The Search for the Mysterious Benefactor (and a job)

I am now unemployed and searching for a job. On the upside, I have enjoyed a warmer than normal spring filled with hikes, time with family, and reading outside. Very cool. For the past 25 years, springs have been a series of short lunch breaks spent staring at the sun, dreaming of ways to contract contagious illnesses so I could have ONE SUMMER OFF BEFORE I DIE. Now I have the spring (and possibly the summer) off and I desire employment. Not really, but I have BILLS. When one is employed, BILLS are annoying bits of paper that require attention on one’s day off. When one is not gainfully employed, BILLS are large and heavy and appear in the mailbox with increasing speed, as though each month is shorter than the last. (I check my bank balance regularly, yet no Mysterious Benefactor has appeared to make deposits to my checking account. And just this morning, I failed to win the biggest lottery in the history of the United States.) On the other upside, I have completed the required coursework for the North Carolina Real Estate Commission, and will soon join Weaverville Realty, (which makes me very happy) and work with my sister-in-law. Meanwhile, until I am scheduled for and pass the State exam and earn a commission, I must do something to pay those pesky BILLS.

Looking for a job is an interesting process these days. First, one searches online for advertisements for positions relevant to one’s work history. (All the while hoping the Mysterious Benefactor will appear with a job that is fun, exciting, pays well, and allows one to wear jeans to work. Said job will have at least 4 weeks vacation the first year and excellent benefits, and will be mine because I am a nice person and deserve it.) While waiting for the M.B., one must build and save search criteria for each type of work one is considering. This will take about 15 minutes per job search site. Once one creates and uses said searches, one begins “the process” of applying for relevant positions. And it is a PROCESS, friends….

Step one: Set up your “account” on prospective employer’s site. This involves filling in your name, address, phone numbers, social security number, addresses for last 7 years, agreeing to criminal background and credit checks, creating log in and password, and selecting a “reminder question” like your first pet’s name or your Mother’s maiden name. (Is it just me, or does it seem silly to do this BEFORE said Company shows any interest in the applicant?) This portion will take about 15 minutes.

Step two: Upload updated resume and hope it contains the key words and/or buzz words the Human Resources people are looking for this week. Find creative ways to include words like “degree” and “college” since you don’t have enough of either. The ads may say “or equivalent experience” but the software does not look for that. This step will only take 5 minutes.

Step three: Manually recreate the resume that you just uploaded (which was supposed to auto-populate the site) and correct all of the areas that populated incorrectly. Add the pieces of information that disappeared altogether for some reason. Spend time figuring how to manipulate data, as each company seems to have found entirely unique software packages designed to dissuade all but the most determined applicants. You can count on this taking at least 45 minutes to an hour. Click submit and pray hard.

Step four: This step varies; some organizations like to give little online tests to see if you have basic math skills, some have you answer a series of questions designed to tell them whether you are reasonably bright or completely bonkers, others test the applicant by posting, in RED CAPS, a list of “fields you failed to complete” during step three. The latter is my personal favorite…. I adore keying the information from step three a third time!</em. (I assure you, I completed each and every field and double checked my work. That's the kind of employee I am.) Anyway, this is good for 20 minutes of your time.

Step five: Create a cover letter targeted to the job and Company you are applying for. Some sites have a cut and paste feature, others force one to type the whole thing from scratch. Keying from scratch also means avoiding typos that will mark you as having "poor written communication skills" to this potential employer.

Step six: Repeat this 2 hour process for each job you are interested in! M.B., where are you???

Now, sit back and wait for contact. Almost all job advertisements say "NO PHONE CALLS ACCEPTED" and "DO NOT APPLY IN PERSON" as part of the ad. It is as though one's personal information and concentrated effort have flown into some black hole, never to be seen again. Almost all companies send a generic email stating they received your inquiry and they will let you know if you have a snowball's chance in you-know-where. It is best to wear your thickest skin while applying online, because many companies send (within 30 seconds) an email that says "Upon reviewing your resume, we have decided to pursue other candidates." Ouch… It only took 30 seconds to review and decline me after 2 hours of effort? Dang. Bear in mind, this process may go on for weeks, so keep that thick skin at the ready.

