Category Archives: Work

Destination Unknown

At the urging of a dear friend (you know who you are), I broke down and called my “second mother.” I can’t think of what else to call her, but she was my mother’s closest friend and I have known her since I was about three years old. She is the woman who gave me the $500 graduation present which I used on my overdue electric bill. I was afraid to tell her about what was going on in my life, mostly because I knew she wouldn’t hesitate to help me out. Part of it is that I don’t want help– or (more accurately) I don’t want to need help. I don’t want to need anything I can’t get myself. She has lent me money before, and I remember every penny. When I was living in a disgusting mold-ridden apartment, my roommate moved out and I couldn’t afford the rent by myself. I didn’t want to bring a new roommate into an apartment where even the light bulbs got moldy, so I needed to get out, too. Even though I was working two part-time temp jobs on top of my job at the phone sex line (where my pay was unpredictable), I was barely getting by and did not have enough money for deposits and a truck rental. My second mother covered my rent for the month until I moved out and got my next place (which wasn’t much better than the Mold Hole and my new roommate was an angry cokehead). She has told me not to worry about paying her back. She has told me over and over again to come to her if I have a problem and that my mother would have done the same for any of her kids. But I didn’t want to because I was worried that I would never be able to make it up to her.

I called her and just blurted it all out. I told her just about everything. And then she offered to let me live with her.

She made me a similar offer once before when one of my temp jobs ended, but I didn’t take her up on it. I would have felt guilty and I was worried I would get stuck there. She lives in a small town 2,500 miles away, and very near a place that has some awful, awful memories and some very toxic people. While not set in stone, it’s more likely than not that I am going. Unlike my local friends, she has a large home where I won’t be constantly underfoot. I feel this is a giant step backwards, but it isn’t. She has also offered to help me leave the country to be closer to my non-psycho living relatives. While I stay with her, I can get my immigration paperwork in order while I temp (or something) and help her around the house. My acceptance of her offer doesn’t mean that I’m any more comfortable with it than I was before. I hope this doesn’t sound overly mopey, but I’ve never been treated with unconditional kindness and it feels weird. It’s a pretty amazing thing to screw up, get angry with yourself, but to know that someone cares about you anyway. I certainly wasn’t raised like that.

Shortly after my last post, my actual landlord (not the owners of the condo) showed up unannounced. I’m surprised that he had never called me at any time during this mess, not even to return my call. I didn’t answer the door. I generally don’t when someone shows up unannounced. Why should I? Besides, I was in my pajamas and on the phone with a friend of mine who is currently in the hospital. Mr. Scary Landlord should have called first. I have become a terrible tenant, but I still have rights and he hasn’t taken charge of anything.

Mr. Landlord called me and left me a message saying that he had wanted to work things out without the court system, but that it was most likely not going to happen.

And I got scared. It took me over a day to get up the nerve to return his call. But I did it. I called the number he left me, and he didn’t answer and his voice mailbox was full. I called his office, and once again no answer. I left a message asking him what his plans were, and I told him I would be out soon. I just want to know. Once again, he has not returned my call. I called a third time. Nothing.

Between worrying about repo men and worrying about my landlord, I spend a lot of time hiding indoors. Until I called the local tenant’s union.

The tenant’s union has the worst hours ever. Their hotline is not so hot. You can only call from 3pm to 6pm on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, and you have to call over and over to get through. After two days of calling, I finally got through on Wednesday and got some of my questions answered. I wasn’t sure if I was going to get booted out any minute or what was going to happen if they chose to go through the court system. So now I understand a bit more. I have at least a week. Nothing has been filed yet.

I have been living on my own since I was 17, and over time I’ve accumulated quite a lot of stuff. Back in the day, I had money, which is a bad thing to have when you have hoarding tendencies. For the most part, I stopped accumulating stuff years ago, but I have not yet done away with every remnant of the old me. Now I have to fit it all into my car. I can’t just toss everything in boxes and go, and since I’m broke, I would like to get money for whatever I can. I’m using Craigslist and Amazon, and I am carting things around to local stores. When it gets closer to the time I absolutely have to get out, then I’ll be less careful, but I’ll need some money for the road at least. And I can catch up on car payments. U-Hauls aren’t really an option because they are prohibitively expensive for long-distance travel. Also, if I’m heading overseas in the semi-near future, I can’t really take a whole lot with me.

