic duties, why I left employment there, my hourly wage, how many hours a week I usually worked, and all of the above information. Yes, that was the “easy” job!  But my first office job was…….. intense to record. I started there as a telemarketer, filled in for a few different positions when needed, was transferred around the office a few times, and ended my stay there as a service dispatcher. I was supposed to list each and every position I had there, when it started when it ended, my rate of pay, who my immediate supervisor was, and a brief explanation of the position and why I was in it.

What made things even more difficult was that for every single job I’ve ever had, either my manager has moved to another company, or the company I worked for no longer exists. The only jobs I’ve had where my old manager is still there are my Teaching Assistant job in University (since it was the advisor for the course who I answered to), and my very first job at a well-known sandwich shop that was managed by its owners. I had to call places and try to figure out not who is in a manager position now, but who was in it in October of 2007. It was hell, I tell you!

This would’ve been so much easier if I had just kept a list somewhere. I do it now, adding on to the documents I had to create for this background check. I keep track of all my managers at my current job (I’ve had 4 now) and assistant managers (3 of them), and where they all are now. You want to know who I worked for as a seasonal worker? Who hired me as a part-time worker? Who I did the 6am Christmas shift for a certain holiday season? I can get you that info super easy now.

3. Every Single Place I’ve Lived in the Last 15 Years.

For some people, this would be pretty damn easy. Some people spend their entire lives in one house. I am not one of those people.

In my University years alone, I lived in 6 different homes. I left my parents’ place, moved in with some friends, left there to live with different friends, left that house when it was sold and got an apartment, left there for a basement bedroom near a beer store, and then moved into my current home. Even just living with my parents, we had 4 different homes growing up.

An ex-boyfriend and current friend of mine had to make a similar list for a security clearance once. He grew up as a military brat and lived all over America, Canada, and parts of Europe. While he had stayed in each place for multiple years (as opposed to the few months I had at some places), his list was still ridiculously hard to work on.

Even just for sentimental purposes, keep a list of all of your past residences somewhere. I mean full-ass mailing address and everything. The worst part for me was tracking down the postal codes once I figured out some of the physical addresses.

4. An Online Background Check

I don’t use my real name anywhere but LinkedIn and my Gmail account. If you do a Google search of my name, you’ll find mentions of me in newsletters and school papers from University, and my LinkedIn. I have it that way on purpose, so that if any prospective employer does a search, they’ll find nothing incriminating.

For this, though, I had to list every single social media account I have, full web address and everything, even if it couldn’t be directly linked to me at first glance. That meant blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr….. everything. I learned a few things from that.

First, the private investigator didn’t actually read any of my blog posts. He just used the search function to look for keywords, and read anything that came up from that. He was basically making sure I wasn’t committing any crimes online, wasn’t bragging about committing any crimes, wasn’t spreading stuff like Nazi propaganda, and wasn’t stalking anyone. I think in all he read two posts, both because the word Nazi popped up. They were both about anti-Nazi protests in my area, and nothing to be alarmed about, he said.

The other thing I learned is that I was totally judged by the online company I keep. I had a friend from University who got himself into a bit of trouble with the law. We were friends on Facebook, and I’d see him at the odd charity event. It’s not like we were super best friends who did everything together. We just ran into each other from time to time, and we had a bunch of friends in common. Apparently, my association with him came up as a huge red flag, though. Even just having certain people on Facebook when applying for a job like that can hurt your chances, even if you’re not good friends with them. This goes for family members too. I know, it sucks when you have to unfriend a family member and then Aunt Janice gets on your ass at Thanksgiving dinner about how you unfriending cousin Jimmy is tearing this family apart. But if cousin Jimmy did time for grand theft auto and runs a meth lab in his shed, just having him as an online friend could mean the difference between a job anywhere near law enforcement, and saying “would you like fries with that” over and over and over.

5. Total, Utter Transparency

I worked a janitorial job for an entire 4 shifts, plus a one-hour training shift on the riding floor mop. Four whole shifts. I was already a seasonal worker at my current job that summer and told the janitorial job that my current job came first when it came to scheduling. I was supposed to be picking up shifts for the first few months, and then the end of the summer I would be added to the full rotation.  Instead, beginning of July, a janitorial coworker came into my other job and asked me if I was excited to be getting so many shifts now. I hadn’t had a shift in about a week, and that was the one-hour shift I did. Even then, I checked the schedule to see if I had been added early and left when I saw that I wasn’t.  Calls to my manager went straight to voicemail, since he was on vacation.

Came to find out that the day before the manager left on vacation, he put up an ‘adjusted’ schedule with me on it. He didn’t call me to tell me that, and he knew that I had just checked the schedule the day before and wouldn’t be back for another week to check it again unless I was called in by him for a shift. I had given him my schedule for my other job, and he somehow managed to schedule me shifts that conflicted with every shift I was already scheduled for. He had me starting an 8pm midnight shift on nights I was closing the store at 9pm. He had me working a 9-5 dayshift when my retail shift started at 12:45.

I managed to get a hold of a secretary who would only text with me and tried to explain the situation. I told her that every single shift he had scheduled me for didn’t work, and I wanted to switch my shifts around. She said she would talk to some people and get back to me. I never heard from her or anyone else there again. About 6 months later, I got a letter in the mail saying that my services there were no longer needed and that I had been terminated from the position on my very first day there, even though I worked more shifts after that.

I don’t put this job on my resume.

When you have someone doing an intense background check like this, though, they will find that job. They will come back to question you about that job. They will ask to see the letter you received about that job. And they will talk to your former manager and HR about why you were fired from that job. In the end, we both wound up finding it funny. The paperwork managers had filled out on me had dates that didn’t make sense, and they listed “communication issues” as my reason for termination. He said it isn’t something that should keep me up at night worrying about, and that in the end, it shouldn’t have too much of an effect on my job search. But, when having such an intense background check done, it’s something I need to list as previous employment.

