Friday, May 25, 2012

I shall never lay eyes on a Kmart again!

Well, sandpipers.

I had another interview yesterday, at a pretty nice place.  It was a sales job, but the product was decent quality, so my barrier against returning to sales lowered a little.  The manager said they'd love to have me on board, but the problem is that the job requires a car, aaaaaaaaaannnnnnnd...I don't have one.  Dammit!  I asked if there were any other positions available that didn't require a personal vehicle, and was directed to someone in HR.  Whom I called.  And who may or may not call me back.  And whom I may or may not have to hound and pester.

I read today that in the current job market, for every job you apply to, you're supposed to follow up (i.e., call the company and remind them how interested you are) between 7 and 10 times!  Can you believe that?  When I think back to when I was an editor in charge of hiring people, I think that if anyone would have called me more than once about their application, I would have immediately crossed their name off the list.  If they're that annoying and interruptive before they even have the job, imagine how annoying they'll be as a coworker.  But maybe some bosses think that behavior shows persistence and initiative?  That's the thing--each boss or manager likes different things, so how can you tell if they like lots of follow-up calls?  I dunno.  I'm not really even convinced that following up even works, because every time I've done it in the past (and even received a response at all), I've gotten one of three answers:

  • "Um, we'll call you if we decide to hire you."
  • "Yeah, we've already filled the position and aren't hiring anymore, but we'll keep your application on file in case there's, like, another opening in the future or something."
  • "The manager went on vacation and never came back, so our whole store/office is in chaos and nobody knows what's going on."

Today I also came across a position with Sears that didn't require a car, any previous experience, or a cover letter/resume.  But if you read my last post, you'll know I recently found out that 8 years ago I was mysteriously banned from ever working at Kmart or Sears again.  I was really interested in that car-free position, so I decided I should try to solve this Kmart/Sears mystery.  I called the actual store in Ohio where I had worked when this record-keeping mistake happened.  I spoke to the local HR department there, who told me they don't keep employee records that far back, so they couldn't give me any info.  I then called the foreign call center number in India mentioned in my last post, gave them my social, and explained the situation.  They gave me a case number and told me I could dispute my termination code, then transferred me back to the corporate HR department in the US.  I gave my case number to this other woman--let's call her Nance--and explained my situation to her.

"I'd like to dispute my termination code," I said calmly.

"You can't dispute that, ma'am.  The code is in the system permanently."

"Well, what does it say?"

"It's says you're not re-hireable."

"Why does it say that?  Why am I un-rehireable?"

"It doesn't say anything else.  We don't keep records that far back, so we can't verify why that code was entered.  It just says you're un-rehireable."

"So you just have this little code on file with no explanation at all?" I said.

"Yes, ma'am."

"Well, it's an error!  It needs to be fixed!"

"We don't have the records as to why that code was entered, so we can't verify that it was an error."

"If you erase the explanation, why not just erase the code itself, since nothing can be verified?"

"Because it's permanent, ma'am.  It says you're not re-hireable, and that can't be changed, not if it happened several years ago."

"So someone made a mistake about my employee record and now there's no way to fix it?  How is that my fault?  How is that my problem?  Someone else pressed the wrong key and now I have to suffer the consequences--permanently?"  

"Well, did you conduct yourself unprofessionally?" she asked.

"No!  I just told you that!  I was hired as a seasonal employee and didn't have any problems at all.  I was laid off because the Christmas season was over.  I was always on time, I got along with everyone, I did a good job, I never got in trouble or anything.  I was a good employee.  I'm telling you, this is an error.  They keyed in the wrong code, and because of that, it's hindering my job search now."

"There's no proof they keyed in the wrong code, ma'am."

"There's no proof that they didn't!" I shrieked.  "Why do you guys not keep any records to verify a code that is permanent??  That makes no sense!"

She started repeating herself about something or other and I just hung up on her.  Which is nowhere near as satisfying when you have a touch-screen phone and you have to gently tap the "end call" button.  It was better in the old days when you could slam down the phone after a stupid conversation.  In any case, I'm sure it just made Nance gloat to herself afterwards that obviously I deserved the "un-rehireable" code.  Clearly I am a horrible person and don't deserve the chance to work as a cashier or night stocker at Kmart or Sears.  

It's not that I want to work at Kmart or Sears that badly.  I don't.  It's just the principle.  It's the fact that the 3rd largest retailer in the US has me on permanent, unverifiable, unchangeable record as being a bad employee, WITHOUT EVIDENCE, when the truth is that I did a good job when I worked there, and the assistant manager even told me on my last day that she wished they could keep me because I was a better employee than the permanent people they already had.  This whole business makes me think, Well, why even bother to do a good job anywhere if they're just going to key in the wrong termination code by mistake and put you on the permanent record as being a terrible employee?  And how many people were fired for being horrible employees but mistakenly received a nice code that said they were outstanding people and could be rehired at any time?  What Nance told me is like a scientist saying, "Well, I have these results, but I erased all the evidence.  Therefore, there's no proof that my evidence is wrong."


Can you imagine such nonsense??  Why do people not understand that if they are the one claiming that something is true, then they are responsible for providing the evidence to support it, and not other people's responsibility to show it's false?  If you have no evidence to support your claim, YOU HAVE NO CLAIM.  Aaaarrgghhh...why are humans so dumb????  We are supposed to be the smartest animals on the whole earth, but I don't buy it.