I hope to be rid of all my furniture by Tuesday, and by then I will also have sold most of what I’ll be able to and will begin giving things away. A friend has offered to haul my stuff away for me, which is a great help. This process is mentally and physically exhausting.

My goals at this point are to stay with Mom 2, find any old job, and get myself to a place where I’m not killing myself with immense pressure. I will also get bankruptcy underway while I  prepare to move again. I am fortunate to have dual nationality, so it’s really a matter of waiting for my new ID, saving money, and sorting out temporary living situations. I’ll probably be taking my cat with me as well, and that’s another complication, but gives me more time to save money. I will look for a job while I’m here, but given that I can’t even find a job in the next state, I’m not too optimistic about finding a job across the pond.

 

P.S. I know I haven’t finished the awful repo story. One day, one day.

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Filed under "In this economy", Home Life, Materialism, Obstacles, Work

But how are you getting by?

How are you getting by?

I get asked this a lot and I don’t know how to answer. I don’t know what kind of an answer people expect.

I suppose people think I’ll say something like “Oh, I’m just living on savings until I find something new” or “I’m getting unemployment” or “My husband/parents/in-laws are helping out.”

No one has ever asked me this question when I had a regular job. I find that strange because I wasn’t “getting by” even when I was working. There is a misconception that if you have a job, you can “get by.” My car was repossessed when I was working. My electricity was cut off when I was working. When I was working, I had to eat with the homeless people in the park because I had no food and made too much money for food stamps.

I had health insurance at two of my last three temp jobs. Unfortunately, I had so little money that I couldn’t afford the copays to see my doctor. It’s good that I had insurance in case I got into an accident, but what good was this insurance if I couldn’t use it when I needed it for less catastrophic times? I had health insurance when I was coughing up blood, but I didn’t have $10 to see the doctor. I couldn’t go to work like that, and my job did not provide sick days, so I would either get more poor or more sick.

Since early 2006, my rent has increased 27% while my income (until I quit) had decreased 29%. I was barely able to pay my rent when it was at its lowest, so it just seems impossible now. I’m damned if I do, and I’m damned if I don’t. Right now I just can’t deal with working at a horrible job that I hate and am not good at where I’m likely to get reprimanded. I am hyperaware every second of every day that I still will not be able to pay my rent on time. This isn’t a money management problem. I really wish it were a money management problem. I can fix my budget, but this goes so much deeper than that. To quote a friend of mine: “If your boss gives you 60 hours of work to do and only 40 hours to do it, you have a time problem, not a time management problem. If you only get $400 for a week of work, but your basic expenses cost $500 a week, it’s not a reflection of your ability to stick to a budget just because you can’t make it work!”

When I was a receptionist, the company I worked for invited a personal finance counselor to come in and speak to us individually by appointment. I was struggling in a dead-end job and I was barely able to make ends meet, so I was glad for the opportunity to talk to a professional. He gave me a worksheet with a list of items on it and asked me to tell him how much I spent on each. He asked me about my utilities, groceries, my medical bills, credit card bills, and rates on car and renter’s insurance. I gave up my telephone land line years ago, and my cell phone plan is reasonable. I have not had cable since 2003. I did not even own a computer, let alone pay for Internet. I spent very little on groceries. I had the cheapest car insurance policy I could find. I spent about $200 a year on clothing and shoes combined (I spend far less than that now). I had already lumped several accounts into a debt consolidation plan that had reduced my interest rates by half. I do not buy music, go to bars, or go to movies, and I attend only a couple of concerts a year. At the time, my only consistent “luxury” was a $20/month Netflix account. My expenses were all bills I was struggling to pay off from my first two years of unemployment. After buying the basic essentials and making minimum payments, I was left with about $40 each month. It was not enough extra to see a significant change in credit card balances and the like. Also, $20 of that went to Netflix. Almost all of my money was spent playing catch-up.