 

I wish I could say everything turned out great after that interview, Sunshine. In a way it did. I mean, I’m still working my retail job with awesome people and amazing friends there. I did not get the job I was going through that entire process for. In the end, it came down to test scores. There were three of us they were trying to choose between, and one of them out-scored us both on some aspect of the physical testing. I don’t mind, though. I like where I’m at now, even if I’m broke and have to live with strange random roommates.

Job Scams: Just One More THings Screwing With Your Job Search

My name is Crystal Coates am an Human Resource Manager at Complete Technical Solutions. We have a job offer for you.

You are happy to greet you.

Complete Technical Solutions provides enterprise-grade IT support for small and midsize businesses. We help your company get more IT bang for your business buck, tackling network and application issues and resolving user woes all while minimizing outages and driving your IT budget down. Complete Technical Solutions is a well established company providing a wide-ranging(and growing) portfolio of services. Clients approach us with many objectives: to evaluate and improve their existing infrastructure, optimise information flow and reduce the hassle of daily activity, outsource their IT support and take advantage of the Internet-based technologies which are transforming the way we all do business. Bottom line: Complete Technical Solutions makes sure that your IT works for your business and not the other way around.

We got your resume from the website: www.workopolis.com We are looking for responsible and reliable people to expand our personnel. Currently we have an open 3 position of an Online Service Manager.

What does an Online Service Manager has to do?

Online service manager performs tasks in the Internet similar to ones performed by customer service representatives. However, as managers, they also supervise other client service representatives. In general, representatives work to ensure clients’ satisfaction with organization’s products and services. They are often the primar point of contact for a client or customer. Their job assignments include directing and controlling the process and fulfilment of orders, fielding customer inquiries, and resolving customer complaints.

If you are interested in this position and you are ready to become a successful manager with the opportunity for career growth together with Complete Technical Solutions, please reply this mail and we will begin your employment.

If you are not interested, please let us know also, and we will not bother you again.

This gem popped up in my inbox this morning. Now, I have three different email addresses, and I can check all three automatically from my main Gmail account. There’s my social media account, my university account, and my professional sounding Gmail account I use for everything from resumes to bills to online shopping. Yes, I use the professional account on my resumes, and for all my job search related emails.  The only time I ever used any of the other accounts was in University when I had to use my university account for my positions through the university.  Every single resume, job search site, employment seminar, and online class uses my professional address.

This showed up addressed to my university address.

That right there is the first red flag. In fact, this is a HUGE red flag! If this red flag got any bigger, it could blanket this entire county. If you have multiple email accounts, and you get any sort of job search related email in an account you never use for job hunting, it’s 99.999% most likely a scam.

It’s a pretty shitty thing, but the number of online scams for job hunters is on the rise. There have always been scammers out there, but their schtick was so old it’s was easy to identify. Back before I had my own personal computer, I remember looking at the old “stuff envelopes from home” thing, where you paid a “low low one-time fee” of something like $69.95 to get a list of work from home jobs. From there, you could contact each of these jobs, most of whom made you pay a “low low one-time fee” of anything from $10 to $500 for materials and training. They claimed you would be reimbursed once you proved you were willing to work for them. They only collected money because there were too many people out there who would send away for the materials and then do nothing with them. They were losing millions, they claimed, and needed to protect themselves from us work-from-home scammers.

Boo-freakin-hoo.

These scams have always been around because people who need money to survive sometimes become a bit desperate. They tell people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to work or make a living that they can work from their home. Working mothers, the elderly, disabled, and people with other issues or responsibilities that keep them in their home were told that they would be able to earn a decent living. Students were told they could work around their schedules to earn money. All they had to do was pay a little bit up front and they could earn all they needed.

Of course, it was all lies. I knew someone way back in the day, before I was so ridiculously old, who fell for one of those ‘stuff envelopes from home’ scams. He got an envelope in the mail, with flyers and lists for all these work from home jobs.  He shelled out $19.95 for a list of work from home jobs, to start with. The list had all sorts of jobs listed: assembling jewelry, assembling small toys, stuffing envelopes, telemarketing from home, things like that. He then had to pay $79.95 as a “material fee” for a box of envelopes and boxes of flyers. The information he got from the company said that he could make “up to $45 an envelope”.  They claimed he could afford to quit his job and stuff envelopes professionally in a few months.

How?

Well it turns out he would get a base fee of $25 for every 200 envelopes he stuffed. That means he would have to stuff 16,000 envelopes a month to make $2,000 before taxes. $24,000 a year before taxes, for stuffing roughly 550 envelopes a day. BUT he could earn more. If someone received his envelope, was interested in the information in the envelope, and ‘responded in a positive manner’, he would receive a $45 commission as a ‘finders fee’.

So what was in the envelopes?

They were the envelope he got in the mail. The one he read, and then sent away for more info for the initial $19.95. It turns out, every time someone sent away for the list of work from home jobs, and then signed up for one of those jobs and sent them a “material fee”, he would get his $45.  The thing is, we were all constantly getting those letters. I would get 6 or 7 a month.  All of my friends did. Out of dozens and dozens of us who knew this guy, he was the only one who sent away for anything. The chances of him getting people to not only send away for the list but then send away for materials was slim to none. He would have to work roughly 12 hours a day, to live below the poverty line. Their whole “you can quit your job” line was based on you getting 50% of the people you send envelopes to every month to send in that money. The real rate of return on that was actually less than 1%, we later found out.

This scam is still out there today, but online. And with the ever changing nature of the internet, scams are evolving too. Some of them are a little too slick, a little too convincing. Some of them are a little too hard to detect at first. You’re not getting the standard “send us money, we’ll send you stuff to make money with” bullshit from the past.

So how do you avoid becoming a victim of these scams? And how do you identify them?

Do they offer you way too much money for simple tasks? 

The job offer from above emailed me again, with more “details” from the job.

