The parallels between dating and job hunting are the subject of a lot of bar stool philosophy. Not so much for me, but you know, in general. People getting themselves back out there in the dating or job hunting worlds note the similarities, often with disdain and contempt. All I can offer is a sympathetic, "Yep, tell me about it" smirk.
I've had a run of interviews the past few weeks. Nine in a span of 10 days. Twice I managed dashing from one interview to the next in a back-to-back interview-apalooza. I know, I know. This should make me happy because it bodes well for the job market, the economy, life in the US and maybe, just maybe, it could lead to a last minute savior job for me.
But I dunno. I kinda doubt it.
The thing is, throughout my unemployment era (yes, it's been so long I'm now officially considering it an era) I've had interviews. The longest I've gone without an interview is seven weeks. So one naturally assumes I suck at interviewing as badly as I suck at dating. There may be some truth to that, I know I've made a few missteps in some interviews that doomed me to the "do not hire" file. There are myriad reasons why I have a steady drip of interviews but no job offers. Primary among them: I apply to every job for which I am remotely qualified. I have networked my brains out. And on the other side of the equation are: HR people and recruiters desperate to remain relevant and employed in their
jobs. Their job is to find viable talent to present to hiring managers. And by talent I mean several candidates. Usually between 15 - 30 depending on the size of the company and magnitude of the position. I am really good at writing resumes and cover letters, so I frequently make the first round of phone interviews. I'm pretty good at being social and professional, which HR often like, so the preliminary phone interviews with HR usually go well. I always write thank you notes and follow up with another email or phone call. HR people often like that, too. So if I am deemed qualified for the role, I am called in for an interview.
This is where the rubber hits the road. And apparently, this is where it becomes apparent to the hiring company that I suck. That I am not worthy of a job in their company.
And for me, this is the exact sequence of events that happened when I did 50 First Dates. I wrote a thoughtful profile that was an honest representation of my personality, posted honest photos of myself, and I had a lot of responses. Phone conversations often went well, and that led to first dates...and...well...we all know that I am still so single that I gave up on men and dating and have become a spinster. So. We all know that's where things went wrong for me. Consequently, it's no surprise that the exact sequence of events happens in my job hunt.
The only problem is that I can't give up on finding a job. I'm too young to retire. And even if I could leverage my foot and ankle issues into a disability scenario, I can't live in the meager amount of Social Security I would earn. (We're talking $600/month...tell me where I can live (rent, utilities, the occasional meal) on $600/month and I will move there.) So apparently I'm not only going to be a spinster, I'm going to be a vagrant, as well.
If I could figure out what it is about my in-person presentation that makes hiring managers (and men) reject me, well, my life would be a lot easier. Sure, with men it's very clear, they told me in no uncertain terms what the problem is. Men are not attracted to me. That's the main issue and the primary reason behind my spinsterhood. I am not worthy of male attention because I am not attractive. I am ugly. That's the overwhelming reason men tell me they don't want to date me or have a long term relationship with me. I have heard so many versions of, "Your personality is great, you're exactly the type of woman I've been looking for all my life - intelligent, kind, funny, creative, genuine, on and on, but I'm not attracted to you, you know, you're not my physical cup of tea," that I could write a two volume set of how-to books for men on ways to phrase "I'm just not into you, you know, physically."
Is it really the same issue in job hunting? Of course it is. I could cite numerous studies and snarky summaries of those studies, but we've all heard about them, read them and many of us come away feeling ashamed of our species. And in my case, worried about my future. I was never a viable competitor in the dating realm. Men like attractive women. Duh. I'm not "conventionally pretty" as one of my male friends generously says about me. Ergo, men do not view me as a worthy partner. I tried fighting it, doing everything I could to find a man who could help me prove the statistics wrong, but I failed. I was even rejected by a blind man. (He preferred shorter women with smaller breasts and "different" lips.) I've dealt with my ugliness and made peace with my spinsterhood. It wasn't easy and I get really lonely, but I accept it. I have a career and loads of interests and I like to read (and I like cats, too), so I'm well-equipped for spinsterhood. I can fill time. I can manage being alone much of the time. Not by choice, not happily, but I can find ways to cope. Well. I could manage it, just about, when I had a career. A job that kept me busy 10 - 12 hours a day, 5 - 6 days a week. Being laid off at the height of the recession was a blow to me in so many ways that I still struggle to articulate how deeply it has affected me.
I knew it would not be easy to find a new job. My colleagues and friends were laid off a year or two before me and were still job hunting. They are qualified, skilled, professional, educated and
good looking. If they
couldn't land new jobs I knew there was even less hope for me. But I didn't have a choice, I had to put myself out there. Unlike giving up finding a man and accepting spinsterhood, I couldn't give up finding a job and accepting, what? vagabondhood? dispossession? what is the unemployed equivalent of spinster?