The personal finance counselor told me that I had cut out all I could, and that the only solution to my problem was to make more money. He told me that nothing was wrong with my budget. I began looking for a second job, but I never found one. I was eventually fired from that receptionist position for “being unhappy.” I was only unemployed for about three weeks, but my next job paid nearly $10,000 a year less and I was laid off in less than six months. It did not occur to me that my next job would pay so much less, especially since it was technically at a higher level. It was a big pay cut, and it hurt. It hurt more when I got laid off.

So, how am I getting by? I sell some of my belongings online. When I get money from that, I put a little gas in my car, I buy cat food, rat food, or kitty litter. I eat food-bank food almost exclusively. I steal my neighbor’s wi-fi. I stopped taking all 7 of my prescription medications. I revel in the fact that the electric company won’t cut me off again for a very long time. I let my phone get cut off until I can scrounge enough money to pay my past-due balances. I think deeply. I worry. I go to a lot of used bookstores to sell my collection. I look around at the disarray and panic because I don’t have the energy to box it all up and I don’t know where I’m going or how I’m going get there. I sleep a lot. I mope. I don’t answer my phone. I wait for the sheriff to force me to leave. I jump at every noise. I don’t get out much.

I did something very unethical that I am ashamed to talk about, even here: prior to leaving my job, I found a year-long bus pass that had been dropped by a coworker. There was no one around when I found it, and I waited a long time and no one returned to get it. These bus passes are issued to employees for free, but they probably cost the company over $1000 (I know that they are worth around $1500).  I was a temp and did not get the year-long bus pass — I had to pay $90 a month for my own. The pass was brand new. I found it in July, and it’s good through next July. I fully intended to turn it in to security, but at some point it occurred to me that the pass was worth much more to me than to whoever had lost it. After all, they had a real job and I didn’t. Also, I’ve had so many bad things happen, that maybe this was a break for me. I don’t believe in Karma, but if I did, I’d actually think this was the universe trying to throw me a bone for once. Well, maybe I do believe in Karma after all. I kept the pass. I never heard anything about anyone looking for it, so I ride the bus to save gas, and I don’t pay a penny for it. I won tickets to a movie last night, and that bus pass was the only way I could have gone to the only fun thing I’ve done recently. I could not have paid for parking, and I did not have enough money for bus fare. Keeping the pass was wrong of me, but I’m doing it for survival.

So, that is how I’m “getting by,” if you want to call it that. I don’t even want a job right now because a job will not save me from eviction, and I need to be ready. I’m too depressed to make progress quickly, and I know in my heart that I’d be too distracted at a job, even a simple one. I had enough trouble focusing at my last job. I am using this time to focus on liquidating my belongings and finding a transitional shelter to move into, no matter how frustrating that may be.

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Filed under "In this economy", Depression, Food, Home Life, Materialism, Obstacles, Work

To Write Love on Her Arms/Dress for Success

I recently put a SocialVibe widget on the side of this blog. SocialVibe is a way for bloggers to pledge their support for various charities. While the bloggers make no money off of this, advertisers who support these charities make small donations for each click. I chose To Write Love On Her Arms, a non-profit organization that provides access to support, assistance, and treatment for people dealing with depression, addiction, self-injury, or thoughts of suicide. I chose it because I am a long-term sufferer of depression. Also, this blog is about hard times, and those experiencing hard times may find themselves dealing with depression, addiction, self-injury, or thoughts of suicide.

The sponsors on SocialVibe change every so often, but one of the current sponsors is Coffee-Mate coffee creamer. I mention this because Coffee-Mate is also sponsoring Dress for Success, which is an organization that provides low-income women with suits and professional attire so that they can look nice and feel confident when they go to job interviews. Dress for Success also provides career support to ensure that these women keep their jobs. These opportunities encourage disadvantaged women to take strides towards self-sufficiency. I have not yet used Dress for Success because I bought a $70 suit on my credit card (when I still had an available balance) and many of my jobs have only required business casual attire. Coffee-Mate asks you to give your first name, last initial, and a message of support for a Dress for Success client. They’re calling these messages “cups of confidence” and for each “cup” they will donate 50 cents. I did it and they did not require me to provide any additional personal information, so I will not be getting any spam about new coffee-creamer flavors.