Emрlоymеnt: Full/Pаrt timе:

1.Sаlаry: $1340/$670 per week
2.Wоrкing hоurs: 40/20 hоurs wеекly
3.Working hours (full time position): 9 AM – 5 PM.
4.Payment will be sent to your bank account weekly directly via Interac e-transfer. Payable at regular every Friday at 6 pm.

If you choose position of Part Time, you need to work at least 4 hours a day, it is advisable to start the morning.

So working 20 hours a week earns you $670 to “keep in touch with customers and clients”. They claim you would be answering emails and online chat requests, and you’d be working directly from a script. So they’re willing to pay you $33.50 AN HOUR to answer a few emails. Doesn’t that seem just a little bit ridiculously high?

Usually, if you’re going to make a ridiculously high wage like that, you’ve either worked your way up in the company to a very high position, or your daddy is the CEO and just handed you the job to keep the business in the family. No one is going to send out random emails to prospective employees and offer them that kind of wage. No one out there offers this as a starting wage for customer service. No one.

So you received an email with a job offer. What email address did it come from?

Companies pay good money for their domain names. Big companies aren’t going to have email addresses from Yahoo or Hotmail. The emails with come from addresses like FirstnameLastname@company.com. If Amazon were to email you a job offer, for example, the offer would come from someone directly at Amazon. You would be able to Google them, and get their contact information through their website. If Jane Doe is the head of the HR department, you would get an email address from JaneDoe@amazon.com or something like that. You would be able to Google “Jane Doe Amazon HR Department” and come up with information and contact information about her.

You would NEVER get an email from JaneDoe_AmazonEmployment@gmail.com or AmazonEmploymentRelations@yahoo.com. If a company has a website (which pretty much every company existing today does), then it has a professional email address. They’re not going to give everyone a professional email address except the person in charge of hiring new employees.

They’re also not going to have ridiculously long email addresses that seem to have been randomly thrown together. JaneDoeHRdeptcdhm@yahoo.cdhm.gime.uk emailing to offer you a job with a local company is about 200% fake. If an email address looks like it was thrown together randomly from a box of alphabet soup, it’s bullshit.

And don’t be fooled by how professional an email looks. Templates can be copied, logos can be stolen or faked. Just because someone knows what the Amazon logo looks like, or knows how to make an email look super pretty, doesn’t mean they are offering you something real.

What does their website look like?

Ok, I honestly think that “how to spot a fake website” should be a mandatory course, not just taught to students but taught to EVERYONE!!!! I swear, if I have to see one more post on Facebook saying that McDonald’s/WalMart/Tim Horton’s is giving away free $1,000 gift cards to anyone who signs up on their linked website, I’m going scream. Every single one of those websites fails the very first thing you should be checking for a website: their web address looks totally and completely bogus.

If Burger King is emailing you a link, that link should be http://www.burgerking.com/whateverelsefollowsthat. The important part is that little space between “www.” and “.com”. If it’s Burger King sending that email, it’s Burger King you should expect to see in that link. If their web address has anything like “www.wxyz.burger.hamburger.king.zyxw.com”, then run screaming into the night. Run hard, run fast, run far away.

But what if the web address looks legit?

Well, what does the website look like?

A real business website will have certain information on it: email, phone number, business address, prices for services, etc. If something is a scam, then it’s going to be missing a lot of these things. Let’s take the company that emailed me earlier today. In their follow-up email, they gave me their website to take a look at. Go ahead and take a look through the website. The home page has almost no information on it, other than a phone number. There’s no info about their staff, their CEO, the extent of their services. They don’t even have a mission statement or a picture of the big boss.

If a company doesn’t have a picture of at least one of the big bosses (CEO, CFO, founder, site manager, etc) you know there’s something up. These guys LOVE having everyone know that they are responsible for the company’s success. Hell, the website above doesn’t name a single employee!

Can you go through the website and tell me what services the company provides? Not just a basic list of the services. Can you look at the website and tell me details about the services? How much they cost? What exactly they include?Scams don’t go so far as to cover this on their sites. They want to throw together as professional looking a website as they can in a very short period of time.

I’ve never heard of this company before.

Google. Google is your friend. Google will help you find out things you need about a company.

So if you type the company name into Google, what comes up? If you Google a company, you should come up with a whole shit-tonne of information. Just for fun, I Googled the company I worked at before I went to university. It’s a small business, one location, that services and distributes equipment for a few big photocopier and postage meter businesses.  And you know what? There are dozens of results that pop up when I search them. There’s their website, job ads, customer reviews, former employee reviews, and all sorts of random bits of information about the company.

Now, do you know what came up when I Googled the company that sent me that email? Absolutely nothing. Their website didn’t come up, no reviews came up, nothing.  The only time I got results was when I Googled their name plus the word “scam” attached to it.

Did they outright offer you a job in their email?

No phone call. No interview. No back-and-forth emails. There was no cat and mouse to it. Just opened your email and *BAM* there’s a job offer.

Ya, that’s a scam. They don’t know anything about you. They don’t know if you’re qualified for their position. Hell, to be honest, there probably isn’t even a position!

Did they ask you for any details to get payroll moving, or to do a background check?

NEVER give out your social insurance/security number out to random people online. NEVER!!! The same thing goes for banking info, credit card details, or anything else that could be used to “look into” your identity.  This ain’t rocket surgery. If someone came to your door and said, “Hi, can I have your social insurance number? I want to do a background check on you”, would you give it to them? The Same logic applies online.

Wait, did you even apply for this job?

I’ve lost track of the number of jobs I’ve been offered that I haven’t applied for. Most of them say that they found my resume on Workopolis or Monster.ca. The thing is, I don’t have resumes posted on either of those sites. So how did they find me?

