Crazy Going Slowly Am I…….

Sometimes life is just one crushing blow after another, until you just wish Flanders was dead.

~Homer J Simpson

Well Sunshine, it has been a damn rollercoaster the last few weeks!

After my last post, I had a few interviews with the Company I Never Wanted to Work For, Ever. The first one over the phone went really well. I did some online tests after that, filled out a job seeker profile for them on their website, and went in for a second interview.

When the interview ends with the person shaking your hand and saying, “Well, this was fun”, you know things did not go well.

After that, I somehow managed to get in with the job agency that handles the account for the somewhere I’ve been wanting to work for years. I had a fantastic interview with them, and they emailed me some computer testing to do from home. Just to qualify to work where I want to, I needed to have a typing speed of 40wpm and be able to pass three different components of Microsoft Word and Excel testing with 80% (basic skills), 60% (intermediate), and 40% (advanced).

I spent two days reteaching myself Word and Excel beyond the basics I use almost daily. Pretty sure it paid off, though.

Test Results

The agency said it could take a little while before postings came in, and I prepared to settle in and wait. This place I want to work at would be perfect since my house is right between it and my current job. I could leave on, do a quick-change, and head off to the other when I needed to. Almost sounds too good to be true. Things were finally starting to look up for me………

So of course, everything got messed up again.

Monday afternoon the boss called. Every now and then corporate likes to transfer people to different stores in the area. Usually, my store would have maybe two people leave and two new ones come in. This time around five of us are leaving, and I’m one of them. At the end of the month, I start at the store downtown. Actually, of the five of us who are closest at the store, four of us got transferred out. And all to different locations, too.

Of my little group, my little work family, most of us had not planned to stay at that store forever. We knew at some point one of us would have to leave, or one of us would get a job somewhere else. They tore us all apart at once, though, and it’s a huge shock to us all. Phone calls were made, group chat came back to life, many tears were shed and much wine was drunk.

Oh, there was so much wine. Thank you Chili, for making such delicious and affordable liquid feelings!

Frontera Cab Sauv

This is what my feelings taste like. Delicious sadness…….

I don’t know if it was the shock of us all being pretty much ripped away from each other, hearing the sounds of my coworkers crying over the phone, or the massive amount of wine I drank after getting the news that put me over the edge. All I know is my heart is fluttery and my insides are vibrating again.

All I want to do is curl up in a ball right now and sleep. But my eyes don’t stay shut and my brain doesn’t turn off. I woke up four times last night, with the final time being almost an hour before the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend’s alarm went off at 6:30am. I’ve been scrubbing, cleaning, job hunting, and researching for hours already, and it’s barely 10am.  Hell, I cleaned the damn oven before my first cup of coffee!

So bear with me while I try to figure out what the hell is going on with my life. I’m going to be working on job applications and cover letters for the next while. Hopefully, I can get my heart to stop pounding long enough to get a post or two out on here.

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The Little Annoyances When Applying for Jobs

The last few days have been killer. I slept so much last night, but I’m still exhausted.

My shoulder and neck are somewhat healed from last weekend. I’m not on the pain meds anymore and only took the muscle relaxers twice. I’m still really sore though, and that makes my head a little foggy.

Some of my favourite co-workers and I had to go to our First Aid and CPR training this week. The bosses kept checking on me before I went, just to make sure my shoulder wasn’t going to be an issue during the CPR training. I’m more sore from sitting on uncomfortable folding chairs all day and watching slideshows than anything else.  When you’re recovering from a pinched nerve, the last thing you want to do is sit in a folding chair staring at a screen for 8 hours!

I also took my entire one day off this week to do all the cleaning around here, play a little Zeus on the computer, and get a little writing done. Started my first real knitting project too. I’m making squares, which will be sewn together to make a blanket.

And on top of all that, I had to do THE job application. This was the application for the job that I’m actually qualified for, that I would be fantastic at, that would pay me enough to not live in a house with a bunch of random people, and I could afford to buy a bed that is big enough for me to sleep in without contorting my body in awkward positions. This was the job I had been lying awake at night wishing for, and then dreaming about once I fell asleep. This was the job that would finally let me better myself so that I could provide for my fur-child, the ever-snuggly Bowser Kitten, properly and shower him with treats and cat trees.

This was also the job that came with a 42-page guide on how to write out the cover letter and resume properly.

