Something I thought I learned working on campaigns is that when you pursue any goal you have to respect Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It’s hard to create art, or meet your campaign goals, when you aren’t sure whether or not you’ll be able to make rent this month. Being unemployed seems like a writers blessing, except that it becomes increasingly difficult to justify waking up before noon, and my “working” time is spent half heartedly job searching, not writing. I feel like I am floating, but not drowning, drifting, but not yet lost.
Before I made the move I already had a physically and emotionally safe place to live lined up. Brandy took the time to show me where to do laundry, grocery shopping, and I found a place to go when I’m vibrating with post performance energy . I had enough savings to get me by for a few months, and I had faith that my friends in NY would not allow me to go homeless or hungry. So when I arrived in NY my first priority was to find a source of reliable income.
Applying for jobs online feels like I’m sending my resume directly into a digital identity shredder. Who are the people on the other end of this process reading my answers to hypothetical “personality” questions? Such as “On a scale of strongly agree to strongly disagree how would you respond to this statement. I am well liked.” Or the endless “are you sure you are legally allowed to work here in the U.S. questions?” Physically walking into an office to inquire about positions, and then being redirected to their website (which doesn’t work) is humiliating and disheartening. This process is absurd.
I thought I hit bottom when I walked into Outback Steak House to apply for a waitressing position. The manager seemed impressed with me, and I had already accepted that I was becoming “someone who works at Outback Steakhouse who is not also currently enrolled in a grad school program.” Unfortunately, the manager (who had seemed so impressed with me in person) called to tell me I had failed their personality/intelligence test. Yes, you read that correctly. He couldn’t tell me why, he had simply sent my multiple choice test to their central Scantron office and received a report back that read “Failed. Do not hire.”
What is especially infuriating about unskilled job hunting is the feelings of helplessness. Knowledge might be power, but knowing that a potential employer is breaking some important labor laws through “unpaid training” that just happens to result in you doing real work that produces real profit, doesn’t make you more powerful. Unless you count walking away muttering to yourself “this is SO ILLEGAL” as a powerful act. Note to unskilled laborers, pointing out to potential employers that they are breaking labor laws usually results in you not getting the job. I worked for three days at a burger joint doing “training” that involved sweeping real floors, taking out real trash cans, filling up real ice buckets, taking real orders. I was doing real work. I was informed after my “trial period” that my schedule was not flexible enough to accommodate…a schedule I provided at the first interview. I was never paid for this work.