I had a local company message me once saying that I was “ideal” for a position with their company. They started telling me about the position, and it was nothing at all what I was looking for. It was strictly commissioned sales in insurance, which would mean no guarantee of a paycheck. It was also mainly based out in the country, well beyond any bus routes. I don’t have a car and take the bus everywhere. I searched online for the company and found out that the “recruiter” jobs are the most lucrative. Basically, they hire people to send out mass messages to “prospective employees”, and they get a commission for every employee they sign up. Then they get a commission for every sale that employee makes. It’s the very definition of “pyramid scheme”.

If you didn’t actually apply for that job, or they say they found your resume through a means you don’t even use (online postings, temp agencies you don’t use, an unnamed “friend” who supposedly passed your info along), then ignore it.

Do they want you to move money around for them?

This one is classic. They give you a check for $1,000. They tell you to deposit the check into your bank account. $250 is yours to keep. You then have to send the other $750 to their business contact. The only reason you’re sending it and not them, they claim, is something like “tax purposes” or some other financial reason. What came to be known as the “Nigerian Prince” scheme was basically the same thing: he gives you a check he can’t cash for “political reasons”, you cash it and keep 10%, and send the rest to his sister/mother/wife to help him escape his country.

Don’t bother. That check is going to bounce, and you’ll be on the hook for whatever money you sent their contact. They’ll disappear, you won’t be able to contact them, and you’ll never get your money back. Oh, and the money they told you to keep will be gone too since the check bounced.

Ok, but what if they just want you to buy something to do the job with?

I’ve had to pay for stuff to do my job before. I bought a special uniform shirt at my current job that I’m allowed to wear on Fridays. I’ve had to pay for uniforms at my old fast food jobs. But that special Friday shirt wasn’t mandatory. And my uniforms came out of my paychecks.

A real job will never tell you “you’re hired, just send us $189.99 for software to get you started”. If they really wanted you to start working, they would just give you the software to start with, and take it out of your pay somehow. They would make sure you had what you needed, were comfortable using it, and were able to do your job well enough to receive regular paychecks. If they want you to pay up-front for whatever reason, they’re just looking to take your money. You’re not getting it back. You’re not going to get paid. Run.

Does the email actually make any sense?

I know we can’t all write with perfect grammar and spelling all the time. But professional emails should be like 99% perfect. MOst of the scam emails I’ve gotten over the years sound like they were written by a 9-year-old who just discovered the Thesaurus feature in Word. Sometimes it’s really big words when a smaller one would be better and make no sense. Other times it’s a ridiculous amount of misspelled words. Most often, it’s sentence structure that makes little to no sense. Like, it just seems wrong and off.

You should check your email constantly throughout the day and quickly response to my messages,
because I’m your manager and I have a few people in this position and I communicate via e-mail only.
I am your mentor, I am interested in your success as well as you when you go through the trial period.
So i need you to connect your phone to Internet connection to receive my messages without delays.

This is exactly what that company from before sent me about my “duties” in the position”. Like, exactly. Spacing, wording, everything. See the weird sentence structure, the odd times to start a new line, and strange wording? Huge red flag!

This shit just makes no sense at all. What the hell would I be doing?

This is the one I have the most fun with. You see, I like to email these people back and string them along like I’m actually going to fall for their scam. I think I get that from my dad. He’s the only man I know who has multiple checks from different “Nigerian Prince” scams in a file at home because he was bored and answered their emails. I emailed that company back, asked what the job entails. Then I emailed again, asking what the job entails. They’ve gone so far as to send me a ridiculously vague Labour Agreement for me to sign and email back to them. They haven’t told me what the damn job is yet though.

All they’ve said is I would be in constant contact with the manager and would have to constantly check my email. That’s it. They’ll pay me $33.50 an hour to check my email and “perform tasks”. They haven’t said what those tasks are at all. I mean, tasks is a pretty broad term. Would I be transcribing record? Raising goats? Arranging travel for foreign dignitaries? Sending out my own scam emails claiming to be a manager for some reason? No clue! They haven’t said a damn thing!

REAL job offer would tell you what the job entails. They want to make sure you’re the right fit for the job before you start. I mean, if they’re going to pay you to work, they want to make sure you can fucking work, right? No company would go through the trouble of performing a mass job search, hiring a candidate, training them, and paying them just to find out they can’t actually perform their job and they need to be fired.

 

Well Sunshine, that’s the basics there. In the end, you really need to trust your gut. Does the offer seem too good to be true? Does it seem off to you? Does it give you that weird feeling in the pit of your stomach that you get when you’re walking home alone at night and hear footsteps behind you somewhere? Don’t fall for it then.

Hope your day is bright and shiny!

Shit Advice for Your Job Search

Hey Sunshine, remember when I said your life is full of well-meaning people who want to give you well-meaning advice on every aspect of your life? One of the times they come out in full force is when you announce you’re looking for a job.

Everyone and their uncle come out of the woodwork to tell you what worked for them when they were looking for a job. It doesn’t matter if the last time they had to write a resume was in 1972, what worked for them should work for you! The thing is everything changes with the times. I’m sure your Uncle Howard looked sharp in his plaid suit, with his crisp one-page resume showing that he was fresh out of high school when he walked into the local department store or factory or whatever was the major employer back then. And sure, walking in off the street and asking to see the manager worked for him then. He got his entry level job and was able to stay there until retirement, slowly progressing his way higher up in the company until he was in charge of people.

Yeah, that doesn’t work anymore.

Even in the years I’ve been looking for work (on and off since I was 18), things have changed. I’ve been to dozens of resume workshops over the years, and just the changes in writing a resume are drastic. In high school, there was one format that everyone used because a streamlined resume made it easier for employers to find information. It was one page, with your name and info at the top, and a section called Objective where you explained why you were applying for a job. If you brought a resume like that into a workshop these days, they’d tear it to shreds.  Still, this is the way almost every well-meaning relative and family friend has told me to write my resume even to this day.

This is actually something we’ve talked about at length at quite a few job hunting workshops over the years. It seems everyone is somehow getting the exact same advice from people, who then get mad when you either don’t follow it or you do follow it and don’t get results. A bunch of us over the years talked about getting attitude from (or straight up yelled at by) someone who seems to think we lied to them about taking their advice because “if you really did do [xxx] then you would’ve found a job by now!”

