Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Positions Available; People Aren’t

With the state of the economy and the high rate of unemployment, it amazes me how few people take finding a job seriously. By the manner in which applicants pass through employers doors it seems no one knows how to apply for a job anymore. You would think that parents would want their children employed and out of the house eventually, so would then teach their offspring the best way to land that minimum wage job at the local fast food joint. Apparently, they need the tax deductions every year and wish for their child to stay dependent. Not me, I want them out. I have plans for each of their rooms already drawn out.

However, I see the inadequacy of which teens are prepared for the work place, and as one who has to deal with it, it frustrates and saddens me. Unfortunately, you can’t tell these kids that looking like you just came out of a street brawl is not the way to land that job. However, since parents aren’t and schools don’t offer Applying 101, allow me to offer a few helpful tips.

First, grow up. You’re not trading chores for allowance anymore and your future boss is not going to be as forgiving as Mommy and Daddy when you take his money, but forget to do the work. This is the real world and you’re going for a real job for, hopefully, real money. The money part is sometimes questionable. Therefore, there are real expectations.

When I was about ten, I would go with my father to his construction sites in order to earn some candy money. My job was simple; refill his mud pan of Spackle whenever he needed it. However, most of the time I was in the sand piles playing with six penny nails pretending they were warriors hunting the secret mysteries of Planet Zormac. Dad called the first two or three times to come carry out my duties, but tired of that abruptly and filled his own pan. I did, however, get my candy money and Dad stopped taking me with him.

An employer won’t be so kind and you will not be brought back. They expect honest work for honest pay, even though the scales at times seem one-sided.

Just because you’re out of school doesn’t mean the studying stops and this is my second piece of advice. You should read up on that company you want to apply to, even if it’s McDonald’s and you eat there four times a week. Now, I don’t mean go digging into backgrounds and read biographies as if about to write a thesis for your doctorate. Just familiarize yourself with what they do because invariably in the interview that will be one of the questions. “Are you familiar with what we do here at Madame Butterfly’s House of Whips?” and you don’t want to be caught off guard.

Furthermore, keep in mind that timing is everything. Pop in at their peak hours when things are at their craziest and you’re almost guaranteed to stay on unemployment. When places first open for the day, they’re concerned with getting everything set up and close to closing all they want to do is shut everything down and escape. Know when these times are and avoid them. Also be aware that those times will vary depending on the type of business.

I learned this right after high school when my father went on vacation and needed me to answer the phones for him while he was gone. At the time I was working for Domino’s Pizza as a closing driver and I usually didn’t find my pillow until four or five in the morning. Construction usually begins an hour after I started my REM sleep and this dawned on me while answering the phone for my dad. I’m not sure why I didn’t notice it before. He was always gone before I woke to go to school, so you think I would have noticed his absence, but as a typical teenager I was lost in self. About seven a.m., the phone rang and in my foggy-headedness I picked up and answered, “You’re fired.”

It wasn’t one of my father’s drywall finishers. “Excuse me? You work for me.”

“Oh, well then, we quit.” And I hung up the phone and shuffled my pillows. My dad returned early from his vacation.

Learn when the best time is to contact a potential employer and contact them at that time. Your chances at gaining employment will greatly increase if you don’t add to the chaos.

The idea is to stand out in a positive way, to be remembered as someone who had it together and not as the person people laughed at as you walked out the door. And trust me, it happens. The minute a hopeful applicant walks through the exit there is a shake of the head followed by “Not a snowball’s chance in Hell.” Why? Because the applicant stood out in all the negative ways.

Freedom of expression is great, when you’re going shopping or dancing or in your bedroom. When applying for a job, repress the urge to be you for the duration of a thirty-minute interview. Appearances matter.

Business casual should be the rule of thumb. For ladies a nice dress or pant suit. Men should go for dress slacks and a nice shirt. Leave the shorts for the park, leave the hat at home and for crying out loud stop showing off your boxers. Pull your pants up! “Dress for success” may be a cliché, but it’s also the way to be seen as a person who has it together even if you don’t. People do judge books by their covers, so make sure your cover makes your employer want to open you up and hear your story.

That also means take off your extra jewelry. “If they can’t accept me for whom I am, then I don’t need to work for them.” Chances are you won’t be working for them. This isn’t a relationship where you’re going to ride off into the sunset holding hands. Your employer doesn’t have to accept you for who you are. They will accept you for what you can do to help them make money. It’s business. They don’t care about your creative side, piercings, body art or how cool you think you are. Their concern is how their customers or clients will react to you and most consumers with money are still of the conservative traditional mindset. And it’s all about the money, which you better accept quickly because, after all, you need the money or you wouldn’t be looking for the job.

I know we like to think it’s all about us and we grow up with Mommy and Daddy telling us that it is, but your boss is worried more about offending customers than offending you. Your best bet on gaining employment is to look like mainstream America.

“That’s discrimination!” Possibly, but that’s life, at least for now it is, so you have to decide if your ability to pay your bills is more important than your freedom of expression. Furthermore, the higher you want to go in some industries the more mainstream you need to be, at least to get in the door. Freak them out after you’re hired.

One more piece of advice, go prepared. While applications may vary a little from company to company, they almost all ask the same basic questions. Therefore, have this information written down and with you, so that you don’t leave empty spaces on the application and you’ll be one step closer to appearing to know what you’re doing.

Every place wants to know your education level, if only to be able to prove you’re smarter than you look. Be ready to give the school’s address and the years you attended there. The same is true of your work history if you have any including addresses, contact names and phone numbers. And yes, companies do check these. Have them written down and take them with you so you can prove you always haven’t been a vagrant.

Furthermore, have a list of references with you. This is a list of people other than your mom and dad who are willing to lie for you and tell a future boss that “Why, of course, he’s reliable and trustworthy. He’s talked about flipping burgers since he was seven” and not that you need the job because you owe them twenty dollars. They ask for the same information as the other history: name, address, and phone number. Of course, why they need a home address I’m not really sure, unless it’s to prove everyone isn’t squatting in the same rental property. Surely it can’t be because they’re going to mail your references anything about your future position because even the government moves faster than that.

They’ll randomly ask you other nosy questions such as what other skills you have. Be careful what you put here because unless you’re working for a strip club, they don’t care about your pole dancing acrobatics. They do care about how you write and spell, so go slow and spell your name correctly. I know for some this may be a challenge, so a word of advice. Put your name on an index card and do not ask the interviewer to see how your mommy wrote it on the back of your underwear.

So, the next time you pass through those business doors, eager to work your way up that greasy ladder, apply these tips to increase your chances. While I can’t guarantee that you’ll land a job, I can assure you that you won’t piss me off if it’s my doors you pass through. After all, that was the whole reason behind writing this to begin with.

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