If you're lucky, the phone will ring in a few days and you will get to talk to a REAL PERSON. Sometimes it takes weeks for the phone to ring, but when it does, it is BIG. You get a few minutes to make a second impression! Then, if you're really, really lucky, you get to GO IN. GOING IN usually entails a couple of hours of getting ready. Getting ready takes time because you have to find the right outfit, and it will be strangely smaller than the last time you got to GO IN. (Probably because your skin is so thick now.) Once you are ready and GO IN, you will approach Human Resources by way of SECURITY. You should know SECURITY is one guy charged with keeping the disturbed former employee from gaining re-entry and he is SERIOUS about it, especially if your face rings a bell for some reason. Be nice and look him in the eye and do NOT fidget. Provided you make it past SECURITY without incident and get all the way IN, there will be TESTS! Drug tests! Typing tests! Personality tests! Credit and Criminal Background tests! Tests are administered by the newest person in HR. This person is usually as serious as SECURITY, because he or she just got IN and does not want to blow it. Some tests will be completed on the spot, like typing and checking to see if you have a personality. Others require filling out forms, which coincidentally, contain the same information you provided online just last week! (Where did it go?) Still others, like the drug test, require driving across town to sit in a waiting room full of scary looking people who are also waiting for drug tests, whom may very well fail.

The drug test is AWESOME! You get a little cup to pee in. You must leave your jacket and purse outside, because some applicants apparently purchase drug free urine and sneak it in in condoms in their purses or pockets. For the record, I would never put MY urine in my purse in a condom or anything else, much less anyone else's urine. Ick. Anyway, the water in the toilets is blue and you MUST NOT FLUSH. If you forget and flush, you have to stay there until the next time you have to pee, even if that is four hours away. For real! This is trickier than you might think, because whether conscious of it or not, you have been trained from birth to flush. Once you pee in the cup and don't flush, you carry the cup of pee out to the attendant. The attendant labels it before your eyes and has you initial the stickers on the pee cup, which she bravely flips onto its side for your signature. (She gets to wear gloves!) You must not break the CHAIN OF CUSTODY. If you break the CHAIN OF CUSTODY, all is void (ha!) and you must start over. This, thank heavens, is a better process than that time during the 80s when the Attendant went into the stall with you and waited for you to pee right in front of them. That shit was weird and had to be illegal.

After that, you go home and wait for contact again. If you pass the drug test, have a good personality, can type, have good credit, have not been convicted of a misdemeanor or non-violent felony in the last three years, you just might get to GO BACK IN! or, you may get an Unpointment!

I have an Unpointment next week! The Unpointment is a relatively new H.R. invention, and it still involves steps one through six above. In the case of the Unpointment, one receives a generic email inviting one to "stop by between the hours of 1 and 4 p.m. without an appointment" to visit the "staffing center," whatever that is. In my mind it is a room with two-way mirrors, from behind which H.R. people look at the job hunting monkeys and point to the ones they like, as powdered sugar from their H.R. doughnuts drifts gently down their shirt fronts to settle like little drifts at the ski resort they'd rather be visiting. The job hunting monkeys that get pointed at probably move to a second room where the newest H.R. team members wait with TESTS!

You may think I am cynical, but I am not! I still hold out hope for the M.B. She could swoop in any time like a good fairy and bestow that dream job upon deserving me by sprinkling H.R. powdered sugar from her doughnut on me and saying, "I don't even WANT to test you, dear." That would be right and just.

P.S. I think the Pee Attendant could not get ANY OTHER JOB, or she would be in it already.

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13 Comments on “The Search for the Mysterious Benefactor (and a job)”

  1. Diana Crabbe Says:

    Been through that h-e-double bamboo shoots. Thank you for rescuing me from it! I will be eternally grateful.

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  2. Fireman Carl Says:

    I have been waiting and working on the MB for years. I would be glad to wear whatever if I could pass on the piss cup. Had several friends that took the test and passed for no reason. Do they really test? who knows.

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    • mentalfarmer Says:

      Hmmm, maybe your friends had urine-filled somethings in their purses… Or good luck? If I find the MB I will send her your way once my wishes are fulfilled.

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  3. LP Machin Says:

    Oh, my….I envy your Spring and Summer off. And I know I shouldn’t comment at all – I DO have the perfect job you described…I’m so lucky – you’ll be lucky, too – very soon – I know!
    I’m going to mix martini’s tonight in your honor..and I’ll toast ” Here’s to Mary’s MB, who is lurking just around the corner, I’m sure!”

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  4. Kelly Says:

    As always a great read. Just start writing… I see a book In your future and soon you will be your own MB. Your talents are many!

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  5. Dorothy Ward Says:

    Wish I could be your M.B.! Anyway, your job-search story makes me want to go right out and look for a job. If I weren’t 82, by golly, I’d do it, too, while waiting for my own Mysterious Benefactor. Good Luck1 You deserve it. Love, Mom

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  6. Belle Says:

    Dear Mental Farmer:

    I do so love your work. You have a gift and a future. I am fairly sure that you are perhaps done with the kind of work that requires drug tests. I have faith that you, actually, are the MB. You are Just That Smart.

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    • mentalfarmer Says:

      Wouldn’t THAT be something, Miss Belle? And while your words are kind, I believe my retirement lies a considerable distance in the future… On the other hand, I do need an Asheville drinking buddy. :). Let’s pin that down when you return from the Pagoda.

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