July 8, 2014

Step Right Up

Balloon dart toss carnival skill game seriesIt’s not a job search. It’s a snipe hunt.

I’m wandering through the woods, nose to the ground like a bloodhound, looking for something that doesn’t exist. And even though I know it’s a hoax, even though I know that I’ll never find anything, I keep searching, clapping my hands like a child and calling, “Here Snipe! Here Job! Here Anything!”

Gone are the days where I could throw on a tie and a smart pair of pants and go out into the world with a stack of resumes under my arm. Thanks to the internet, employers are now afforded access to thousands upon thousands of potential applicants from all over the country. And, while that’s great news for employers, that’s awful news for me.

Before, I was a highly motivated, intelligent candidate with wit and charm to spare. Now, I’m a black and white jumble of letters heartlessly dissected for keywords and buzz phrases. Now, I’m robot fodder, a joyless, faceless gear in a box of spare parts. Now, I’m not a person at all.

Now, I’m digital nobody.

I sit in front of a laptop sipping coffee and call it job searching. I send my resume out in 1000 different directions and pray for the favor of the digital gods. Occasionally I’ll check my email and it won’t be someone looking for donations or spamming me with ads for shiny appliances. It’ll be a real live HR person, delivering unto me with singsong voice (or Times New Roman font) an invitation to an interview.

And, in that moment, my heart will flutter and my toes will curl and suddenly, suddenly I’ll know what it feels like to be the homely girl who has, at long last, been invited to the dance. And, just like that, I’ll go to that dance, because it’s my turn, it’s my turn to be beautiful, d—n it! I’ll spend hours fretting with my hair and teeth, taking new interest in the evenness of my skin tone, huffing into my paw and smelling my own breath, noticing the awkward timbre of my voice and cringing.

I’ll research the company until my eyes are bleeding, boning up on interesting facts and dropping them in casual conversation as if I already worked there and am bragging.

Friend: Drew, we’re heading out to get wings. You want in?
Drew: Did you know that Jameson & Schueller hosts a wing eating competition every July to raise money and promote awareness of halitosis? This year’s competition will be their 14th consecutive year. So far, they’ve raised over 6 million dollars!
Friend: So… no then?
Friend: *slowly walks away*

I’ll scrub the internet for advice on power ties, victory pants, and special breakfasts that’ll increase my focus. I’ll practice making and keeping eye contact, sitting and standing up straight, executing a handshake with perfect professional firmness, laughing with muted skill-driven aplomb.

Or something like that.

And when the interview happens and I bring all my preparations to bear, the clouds part and we shake hands and I marvel at the opportunity to speak with a real live person. Because I need work. And then, all too soon (or not soon enough) they stand and shake my hand and I smile and thank them and they walk me to the lobby and they laugh a goodbye and I leave them to their air conditioned corporate whatnots so I can rush home to scarf ice cream and replay the interview again and again in my head. I convince myself that they’ll call – the interview went so well!

And then there’s silence. Days. Weeks. Months. And the reel in my head begins to decay.

In the replay, the whole affair becomes an impersonal, awkward, uncomfortable adventure. It’s like being forced to endure some combination of a long funeral and bad puppetry. I see myself “umming” and sweating and laughing like a drunk uncle.

And, ultimately, it ends the same – no calls, no jobs, back to the drawing board. I tell myself that them not hiring me is an act of mercy. I tell myself that I know what mistakes I made and that my next interview will be that much smoother. I edit my resume in my head on the way out of their offices. And, in the aftermath, I’m forced to eat discount mac and cheese whilst attempting to understand why what was once a market driven by driven people is suddenly an anonymous digital circus of shame.

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Drew Brathwaite is a contributing writer for Recruiter.com. A musician, author and an American politics enthusiast, Drew brings a solid knowledge of the employment markets and the candidate experience.