So, with a few clicks you can help support two non-profit organizations with almost no effort and without actually spending any money.

In case you’re wondering, I’m not getting paid for promoting any of this. These are just causes I care about and I want people to know about them.

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A heart that was full and unbroken

I’ve been going about it all wrong.

In high school, I was strange and artsy. I played music (viola, piano, saxophone, and guitar), I painted, and I wrote stories. I was better at writing stories than I was at painting or playing music. Although I was interested in biology (genetics in particular), I figured I would be doing something artistic when I grew up.  At some point my teenage rebellion waned and I began listening to people.

Once I started listening to “reason,” I never stopped. I became convinced that I would be unable to live on less than $60,000 a year. To settle for less would have been unfathomable. I also got the idea that if it was fun and I enjoyed it, that I’d never make any money doing it. I never pursued anything I really wanted.

Thus my fallback career choice became my primary career choice. Biology seemed to be more lucrative because I lacked the confidence to get by on my artistic merits. It’s not so much that I felt I was particularly talented as a scientist, but I didn’t trust myself in a career that required me to determine its structure. I felt like I needed a job that I would show up to, get paid for, and then leave to go home. It seemed (and still seems) far too nerve-wracking to worry about getting published or selling artwork or a booking performances or anything like that. I don’t want to pour my heart and my life into something just to find out that it’s worthless. I value stability.

My senior year of college I took a class about rhetoric. I’d taken many writing courses in college, so I’m not entirely sure why this one meant so much more to me. For class we were assigned to read Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace by Joseph M. Williams. I have always had a fondness for grammar texts, but I had not thought much about sentence structure as its own entity until I read this book. I was very excited about the class, and I did very well with little effort. For once in my life, my abilities did not go unnoticed, and my professor recommended me for a tutoring position in our campus writing center. I worked there for three full years, staying on part-time after I graduated until I got kicked out due to statewide budget cuts.

I became quite excited about academic writing. Academic writing has little use outside of an academic setting, but it came so naturally to me that I wanted to do something with it. I wrote a grammar column in our weekly newsletter. I wrote and performed workshops on sentence structure. I was happy to go to work every single day. The pay was low and I only worked part-time. I was poor, but I loved my job. During this time I began writing a book about the various levels of structure in college-level papers. I abandoned the book rather quickly because I did not see that I had nothing new to offer on the subject. Go to any bookstore and there is sure to be a shelf (or several rows of shelves) dedicated to books about writing. Aside from a few minor contradictions that can be attributed to either the author’s personal preference or the evolution of language, most of those books say essentially the same thing. Some do it dryly, some use humor. Some are very strict, and others more lenient. The truth is (or so I thought) that if you bought three or four particular books about writing, you would have access to every last iota of information you could ever possibly need about writing. Language changes, but it doesn’t change quickly enough to warrant the vast selection of books about writing that are available at any given time. If I were to create a version of what I felt should be in one volume, then it would probably alienate one group of writers or another. I thought about this a lot, and abandoned the project. And along came Mignon Fogarty.

I admit that I am bitter. If you don’t know who Mignon Fogarty (aka Grammar Girl) is, she’s a woman who has made a lucrative  career out of stating the obvious. Now, I am 100% in favor of improving bad grammar skills, but this woman is ubiquitous and she hasn’t brought anything new to the table. How does this happen? How do people do it? Why don’t I do it? She has roots in Seattle and one day I heard her doing a radio commercial spot for a local grocery store, explaining the difference between affect and effect for the back-to-school season. She gets paid to reiterate what one can find in a dictionary. Or even what one could have seen during her appearance on Oprah. She’s everywhere, mocking me, and I can’t escape. And dammit, I would do so much of a better job. But I didn’t write a book–she did.

Good for her, though. I feel about Mignon Fogarty the same way I feel about my friend who packed up and move to New York City on a whim, then very quickly got a managerial job. She’s several years younger than I am with less experience and less education. While I am glad when good things happen to other people, it’s difficult for me to take myself out of the equation. I feel childish even admitting that. Every time I take a risk it comes back to hurt me. As a result of conditioning, I always play it safe. But playing it safe never gets me anywhere either. I have no more risks to take.