By the time I was 12 I knew I wasn't attractive. My friends, boys, at school suddenly started acting weird around the more petite, blonder, blue-eyed girls who didn't wear braces and figured out how to leverage lip gloss and glitter eye shadow to their Friday night dance in the cafeteria advantage. The boys had no trouble talking and joking and working on homework with me the same way they always had, but around other girls, prettier girls, these boys were suddenly tongue-tied, sweaty, glazed-eyed, salivating weirdos. I became very aware that I did not have that affect on boys. Boys liked
me, but they didn't like
me like me. And that is the story of my romantic life. The intelligent boys with off-beat senses of humor and a passion for really loud rock music like me, a lot, but not in that special way. So I have/had a lot of guy friends. Always have. Still do. And they tell me all about the women they lust after, the women they want to date, the women that turn them into piles of emotional mush. These women are nothing like me personality-wise, and more to the this relevant point, nothing like me looks-wise. They are attractive women. The part of this that I will never understand is how men can maintain interest, no matter how physically attractive the woman, if she's stupid/unkind/boring/lacking a sense of humor or just generally lacking in the personality department. If these guys like me, my personality so much, why aren't they attracted to good looking women with the same personality traits as me? Some of them say it's because that woman doesn't exist. You either get a personality or beauty. One or the other. And these guys prefer beauty over personality. Why? Heh heh, "Trill, that's what I have you for, if I want good conversation or some laughs, I'll call you." Oh. Yeah. Right. Okay. Except it's not okay for a lot of women. They surely are not jealous of me, they know I'm not a threat, but nonetheless they do not want their men hanging out with another woman, no matter how ugly she is. I've lost a lot of good friends this way. It makes no sense and it sucks.
I knew there was a work-place bias toward attractive people. Copious studies prove that less-attractive people, people deemed ugly by conventional measures, have more difficultly finding jobs, and even once they're hired they are given lower salaries and fewer advancement opportunities compared to their attractive coworkers. This is true for women and
men, but obviously much more of a complicated issue for women who want to forge long-term careers on a traditionally male executive path.
I knew all this. I've experienced some workplace discrimination regarding looks. A long ago letch of a boss was known for hiring attractive young women straight out of college who were in no way qualified for the job opening. He promised them career advancement if they just did one or two little things for him. Things involving working late and a willingness to perform very specific acts which at least one former President of the United States doesn't think qualifies as sex. When yet another of these young women was promoted above me, I slated him on it. This particular woman was particularly stupid and especially unqualified. Her new job title was such a ridiculous stretch that even HR took notice and exception. (HR generally turned a blind eye to my boss' exploits because the HR manager was reaping some of the benefits - when my boss was bored with a woman, he passed them off to HR, where the HR manager was very helpful in finding a new boss for a young women with her "experience" and "special skills." In vulgar but apt terms, he was getting my boss' sloppy seconds.) I had enough and confronted my boss about the latest promotion of a bimbo. His response? "Trill, face it, I'm not attracted to you. You're not the kind of woman who advances in this industry. You're reliable, you work hard, you're creative, you're great with clients. You never miss a deadline. We need you, but you are never going to advance because you're not the total package. You're not good looking enough to get anywhere in a male dominated industry." I found another job and quit a month later. I'd like to say that situation was unique, but it was not. Which is why I stayed at my last job: It was predominantly women and gay men. There was hanky panky going on, but it wasn't blatant blow jobs = promotions kind of hanky panky.
And so, here I am, ugly and in need of a job. I always hope that education and experience and a good personality will be enough to land a job, but realistically I know it takes a lot more than that. Especially now
. Education and more than 3 years of experience are huge liabilities in the job market. I can't define why because it's counter-intuitive, but I have heard, time and again, that I am overqualified for jobs. I lie by omission on my resume. I misrepresent myself in that I don't list all of my education and limit my job experience to only the most recent. And. Even though I am ugly, thanks to never smoking, a lifetime use of copious amounts of SPF 45, drinking gallons of water on a weekly basis, and decent skin genes, one thing I have going for me in the looks department is a lack of wrinkles and sun damage. People, men and women, think I'm a lot younger than I am. I'm not saying I could pass for 25, and I don't get carded very often, but, people tend to think I'm younger than my birth certificate indicates. I'm working that to my advantage in my job hunt. It's a sad statement on society and life in general, but I am certain it's a huge factor in why I get called for interviews. They think I'm younger, dumber and less experienced than I really am. If you're mad at me for doing that, don't hate the player, hate the game. It's career Darwinism, I'm just trying to survive.
I think I may have experienced the final straw, the experience than pushes me into accepting that I'll never work again. I had an interview waaaaaay out in the suburbs. It was in one of those generic glass '90s buildings with an interior desperately trying to pretend to be a hip downtown loft. Except it's a generic glass building built in the '90s so the attempt has the affect of white middle-class suburban kids rapping about racial oppression: Misguided, unaware and silly. What few walls there were didn't go all the way to the ceiling, and there were lots of plate glass partitions (that also didn't go all the way to the ceiling) with the company's logo and smarmy quotes etched into them. I don't know why the sort-of walls and sort-of glass partitions don't reach the ceiling because the ceiling wasn't any higher than the usual ceiling in generic '90s office buildings. I can only assume one of three things: An interior designer measured wrong and tried to pass of the shorter walls as "the latest trend"; or the interior designer knew a supplier who had wrong-sized panels to unload and the designer and supplier split the profit after passing them off as "the latest trend"; or someone mistakenly thinks this is a good idea. The result is a very echo-y office where every conversation can be heard.