But what exactly is this shit advice we’ve all gotten?

#1:”You don’t need the internet. You need to get out there and pound the pavement! Back in my day, you walked right into a place, asked to talk to the manager, and you shook their hand and gave them your resume. It helps them put a face to the name! You’ll never get a job just sitting around playing on that internet all day!”

When I was looking for a part-time job in high school, I walked through the mall with a folder full of my resume. I passed them out to every store that had a “help wanted” sign in the window, and eventually got a job at a mall kiosk.

Fast forward to four years ago, when I graduated from University with my first degree. I needed to pay rent and buy food, so I went back to the mall. No one takes paper resumes there anymore. Every sign in the window said, “apply at [jobs@storename.ca] or check our website”. The mall itself even has a page on its website telling you what stores are hiring, and where to email your resume. And this is just at the mall.

At the store where I work right now, all our hiring is done through corporate. You apply online, they do one massive day of interviews for all the stores in the area, and you wait to hear back from them. All of our job postings are done on the corporate website, and you apply online by filling out forms and uploading your resume. Still, we get an average of 3-4 people a week walking into our store with their resume, asking to speak to our manager. And every time, I have to tell them that they can only apply for jobs with us online.

#2: “Well even if they say to apply online, you need to show up there with your resume! They need to be able to put a face to the name. And showing up there with a copy of your resume after you applied online shows your dedication.”

Actually, when a company tells you to apply for positions with them online, showing up in person with a resume just shows that you don’t know how to follow even the most basic of instructions. They specifically ask that you fill out an application and submit your resume online, and leave it at that. Showing up in person shows that you can’t even do that. If you can’t follow instructions to get the job, then what would make them think you can follow instructions enough to do the job.

In a lot of cases, whoever you leave your resume with has absolutely no bearing on whether or not you get the job anyway. My manager has pretty much zero say in who we hire. All applications go through corporate. Two managers for the whole county interview every prospective employee, making notes and grading each applicant on certain criteria. Then, they sit down, divide the applicants up by what store they’re nearest to, and pick out the best employees for each store. My manager right now has no say in who we get at our store. The only thing he can do is, if someone worked seasonally for us before and is applying to us again, tell the hiring managers if he liked that employee or not.

My store isn’t unique in this either. The only time most managers, whether it’s a store or an office, get to see an applicant is if they’re chosen for an interview. For a lot of places, it’s not even that manager that gets to pick applicants: it all goes through algorithm software, corporate managers, and then the chosen ones end up on the manager’s desk. It’s only then that they would be able to ‘put a face to the name’. And from what a few friends in HR positions have told me if they have to interview someone who previously insisted on bringing in their resume in person, they toss the application as soon as the interview is done. Again, if an applicant can’t follow basic instructions to get a job, then what would make them think the applicant could follow directions on the job?

#3: “You just need a killer resume. Get a template to follow if you need to. It’s easy enough, just objective, education, work experience, and then references.”

This is so wrong these days. For starters, most people realize your objective for applying for a job as soon as you apply: you want to work there. You want a job, or else you wouldn’t be applying. You don’t need any of that “It’s my goal to use my 17 months of HR experience to further my career with…….” bullshit anymore. Yes, putting an objective in was THE thing to do for a very long time. No one reads them anymore. They just take up valuable space at the start of your resume and give those reading the resume a reason to toss it.

Second, stay away from just filling out templates!  Yes, you can use one as a guide. I have 4 or 5 different templates printed out and kept in a file folder at my desk. Different types of jobs or industries require different resumes, and it’s good to have a guide as to how that resume should be done. Don’t follow it step by step though, or just fill out a template. This is especially true if anywhere on your resume you mention being able to you Microsoft Word or any other word processing program. If you can use Word, then you should be able to create a resume pretty damn easily.

Resumes are more than just a list of your past jobs and education. Your resume is your own personal advertisement for yourself. It’s a marketing tool to show people what it is you can do, and what you can do for them. They don’t care for a list of your grade school and high school, or a list of your college and university courses. A job in a corporate office may not care that in 12th grade you worked as a line cook on weekends.

What do they want to know about? Your accomplishments, anything that shows that you can do the job you’re applying for. Can you spin your line cook job to show that you were willing to give up free time to work, that you showed extreme dedication to learning any and all new skills to advance your work, that you were able to work your way up from dishwasher to food prep to line cook despite being a full-time student and only being able to work nights and weekends? That’s the kind of things that make you look good. Showing up for a shitty job twice a week to flip pancakes for a few months is nothing. Unless you need to give a chronological list of past employment, or your past employment if only part-time student jobs, leave off what isn’t relevant to the job you’re applying for.

And while we’re at it, forget the references. I actually know someone who, on top of having the most shittily formatted resume I have ever seen, would also include a page of references (each one formatted differently), and 3 or 4 letters of reference from past employers and a family friend. He never updated any of this and used the same little resume package for everything he applied for. Yes, he was able to get jobs while he was using this package, but to be fair he got them despite this. He already had the job and just needed to formally apply. You don’t need to include references with your resume unless a job ad specifically asks you to. And forget the “References Available Upon Request” line. Every employer knows that if they request references, you’ll give them some.

#4: “Ok, well now that you have a resume, just spread it out there. Blanket the city with it. Apply to every job you can, put your resume in everywhere. Print stacks of it, mail it out to companies and ask if they’re hiring. Just get that resume out there.”

Ok, how about you don’t do that. First off, we already went over why you don’t apply with a printed resume to places that ask you to apply online. Same thing goes for mailing them a resume.

Secondly, you shouldn’t be applying to every single possible job out there with one resume. Remember a few paragraphs ago, when I said that different jobs need different resumes? Well, that means that different jobs need different resumes. You need a different resume depending on your past work experience, your education, the type of job you’re applying for, and to make sure the algorithm software chooses your resume.