This is why I tell all my friends that I just want to be a farmer.  My ultimate dream is to run a little self-sustaining farm and pretty much live hand-to-mouth, and interact with corporate jerks as little as possible, like how the Amish do.  I wish I was Amish.  I've never been into electronics and gadgets anyway.  But I know the farming thing will never happen because arable land costs a bazillion dollars per acre, and I can't imagine making more than $12,000 per year.  That's what I averaged throughout my 20s.  Oh, what is that saying?  I've lowered my expectations to the point where they've already been met.

Maybe I should just never work for a national chain ever again, and instead stick exclusively with small-time operations where they can't even afford the software that allows them to key in robotic, unverifiable termination codes and then erase the evidence---then have the gall to imply that I'm the unprofessional one.

The other day I thought about what has worked for me in past job-hunts.  I got out a piece of paper and jotted down all the jobs I've ever had, how I found them, my method of applying, the types of companies that have hired me, and the nature of the jobs.  Out of the 30 jobs I've ever had (not counting plasma donation or nude modeling), my stats came out like this:

Sales/retail/customer service jobs: 11 (37%)
Miscellaneous unskilled labor jobs: 9 (30%)
Strip clubs: 5 (17%)
Writing/research jobs: 3 (10%)
Teaching jobs: 2 (6%)

Jobs with national chain stores: 11 (37%)
Jobs with local, small-time companies: 19 (63%)

Jobs attained by walking into a place and asking, "Hey, are you guys hiring?": 9 (30%)
By responding to newspaper/radio ads or posters: 8 (27%)
Word-of-mouth referrals for unadvertised positions: 4 (13%)
Employers soliciting me after seeing my work elsewhere: 4 (13%)
Me offering to shadow, volunteer, or work for free, then getting hired: 2 (7%)
Referral from a temp agency: 1 (3%)
Submitting a resume and cover letter: 0 (zero)
Don't remember method of attainment: 2 (7%)

Look at that second line from the bottom, there.  See how often submitting a cover letter and resume has worked for me?  Quite seriously, never.  Not once.  Not a single time.  And what do you know, I've been "email-bombing" companies over the past 3 weeks, submitting my resume and cover letter, and guess how that's working out?  (Clue: It's not.)  You might be thinking, "Well, maybe your resume and cover letters are shitty, and that's why no one is hiring you."  Mm, I don't think so.  I follow professional advice about how a resume and cover letters should look and read.  Mine don't have any punctuation or grammatical errors, they have attractive formatting, they use lots of action words, lots of numbers, and nice professional language.  So I don't know what the problem is.  Either the companies are just swamped with thousands and thousands of resumes and only have time to look at the first 100 and throw the rest out, or they see that I have a mixed variety of experiences in a bunch of different fields and they don't want that (i.e., they want someone with years of experience in one specific area), or the resume/cover letter method just isn't effective, period.  I'm inclined to think the last one, but I also fear that I'm not qualified to work in any position that requires a resume.  These days, even cashiers and unskilled laborers are supposed to have resumes, so maybe I can only be a janitor.  I've had two janitorial jobs before, and they weren't so bad.  Compared to, say, cleaning the sewers of Calcutta without any gloves or boots.

Maybe it's my blog.  Ever since the Internets became so popular, I have been told that employers will Google you and that they have teams of people whose job it is to track down potential employees on the Internet and hack into your Facebook and email accounts and dig up every email that has ever crossed your path, even if was deleted 10 years ago, and also to hack into your bank and utilities accounts to make sure you're the kind of person who pays their bills on time and never overdraws.  And, I am told (most recently by administrators in grad school), it is our responsibility as potential employees to make sure we are perfect people so that we'll survive this snooping and be hired.  In the event that we are not perfect people, we are instructed to hire a professional to erase our entire Internet presence.

Instead of, you know, holding the companies responsible for cyber crimes and computer fraud and abuse.

Funny how, if companies really do that much investigative work for little minions like me, they apparently fail to do it for top executives and weed out people like Ken Lay and Bernie Madoff who have the potential to do far more harm to a company and its resources than the little minions do.  But business is business, common sense is common sense, and never the twain shall meet.

Anyway, blogs.  I am aware the my blog is out in the open; one doesn't need a subscription or a password to read it.  Maybe the places I've applied to have seen that my blog is the first thing to come up when Googling me, and maybe they have seen that I like to cuss and that I sometimes share personal things like my medical problems, family problems, romantic problems, the socially unacceptable jobs I've taken in the past, etc.  But I love my blog.  I love telling stories about the funny things I see and hear during the day.  I don't know how accurately these posts reflect me as a whole, because the language I use here is a bit more saucy and recalcitrant than what I use in person.  And while I don't lie, sometimes I condense dialogue or exaggerate little descriptions for comedic effect.  I don't actually slam doors or jump on furniture or call people names like Meat Head and Sugar Tits in regular life.  I do have some self-control and a sense of decorum.  I can fit in and be play nice when I want to.

I'm not sure what an employer would glean about my potential as an employee from this blog.  All I know is that writing these posts brings me joy (even when I'm bitching about something).  Working at some shit-hole company does not bring me any joy whatsoever.  So, the blog stays.    

    From http://xkcd.com/137/, and thanks to Rene.

Vermont has been on my mind a lot, too.  I figure if the odds are that I'm going to be poor the rest of my life, it's wise to move to a place that will soon be installing a state-wide, single-payer health care system.  Plus I've always wanted the experience of living in a little New England town with a charming Main Street and lots of trees.  I want to go to VT and look for a job.  Or rather, I wanted to go there until I noticed that there's not a single Target in that whole state!  There is a Target in every other state of the union, plus Washington, DC, but not a single one in all of Vermont.

Oh, but there are Kmarts there.

So I guess Vermont is out of the question.