Why I STILL Can't Find a #%*@#! Job
Or, how to politely tell someone to just die already and stop wasting the world's precious and limited resources by keeping his/her useless carcass alive, Part 2.
I promised myself that I would never, ever rant about personal matters on my public blog (people have enough shit to deal with in their private lives without reading about mine, too) and I would at least attempt to maintain some level of objectivity about my life here (especially about those things that I am completely powerless to change), but my resolve has cracked: This is a rant. Seriously, I need to vent before I implode or die from despair. I apologize for this. Please move on to my next message if this sort of thing bothers you. There will be more useful and interesting essays coming soon (I have been trying to write them today, without much success). All I need to do right now is produce my cosmic scream.
Basically, I try to remain calm about my current un(der)employment situation but this is increasingly difficult as I watch my miniscule financial reserves slip away and as my financial dependence on the kindness and generosity of others increases dramatically. But my no-rant resolve was shattered on Friday when I read an LA Times news story by Nicholas Riccardi that made my heart skip a beat or two. In fact, I am still unable to shake the fear that this story inspired. There are two points in this story that haunt me. First;
Even with the national unemployment rate at a relatively low 5.4%, the share of those out of work for more than six months is higher now than during the early 1980s, when the jobless rate was in the double digits, analysts say. The average length of unemployment is also higher now than at any time other than the early 1980s.
Okay, that is absolutely horrible, especially when one realizes that the government compiles their unemployment statistics from data based on state Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits paid each week and by randomly calling people on the telephone to ask about the employment status in the household -- does anyone see a flaw in this process? I do! I do! First, UI benefits last only six months and are never extended under any circumstances, so people who are unemployed longer than six months disappear from state unemployment rosters. Coincidentally, "disappearing from unemployment rosters" is also what unemployed people do after they find jobs, even if they only get a part-time temporary position that places them at or below poverty level. In fact, there are no reliable methods to track the fates of the long-term un(der)employed so, for this reason (and several others), I think this problem is grossly underestimated. The only way to capture even a fleeting glimpse of this problem is by randomly calling households on the phone to poll them, which leads me to my second point; how many un(der)employed people have telephones? Not many, I can assure you. Many un(der)employed people rely on the pay phone on the nearest street corner or on a sympathetic friend or family member to collect their phone messages, or they might be lucky enough to still have a cell phone, as I currently have. Even though a cell phone is cheaper and more convenient than a conventional land-line for most people, especially the un(der)employed, let me remind you that the government doesn't call cell phones (nor pay phones!) to collect their statistics.
As if that wasn't bad enough, the story made another point that grabbed me by the throat and shakes me awake in the middle of the night in a panic;
The number of long-term unemployed who are college graduates has nearly tripled since the bursting of the tech bubble in 2000, statistics show. Nearly 1 in 5 of the long-term jobless are college graduates. If a degree holder loses a job, that worker is now more likely than a high school dropout to be chronically unemployed.
I simply must repeat that last sentence because it has made it nearly impossible for me to eat or sleep much these past few days; If a degree holder loses a job, that worker is now more likely than a high school dropout to be chronically unemployed. Notice that we are not talking about newly minted college graduates who only have so-called "book learning", these are degree holders who already have work experience but are unable to find any sort of job after they become unemployed. Honestly, this statistic robs me of all words, rendering me nearly catatonic, so I'll let you connect the dots while I breathe into a paper bag for a few minutes.
Okay, I am still conscious and relatively coherent right now, so let me change course somewhat and tell you that I received another rejection letter the same day that I read this news story, which certainly compounded my reaction. Perhaps the text of this letter can provide insight to you as to why I am astonishingly, insultingly underemployed in a part-time temporary position that ends in a couple months, earning barely enough money to simply pay my rent.
7 March 2005
[GrrlScientist Note: I guess it took the secretary a few days to lick those hundreds of stamps because I did not receive the letter until 11 March]
Dear [my corporeal name],
Thank you very much for your application for the faculty position in Evolutionary Biology at [elided]. I speak for the search committee in saying that we appreciate your interest in our College (sic) and our Department (sic), and we appreciate your patience as we wound through the seemingly interminable search and interview process.
[GrrlScientist Note: If he thinks their search and interview process is "seemingly interminable", then I invite the entire search committee to stand in MY shoes for a few hours out of the more than 500 days that I've already devoted to finding a job!]
It is now my unpleasant duty to let you know that we hired someone else for the position. We were greatly impressed by the quality and quantity of applications we received, and we were consequently able to apply very specific criteria reflecting our departmental needs for teaching and research areas. A large number of applicants were competitive for the position, and many more would have been competitive for a slightly different position here.
[GrrlScientist Note: Basically, they are seeking perfect people who are a 110% "fit". This is the standard for hiring these days, as my colleagues and fellow un(der)employed pals tell me. However, after more than 500 days of job hunting, it has become clear to me that I will never be "perfect" by anyone's standards (neither for a job nor for anything else, for that matter) and further, I realize that by diligently following my passions, I have effectively transformed myself into a person who will never be a 110% "fit" for anything that actually pays a (living) wage.]
We wish you the best of luck in all future pursuits.
[GrrlScientist Note: Because I will need it, especially when fighting with the local drunks, crackheads and nutjobs for a park bench to nap on in Central Park this summer.]
Chair, Evolutionary Biologist Search Committee
The personal touch in this letter is surprisingly satisfying because the few rejections I've received are very cold and formal letters that could have been written to almost anyone, well, anyone except a potential future colleague. On the other hand, this letter is also disarming because it makes it easy for me to feel that it is a rejection of me as a person. But at least they sent me a rejection letter, which is more than I get from approximately 90% of my academic and non-academic applications. In fact, most positions that I apply for (and all of the positions that I've interviewed for, save one), have not sent any letters at all, except for those familiar affirmative action postcards that universities send out to their job applicants. Even though I try not to think about it, I am sometimes left wondering what the hell happened? for months afterward.
The implication of this lack of rejection letters is that all those hours I invested into finding the job, assembling the application, researching the school and the departmental faculty and then writing a specific-for-this-job cover letter were so worthless as to not even warrant a response. Further, because these sorts of creative writing exercises consume most of my free time, the oblique implication is that my time is worthless (and it's easy to make the small trip from there to thinking that I, also, am worthless).
Well, on that happy note, I have finished ranting to you about Things That Cannot Possibly Be Fixed In My Lifetime. It's time for me to wade out into that nasty rainstorm that prevented me from distracting myself from my woes by hanging out under Pale Male and Lola's nest today.
© 2004, 2005, 2006 by GrrlScientist