From Postsecret. I once sent a secret in and it made it onto the site that week. This isn't my secret, but I saved it because it spoke to me.

There’s also Frank Warren of PostSecret. PostSecret is a fantastic site based on a brilliant idea, and I know that Mr. Warren puts in many hours reading secrets, selecting secrets, making appearances, and speaking with publishers. But he doesn’t create anything aside from one secret per book (or so I’ve heard). He’s a well-known middleman.

I don’t mean to be dismissive. I know he puts a lot of work into it, and he really did contribute something new and great to the world. He also provides fantastic support for HopeLine and gives many depressed and troubled individuals an outlet to express themselves anonymously. I just become bothered when I see that it’s actually possible to be down-to-earth and live an unconventional life. If only I had figured that out earlier.

So I have come to the conclusion that I have been going about it all wrong. Perhaps I’m not cut out for a “real job” in the “real world.” I’m not inferior –just different. I know where I’m not wanted, and I’m not wanted in the cubicle down the hall from you. I’m not wanted in the corner office either. I don’t need to be rich and I don’t need to be famous but I need to be able to take care of myself.

The problem is that I never follow through on anything except my own self-doubt. Self-help gurus often advise people not to tell themselves that they “should have done this” or “should have done that.” I have ideas and I should stick to them, when all this time I’ve been sticking to my regrets.

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Filed under Depression, fml, jerks, Obstacles, Work

From NYT: Out of Work, and Too Down to Search On

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/07/us/07worker.html?_r=1&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

It appears I’m in good company.

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Filed under "In this economy", Obstacles, Work

Imposter

The Imposter by Robert Jessup

The Imposter by Robert Jessup

I had a preliminary job interview today for a job I’ve already had at a company where I’ve already worked. Twice. And been laid off –twice.

It was very informal and I think it went rather well. It went well enough that I have a follow-up phone interview with a manager.

The pay for this job is awful, but this was one of the few jobs that I loved. I will not be able to survive on this salary. Worse yet, it is a temporary position, and they’ve only promised two months.

I didn’t prepare for this interview as much as I usually prepare. This job would help, but I realize that it isn’t the solution to my problems. I suppose that’s why I wasn’t terribly excited. Or nervous, even.

I only have one suit I can wear at the moment. A denim suit was probably one of the best investments I’ve made in recent years. It doesn’t look like denim, and it’s washable so I don’t have to waste money on dry cleaners or Dryel. I took the bus to save money on gasoline and (more importantly) parking. My interview was in one of the ritzier areas of downtown Seattle. I felt a bit self-conscious walking among the suits. A homeless man stood on a corner. He held a sign that said “HUNGRY PLEASE HELP” and he asked me for change. Of course I didn’t have anything to spare. It occurred to me that the homeless man had more earning power than I currently have. I’m lucky that I have a home for the time being, and I’m lucky that I can blend in with the yuppie crowd. But I’m not one of them. I’m really not. I’m a matter of weeks away from standing on the street corner, myself. I should really be standing on the street corner now but I’m just too scared.

I imagine that this occurs in every major city– you’ll see upscale department stores and then homeless people talking to themselves two blocks over. I found it a bit disorienting to walk from one pole to another. Identifying with both. In-between.

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You Are Not Your Job (or Awkward Interviews I’ve Had, Part 2)

“You are not your job. You are not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You are not the contents of your wallet. You are not your fucking khakis. You’re the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world.” --Tyler Durden

Pardon me for invoking the over-quoted Fight Club.

All too often we’re judged not by our potential or our abilities, but by our status. Two of the worst job interviews I have had have been the result of cocky executives deciding that I must be stupid, incompetent, or worthless just because of the assortment of bad jobs I have held. My longest stint of full-time employment was at the most boring receptionist job ever. Prior to my years of poverty, I had been an instructor at a technical college. I taught basic math classes, computer skills, and medical terminology to aspiring medical and dental assistants. I quit this position to go back to school to get my dream job, but my plan completely backfired and I ended up poor. I have not had a higher-level or higher-paying job since. My career peaked when I was 24 years old.