I interviewed in a conference "space." Not a conference room, a conference "space." Which was basically a piece of wood suspended from the ceiling by chrome chains in one corner of the office. Completing the "hip loft" look were mismatched chairs around the suspended piece of wood. Maybe I'd be more impressed if I hadn't seen this look in every loft condo in the city in the '90s - actual lofts with actual artists and musicians living in them, carved out of actual old manufacturing plants. But to my trend-weary eyes it all just looked affected and cliché. Especially in a far suburban office. When a trend filters down to the upper middle class white kids in the suburbs, you know it's officially dead. (On that note, I have seen many suburban white kids with ear gauges stretching their lobes to improbably sizes, so, it's officially time for this trend to die.) The people involved in the interview were: The HR manager, the marketing manager and two people from the marketing team. Apart from the HR manager, none of them were over the age of 30. I'm used to this scenario. A good percentage of my interviews have been in this demographic scenario. This case, though, was painful in that the lack of experience and professionalism were staggering. There are some very savvy and professional 25 year olds. I've met them and have done consulting projects with them. So I'm not dismissive of the entire under 30 work force. But these people...well...wow. After the interview the HR person took me aside and said there was someone else who wanted to talk with me. I was led to another part of the office, a little glass chamber of sorts, where I could see most of the office except for one area that was behind one of the wall/partitions. What I couldn't see, I could hear. And what I heard was the two young people I just interviewed talking.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the future of business:
Young man: "Tall people are creepy."
Young woman, in an affected fake gravely cigarettes and fifth of Jack voice: "Omygawd, right? Totally creepy."
Young man: "Especially women. Tall women are creepy."
Young woman, in an affected fake gravely cigarettes and fifth of Jack voice: "Omygawd, right? Totally creepy. Like where does she even find clothes? Did you see her shoes? The heels weren't even high. She must be like, six feet four or something."
Young man: "Yeah. Gross."
Young woman, in an affected fake gravely cigarettes and fifth of Jack voice: "Creepy gross."
I'd guess these two were born a year or two after Whitney Houston's Greatest Love of All
was blasting through Dodge Caravan radios. Their mothers probably bought a cassette of the album while they were pregnant because, like Whitney, they believed, earnestly, that children, their
children, are our future. That future is now. Yay.
A little less Whitney and a little more Free to be You and Me
would have served these kids well. Do you suppose that's the core issue with young people in the work force? They didn't have enough Free to be You and Me
in their formative years? Wow. Do you think I can get a research grant to study that hypothesis?
Okay, yes, I am 5'11" and I was wearing 1" heels. So I was
6' tall. But. This is the Midwest. Women are often taller than 5'8". I realize I am taller than a lot of women, but creepy? Gross? And, more to the relevant point, I was interviewing for a job
as a creative manager, not
sexual partner. My education, experience and client projects are open for discussion and debate, but my height is not.
They must know that every conversation in their office can be heard by everyone else in the office. I am giving them the benefit of the doubt by presuming they didn't realize I was still there, waiting in a glass chamber adjacent to the area where they were talking. And, taking an enlightened approach, I was given the rare opportunity that many job seekers long for: To hear the conversation after the interview. I just wish it had been a conversation that was useful
to me in my job hunt. Although it did give me fabulous insight into what I'd be dealing with on a daily basis in that office.
Or, maybe it was useful. Maybe the physical appearance issue isn't just about attractiveness, but about the entire physical being. Maybe I haven't been offered jobs for which I was obviously qualified because the hiring manager's husband had an affair with a woman who had green eyes, or because the HR person doesn't hire women larger than a B cup. Or because someone on the team thought I was creepy. And gross.
Do I want to work with those two shallow kids? Of course not. And I am
"fortunate" to have been given the opportunity to learn just how
immature and unprofessional the team is. But. As far as the job
responsibilities go, I would actually like the job. The clients are
great and I think I would love the actual work. But all that is
irrelevant because I'm so tall that I'm "creepy" and "gross."
So, I'm thinking maybe it's time to give up. I knew when it was time to stop dating. I didn't want to accept it and I fought it a lot longer than I should have. I dealt with a lot more rejection and frustration than I needed to because I wouldn't give up even though it was clear no one was interested in me for a long term relationship. Maybe it's the same with job hunting. I can save myself a lot of stress and worry and anxiety and frustration if I just accept that no one is going to hire me - for whatever reason.
The problem is that I don't know what happens next. When I gave up on dating, I knew what to do. I had a career and interests and, you know, an income that paid for the roof over my head. I could forge a life on my own. But without an income...well...I mean, I'm at a loss as to how to proceed.
Have you heard about the MSU study
that indicates less-attractive employees are bullied at work more than their good looking coworkers? Or that there is legislation already on the books (and more pending) about discriminating against less attractive people, and here's a proposal to cover ugliness under the Americans with Disability act