I know, that sounds pretty messed up. Hear me out though.

If you have a lot of relevant experience in the field you’re applying to, then a chronological resume should work great for you. It can showcase that you’ve spent years working towards the position you’re applying to and that you have a growing knowledge in that field. Just be careful with this one: if you have any gaps in your employment history or made any major career changes, this is going to highlight that like your mother pointing out every calorie you’re eating at Thanksgiving dinner while telling you you’re looking “a little more Monroe-esque this year”.

If you don’t have a solid build-up to the exact job you’re applying for, you were out of work for periods of time, or you are applying for something in a new field, then go with the functional resume. This just emphasizes your skills instead of your past jobs. I’ve got education in office administration, psychology, criminology, women’s studies, and a bit of business. I’ve worked in offices, customer service, academic research, security, food services, and have volunteered in everything from fraternity parties to food banks to fundraising. There is no way laying that all out in chronological order would impress exactly no one.

You can combine both of these types together like I do. My resume starts out as a functional resume, but then just lists my past jobs and education. Above all, it needs to be tailored. Like I said, companies use computer programs and algorithms to sort through the hundreds of resumes they get. If you throw a basic resume out there, putting the same resume in for every job, the chances of that resume having the words those programs are looking far are pretty damn slim. You really need to be tailoring your resume to each job you apply to, pulling words from the job ad that match your experience.

How the hell are you going to tailor your resume to every job you apply to if you’re applying for every single job out there? Well, you don’t. You just don’t apply to every single job out there. Want to make a general food service/fast food resume and use that at every restaurant and fast food place in town? Go for it. Make a general resume tailored to a certain field if you’re going to send out mass applications. But you can’t just use one resume for everything though, and you can’t apply to every single job out there.

#5: “Oh you Millenials are just lazy! Why don’t you pry yourself away from that computer screen for a bit, go out there and network! It’s not what you know, it’s who you know, and you’ll never get to know anyone sitting at that damn computer!”

What’s your LinkedIn profile looking like these days? I’ll tell you right now, mine is a complete mess. My summary is too long and wordy, I have too many former jobs and volunteer positions listed in detail, my photo is really old, and I don’t even have a decent headline. I know this holds me back at times. LinkedIn is a tool that more and more big companies are using, and it’s becoming a much more important part of job hunting and career planning.

Fact is, a lot more of our job searching now revolves around the internet. Job ads are sometimes only posted online, applications are submitted online, background checks by employers are done online, and networking is done through email and websites like LinkedIn. The internet is becoming more and more important these days.

#6: “Well that still doesn’t excuse anything! When I was young, I walked into the local factory and got a job there. I worked my way up to the office job I had, I didn’t just expect to have a job handed to me!”

You have no idea how many times I have heard stuff like this over the years.My hometown has one major industry that the town has revolved around for decades.  Back when my dad and all of my aunts and uncles were young, anyone with a grade 9 education could go and apply there, get a job right off the street.Starting on the line in the factory, a lot of these guys were able to work their way up to nice office positions by the time they retired.

Today, just to be considered a TPT (temporary part-time) job in that same factory, you have to be a full-time student in either college or university, under the age of 25. To get the same job these men got as high school drop outs 40 years ago, you now need a high school diploma with grades high enough to get you into post-secondary school, and then you need to basically win the lottery and be one of the dozens of people hired among the hundreds of people who apply. I know a tonne of people who would love the chance to get in there and work their way up the way people did 40 years ago. That’s just not possible there anymore.

I have seen job ads for entry level positions that required degrees and years of experience. More and more people are having to work at unpaid internships and volunteer positions to get experience just to get their first job. Jobs today require more education to qualify, more experience to qualify, need more specialized training to qualify. Basically, jobs are harder to get these days than they were before.

To top it off, the job market is changing. More and more jobs are popping up online, or in small start-ups. Now, these jobs can be risky to take but offer the chance to work your way up back like our parents’ generation did. Every single time I have applied to one of these jobs, the ‘work your way up’ crowd has laughed at me. It’s like they’re not respectable jobs.

Pretty much, no matter what you do in your job search, you’re going to get these questions. Nothing you do is right, you’re not trying hard enough, you’re not trying the right way, and everything you do is wrong. Fan-fucking-tastic, eh? Just remember that we know what we’re doing. We know things have changed, that markets have changed, that ways of doing things are different. Don’t let all of this get you down.

As always, if you need someone to vent to I’m always here. Drop me a line at TheFailedGrownUp@gmail.com and vent away. Don’t worry about annoying me, or bumming me out. Nothing’s gonna dull my sunshine, and I’m pretty much a recluse when I’m not at work. Emails are nice from time to time.

The World is Full of Well-Meaning People

So I’m a little lost right now, as you know. I’m working a customer service job that I absolutely love most days. Problem is, I went to university and took out a shit tonne of loans. Then, to afford basic survival right out of university, I lived on very sporadic shifts at work, my life savings (which wasn’t a whole hell of a lot, to begin with), and credit cards. I have the education, the skills, and the knowledge for a whole bunch of jobs out there that pay a hell of a lot better than Customer Service Representative wages. There’s a tonne of competition out there from other people with the education, skills, and knowledge though, so shit is rough.

I’ve talked a bit about my struggles with job hunting. I’m not too worried about it because I have a job. I’m saving up to get more permanent residence in the next year or so, and trying to focus on the things I have in my life as opposed to the things I’ve been told I SHOULD have at this point in my life. I used to focus on those things a lot, and it puts me in a very dark place. I don’t like that place, the music is depressing and no one will dance with me. I know something else will come along at some point, and I’m not about to stress myself out any more than I have to about my job hunt right now.

But there are so many well-meaning people out there who just want to help, and it’s driving me crazy right now.