By 27, I’d become resentful of having low-level low-pay jobs I hated. Especially since I had been job-hunting almost nonstop for three years. I am good at writing and editing, and I wanted to work in corporate communications. No one would hire me, so I saved as much money as I could and I enrolled in a yearlong certificate program for editors. I felt that this would make up for my lack of experience.

I received word that the administrative assistant in my company’s corporate communications department was quitting. This seemed like a perfect opportunity to get my foot in the door. First of all, it was an admin position, so it was barely a step up from what I had been doing. Also, it paid more. Best of all, it was in the department I wanted to work in, and I knew that once they saw me at work, they’d realize my potential and I would actually get a job on my chosen career path.  I spoke to the director of the department about it, and she encouraged me to apply and said that I would be a good fit. Unfortunately, she stepped down from her position before the hiring process was completely underway.

As the receptionist, I knew everything about every department at the company. I knew everyone’s names, I knew everyone’s jobs. I was generally among the first to find out company news because a lot of information crossed my desk each day. I thought that this would work to my advantage in applying for a corporate communications position.

I was wrong. The stink of reception work takes years to wash away.

I spoke with the admin who was quitting, and she told me a lot about the job. She was annoyed that it was strictly an admin position, and she did not have much corporate communication work to do. She told me that she had to do things like attach files to the VP’s e-mails, because he just couldn’t figure out how to do it himself.

The VP would pass by the reception desk and give me random tasks, which I assume were just to test me. He asked me to find the phone number for the CEO of a rival company. Thank you, Google. He asked me to compose a press release based on a laboratory study of one of our products. I’m comfortable with medical and scientific jargon, so this was a relatively easy task once I found information about press-release formatting. I did find the VP’s request strange because the admin said that she never once had to write a press release; the most she had to do was proofread.

After a couple of weeks of catering to his arbitrary whims, I was called in for an interview. I was so excited. I dressed up, I studied, and I printed copies of my current resume on ivory resume paper. I had worked so hard to get my resume to highlight my skills rather than my experience. One of my best friends (who is an accountant with an MBA) had helped me get my resume into a better format for highlighting relevant experience.

I walked into his office, sat down, and handed him my resume.

“So,” he said. “What is it about handing out people’s paystubs and bus passes makes you think you’re qualified for a career in corporate communications?”

Ouch.

I laughed –probably because I was nervous and offended, but I tried to play it off as casual. I mustered up some answer about how I had tutored writing for years, written and designed workshops about writing, was a talented editor, and really wanted a more challenging position.

“If you’re so interested in communications, why didn’t you get a job in the field when you were finished with college?”

Sigh. When friends ask me that question, I can answer it honestly, but I had no idea what to say in such a formal setting. How is that even a valid interview question? I don’t even remember what I said. I think I just babbled on about how I was versatile or something.

“When did you graduate college?”

“2003.”

“So I guess you’ve just been screwing around for four years.” He had that “ha-ha-I’m-making-a-joke-but-not-really” tone. I did my best to laugh it off.

Towards the end of the interview, I asked him how he got his job. He told me that he worked at a store that sold stereo equipment, and after college he got some job at a small-time newspaper and he worked his way up. He was in his early 50s, and he’d been in communications for over 30 years. He was coming from a completely different place, and he didn’t understand why I hadn’t done the same thing.

Then he dealt the final blow: “When I look at you and your resume, I think ‘this girl would make a good receptionist.'”

Triple ouch.

I was not offered the administrative assistant job. An HR representative came out and told me that I just didn’t have enough experience, and then she told me about another department in our company that needed “someone to do some filing.” I burst into tears. Later that week, the corporate communications department hired a random temp from an agency, and they paid her more than I got paid at the front desk.

I felt I had been wronged. It was as though they felt it was “cute” that the receptionist wanted a big-girl job. I was more hurt than anything else. It wasn’t even the job rejection. It was that I’d never had a chance.