I spent three days working on this application. I had to go over every single sentence and make sure it was worded the exact way the guide said to word it. I had to find the perfect balance between showing the responsibilities and tasks I had at previous jobs, and really playing up the things I’ve done that are exactly what this job requires. I had to find a way to show that taking extra online courses in our training modules at work proved that I could keep up with the responsibilities of keeping up with the ever-changing laws and how they apply, even though I was just learning the difference between a Merlot and a Cabernet Sauvignon.

I was working on other applications during this too. I’d work on stuff for an hour, and then run off to the other room to vacuum or mop or anything but type. I submitted a handful of other applications, made two different types of marshmallow cereal bars, took a few naps (thanks to the muscle relaxers I was on, no doubt), and washed the walls. I tried switching between the main application and the other ones I was working on, but I just kept getting more and more stressed out and frustrated.

I mean, there was a 42-page guideline!

This application had to be both a cover letter and a resume with a combined total page length of five pages. Quite a few pages covered the basics, but there was still so much detail that needed to be put into this thing! It was absolutely maddening!

And of course, throughout the whole process, there were the regular little annoyances that come up when you’re applying for jobs. What are those annoyances, you ask?

1. Please attach your resume. Now, please fill in all the info from your resume. 

You see an ad for a job, click the little link at the bottom, and head over to the website for HR. You go through the ad, tailor your resume a bit, fill in your basic information in the application form, and then get to the bottom of the screen. Some companies have you ad your resume as an attachment. Some have a little box where you can copy and paste your resume. Either way, you ad your resume and figure you’re all done.

Oh hell no!

For some reason, even though they’re sitting there on your resume, now you have to fill out like six different forms with all the information that’s already on your resume! You wind up spending close to an hour filling in your job history, volunteer experience, education, maybe even a few references.

And do you know where they could find all that information? Your resume, that’s attached right there on the form!

I know there’s probably a good reason for this. They’re trying to catch people lying on their resumes or verify information. A lot of companies use software to scan applications for keywords, and maybe this makes it easier to do so. Or maybe there’s just some sort of sadistic conspiracy against job hunters.

2. You need a professional resume. And an educational one. And a customer service one. And……

I have a few degrees, a college certificate, and a bunch of Microsoft training. I’ve worked in research, was a teaching assistant, and volunteered for a whole bunch of social justice and school spirit organizations in university. And for the last four years, I’ve been working in customer service.

For some jobs, I need to play up my customer service training. For others, it’s all about my computer skills. Some want to know about my research experience, or my schooling, or my volunteer work with one specific organization.  Each and every one of those requires a completely different resume.

And it’s not just a matter of cutting and pasting things. Different types of resumes require different styles, which means using a completely different template to work from. You can’t just move things around to highlight things. My degrees make me over-qualified for a lot of the customer service work I apply for, and my customer service work is seen as a low point for research jobs compared to my education and research work.

Then you get highly specified applications that come with a 42-page guideline. At least something like that tells you exactly what you need on your resume.

3. Some application processes are extremely specific. They might even have a 42-page guideline.

Ok, I’ll admit that I love the fact that they just flat out tell you what they want in this guideline. They basically lay out the cover letter for you and explain exactly what they want to know from you. It’s like the idiots’ guide to applying.

But it’s 42-pages of this! This is how they weed out the contenders from the “well I’ll just throw in a resume and see what happens” folk. They give super specific directions just for the layout, requiring specific fonts, font sizes, and margins. Then they lay out exactly how they want your information presented to them.

Thing is, this specific application is a 5-page combination of the resume and cover letter. I’m not going to be able to use this for any other application, and I can’t just recycle part of it for similar applications because the presentation is completely different for each one! It’s like spending 3 days working on a “maybe”.

4. Did I mention cover letters yet? Because cover letters suck.

Basically, you have 3/4 of a page to sell yourself. You have to show exactly how you meet every single qualification, how every qualification on your resume proves you’re perfect for this position and answer any questions your education and experience (or lack thereof) may bring up. Oh, and you have a highly specific template you must work from that includes customer headers, specified address lines, and a very specific amount of spaces between “Thank you” and your name.

Oh, and did I mention that this is the very first thing a potential employer sees? This is the very first impression you make. Every single tiny thing must be absolutely perfect, or else they’ll just toss your application aside.

No pressure or anything, eh?

And these are just the things about actually applying that can drive a person bonkers! Nevermind all the waiting for a call back, the interview prep, the rounds and rounds some interviews take, the personality tests, the rejections, the “almosts”…………

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.