I have a few people in my life who send me job ads online. They’re usually accompanied by the usual “I thought you might be interested in this jobs, it seems perfect for you” message, followed by repeated “did you apply” messages in the days to follow. I always read whatever it is they send me, and I’ll tell you that a good 95% of the jobs are things I am completely NOT qualified for. It’s not even like “well they want 5 years of experience, and I only have 4 years” or anything super close like that. I mean, if I meet around 60% of the qualifications they want in an ad, I’ll apply to that job. But the job ads I’m sent are so far off of what I’m actually qualified to do, I have to wonder if these people actually read the ads before they sent them to me.

Case in point: a relative who will remain nameless (hi mom!) keeps sending me these job ads. I’m pretty sure they just see the company name, assume it’s something I could do, and send it off. She seems to think that, because she knows a few people who work for that company who have less education than me, I should be qualified for pretty much any job there. By now, she starts pretty much every job ad message with something along the lines of “I know you don’t like when I push you like this, but I just couldn’t pass this up”, followed by a job I am in no way qualified for.

Today’s job ad was for a company whose website I check weekly for ads. I knew for a fact that there were three jobs on there, none of which I am qualified for. The one I was the most qualified for (I don’t have the necessary experience, but I can’t pass up applying for a job that actually requires a degree in Criminology), I met maybe half the qualifications. This wasn’t the one she sent me. This job required at least 5 years of call center management experience, an advanced degree in Business, knowledge of computer programs I’ve never even heard of, classes in advanced statistical analysis using software I’ve never used, and bilingualism (English and French, since this is Canada). Like, the only things in the long list of qualifications that I had were customer service experience and the ability to use Microsoft Word and Excel.

So I messaged this relative that may be my mother, and I told her all of the things in the ad that I’m not qualified in. She didn’t believe me. It didn’t seem possible to her. She knew two or three people who got jobs at this company (in their call center, not in the positions available right now) who don’t even have degrees, who had jobs that have nothing to do with the industry, who had no experience. In her mind, because these people got jobs with this company, me and my multiple degrees should have no problem getting any position at all there. It doesn’t matter what the qualifications are, or what the position is. The fact that someone without the education I have got a job somewhere in this company means that obviously, I can get any job there I apply for.

This totally pisses me off and puts me in the foulest mood. Like, I was in a pretty decent mood this morning, drinking my coffee and planning my shopping trip to the local international market. Had a cat at my feet, flannel on my back, and caffeine in my veins. I was ready to get my day going, and then that message came through. I was in such a shit mood after that.

I know she was just looking out for me, and thinking about me. But all she did was see the company name, not the ad, and decided to send it off. The way most people send me these messages, it’s almost like they’re guilting me into applying for a job I either have no interest in or am totally not qualified for. Like I said, I have a job right now. I’m not going to rush out to take just any job. I like the job I have, even if other people seem to think it’s below me (I hate that thinking, but that’s a whole other post for a whole other day). I still continue my job search, but I limit my applications now. I’m only applying for jobs that I want, that I think I would be damn good at, jobs that make me think I could really make a difference doing that job. If I’m going to find a career, I want to make sure it’s not something that will make me completely miserable until I (maybe, possibly, hopefully, someday) retire.

We all have those well meaning people in our lives. They’re the ones who, without asking you what it is you want, push you forward in the direction they think you want. They’re the ones who say things like, “But you’ve always been so smart! Why wouldn’t you go to university” when all you’ve ever wanted to do was be a mechanic. They’re the ones say things like “well hopefully soon you’ll find a real job” when you really enjoy your job. They’re the ones for whom your life is just never good enough somehow. They want you to get a better apartment, or buy a house, or change jobs, or relationships. They’re totally supportive when you’re doing something that plays into their concept of you and would bend over backward to help you. But it’s that concept of you they’re trying to push, not the real you.

I have no clue how to really handle these people, Sunshine. Like I said, I have more than a few of them in my life. None of them seem to want me living where I live, working where I work, or writing what I write. In their minds, they’re just pushing me to be a better me. But for them, nothing is good enough.

Do you have these well-meaning people in your life too? Comment below, or drop me a line at thefailedgrownup@gmail.com . We can find a way to deal with them together.

A Little Research Goes a Long Way

I know people have been asking you this since you squeaked out your first words, and you’re probably sick to death of hearing it, but what do you want to be when you grow up? Any idea?

I wanted to do two things, Sunshine: I wanted to write, and I wanted to work in criminal profiling and research violent crimes.  They both seemed like the ideal career paths for me. I mean, I wrote all through my teens and early 20s (and then just gave up hope on everything for a good 10 years before trying to give it another go). And I’ve been reading true murder novels ever since I stole my first one from my mother’s bedside table in the 5th grade.

So, in my mid-20s I decided to go back to school and start working towards that whole profiling and research career. I studied Criminology (got my BA.H in that one) and Psychology (my second degree, just a BA), worked as a research assistant for a while, and obsessively read books and papers on murderers. I talked to a professor who was a former RCMP officer (those police officers in Canada that the rest of the world seems to think rides horses all day while they wear bright red jackets and doofy hats), and he told me all the steps I needed to get into the RCMP for a research position.

Dumbest fucking move ever.

You see, he hadn’t been an RCMP officer for a while now. Things change over time, like the qualifications for different positions. He told me I just needed my BA.H in a social science, preferably something where I studied crime (hence the Criminology), and a background in research. He sounded like he knew what he was talking about.

One simple Google search would’ve shut that down real freakin fast!

You see, in order to get the position I wanted, now you have to first BECOME an RCMP officer. Not only do I have no want or desire to do so, but my eyesight is bad enough that it disqualifies me from the position. Like, it is impossible for me to ever get this job, ever.

If I had realized this while I was still in school, there is a metric crapload of stuff I would’ve done differently. For starters, I would’ve done a little bit more research into what jobs my damn degree qualified me for. I would’ve gone for more career counseling, volunteered with different organizations, looked into addition certificates and courses to help me out. I would’ve switched to a double major in something else, got a minor or two to fall back on. Maybe even got a part-time job to fall back on once I was out of school (but that’s a whole other post).