I complained to my supervisor about how frustrated I was with my experience trying to get out of my stifling job. I was literally and figuratively trapped behind that desk –I wasn’t even allowed to get up and move away from the desk at any time.  I made an offhand comment that “in an ideal world, I wouldn’t be a receptionist another minute.” Two hours later I received a random voice mail from the woman at the temp agency who had placed me at that job. Three hours after that, I was fired. I was unaware at the time that I had already been replaced with a temp, hence the random call from the temp agency.

I was fired for being “unhappy.” They said that it was “risky” for the company to have someone answer the phone and greet visitors when they were so “unhappy.”

They knew I was trying to get a job in another department, and they knew why. I was bored and I never hid that fact. I was there about a year and a half, and I had been told repeatedly that I was the first receptionist to last more than six months. The boredom was excruciating; had I not been so desperate, I wouldn’t have lasted there nearly that long.

I was so bored that I invented games to play with the postage meter. I was so bored that I read the spam faxes just to look busy.

They had known for months, but when I spoke up about the way I was treated, I was “too unhappy.” They were okay with me being unhappy –just not too unhappy.

I was not unemployed for long that time around, and my next job was one that I loved. After about four weeks of unemployment, I got my very first editorial job at a big company. I was getting paid less than I had been as a receptionist, but I loved the work. Unfortunately, I got laid off.

When I found out that I was getting laid off from my first editorial job, I was understandably upset. My pay was terrible, but at least I made it through each day without wanting to bang my head through a windowpane. To avoid a lapse in employment, I applied for an associate editor job at the same company. The company had a very specific hierarchy, and the job I was applying for was one step above the position I had.

I requested an informational interview with the woman who would have been my supervisor if I were chosen for the job. I e-mailed her my resume and she sent me a meeting request for that afternoon to talk to her about the position. I wasn’t dressed for an interview because I had only heard about the position after I had arrived at work that morning, but since it was an informational interview, I was less concerned. I created a list of questions to ask and I brought them with me.

I didn’t ask a single question. The minute I walked in the door, she started grilling me job-interview style. Even though this was a job within the company where I already worked, she was completely unaware of what I was talking about when I tried to explain my job. I had signed an NDA and was not sure if I was allowed to discuss certain details outside of my department. She kept pressing it, and I answered as best as I could, though I admit I remained vague about specifics. If I was going to violate my NDA, I sure as hell wasn’t going to do it in a way that could come back to haunt me.

I failed to answer her questions about my current position to her liking. She then began to tell me that she was looking for someone with a lot of technical writing experience. The job was not a writer position, let alone a technical writer position. It was an editor position, and the job listing did not mention technical writing at all. The job listing also mentioned that all applicants would be given an editing exam. I asked her if I could take the exam. She said “we’re just evaluating people by their experience.”

I told her about my editing certificate program, and she asked me to describe specific assignments I had done. Again, I was expecting an informational interview, so I was not prepared to answer questions about classes I had taken several months or a year before.

We talked a few more minutes, and then she said “I’m not going to lead you on and pretend that we’re interested.” Direct quote.

Hanging on to whatever composure I had left, I asked her if she could think of any departments where my skills would be useful.

“No,” she said. “We don’t hire beginners here. Maybe you should try to get a job at a newspaper.”

I left. I was either going to say something vulgar or cry, so I walked out. I’m completely baffled as to why she requested this interview with me if she saw my resume beforehand. If I wasn’t what she was looking for, why did she choose to waste her time and mine? Her “we don’t hire beginners here” statement stung the most. After all, I already worked there and she knew that.

The following day I went out to lunch with a coworker, and I told him about my ordeal.

“That’s so weird!” he said. “I interviewed with her last week and she was totally nice to me.”

“What?!”

“Yeah.”

“How come she didn’t know what my job was if she interviewed you first?”

“I don’t know. She didn’t ask me too much about it.”

What. The. Hell. He and I had the exact same job on the exact same team. We were hired two months apart, and we were at a similar level of experience.

“Maybe she’s one of those women who just doesn’t like other women.”

Whatever. I’m glad I’m not working for her.  I’d have gone crazy looking at her scowly face all day. My coworker didn’t get the job either.

I’m not sure what I learned from all this, except that people can be jerks. Unfortunately, I already knew that.

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