As it stands, I have two degrees I got specifically to get me a job I can never have. They don’t qualify me for much specifically in the town I live in. I work customer service in a ‘spirits dispensary’ who would prefer I don’t name them in blog postings. I have tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt from those degrees, plus credit card bills falling out my ass crack from trying to live on 4 hours work a week for months without falling behind in my rent and other bills. And I have to pay this all off with the CSR wages I’m making now, NOT the profiling and research job and salary I had been working towards.

And this was all totally preventable if I had just sucked it up and done a bit more research.

So, as I say way too much to be healthy for my self-esteem, don’t wind up like me. Do a little work towards the work you want to do.

Check Out the Education Qualifications

If you have a job or career in mind, know what you need to get in order to get hired. You wouldn’t expect to just show up on a movie set one day and say, “I’ve never acted, written, produced, or directed in my life, and I have a degree in forensic science. Let me direct your next big budget movie”, and to actually get the job. Some places or careers require schooling, while others prefer you get experience for yourself.

Want to be a teacher? Find out how much schooling you need for that, what courses and majors you need, how many years you’ll be in school. Want to write? You could go to school for creative writing, or you could just write constantly. Neither one is wrong, but they’ll both take you down different paths. Same goes for other creative pursuits. You may be better off just creating content than getting formal school sometimes, while in some situations an education might give you that little something extra that could land you a position.

Have a Company or Position in Mind?

Study and use LinkedIn like it’s your lover: learn it inside and out, make it the best it can be, make it feel appreciated and wanted. LinkedIn can help you get an in with a company, meet people working there, find out more about the company’s culture.

Most businesses have a website these days too. Ever think to look at it? You can learn a shit-tonne from half an hour browsing a company’s website. Find out what they do, their mission statement, who works in positions you’re interested in, who is in charge of hiring.

Find Out Every Step Needed to Get That Job

I knew I needed to get that honours degree. I had no idea I needed to become an actual RCMP officer, which I physically can’t do. A lot of people see that you need to become an officer before moving on to a different job and give up altogether. They’d rather not spend 5 years working in a remote northern community, far from home and everything they love, dealing with criminals and violence and such, to get a desk job doing research. Hell, even if my eyesight didn’t disqualify me from the job, I probably wouldn’t have gone for the officer position anyway. I was just over 30 years old (and still am, btw) competing with people in their early 20s for a physically demanding position, which I am in no physical shape to hold. I’m a desk job person, not chasing perps through vacant lots and hopping tall fences kind of gal.

There are a gazillion different things that a job could require from you that could wind up being a dealbreaker. Believe me, it’s better to know what these are before you throw down $60,000 in borrowed money for a degree that is going to do you no good once you’ve realized you can never get the job you were getting that degree for.

Basically, you need to go and power up The Googles, as my mother calls it. Start researching shit. Look into the jobs you want, the companies you want to work for, the schooling you’re doing, the people you admire. See if what you want is even feasible, and see if it’s something you can definitely be in for the long-haul.

Don’t wind up like me, Sunshine. I kinda love-hate my job most days. It would be great if not for the crushing debt of the schooling and living I did over the last 10 years. I could make a living off of it if I didn’t have all these damn bills.  Make sure you don’t make the same mistakes as me, Sunshine. Do your damn research. Plan shit for the future.

How Not To Keep Your Job — Update

OK, so things with The Kid got interesting during his last shift.  Aside from snapping at me that he already knew how to do everything (when I was trying to show him how to do something he hadn’t done before), he made a big bunch of glaring errors.  Then, at the end of the night while everyone was cashing out, a few of us ran to the back to throw our uniform shirts in our lockers and change into regular clothes. I had on my jeans and work boots, and a very high-cut tank top (which I made sure showed zero cleavage, since The Kid seemed so nervous even serving a customer with big boobs, let alone having to work alongside a set of Double D’s), and a co-worker threw on a pair of shorts. When the shift leader asked him what he drawer total was, The Kid started to answer, but mid-number he just mumbled and stared at my chest.

Now, I’m used to people staring at my chest. Hell, even I stare at my chest sometimes. It’s damn, near majestic. But The Kid sat there with his jaw dropped open, eyes wide, and was almost drooling while he stared at my non-existent cleavage. I even asked a coworker if maybe my shirt had been pulled down a bit while I was lifting drawers. But it was pulled almost up to my collar bone.

Still, The Kid sat there gape-jawed and silent while the shift leader asked him THREE TIMES what his total was.

The next day, on my laid-back Kid-less Sunday shift, a senior co-worker asked if I noticed any issues with The Kid that we could address. Now, we had been making lists of things he did wrong, not to shame him or get him in trouble, but to make sure we knew what to go over with him the next time he was in. Well this list was more than a page front and back.

Very long story short, the other night The Kid came in for his shift. The Big Boss Man made all the other people getting ready to count their drawers go out and do stock while he and the assistant manager had a “little talk” with The Kid. A few minutes later, The Kid was escorted out of the building, never to be seen again.

The Big Boss Man came around to each of us on shift that night to let us know that The Kid was “no longer under our employment”.

Shocker, I know!

(Actually, my reaction was,”Really? gee, no one saw THAT coming!” in the most Daria-esque sarcastic tone I could muster).

So it turns out, that last post really WAS a list of things to do to make sure you Do Not Keep Your Job.

Hope you’re having a better weekend than The Kid, Sunshine. We have our strike deadline at 12:01am Monday (so tomorrow night), so there may be some Customer Service posts coming up from that. Also, I’m working on a series on files you need to keep. I mean, filing is probably the least fun and sexy thing you can think of right now, but keeping certain things filed away in an orderly manner can save you a RIDICULOUS amount of times sometimes. Time that could be spent on much more fun and sexy things.