the employment problem

Tomorrow I will receive pay for my time and labor for the first time in more than two months. Unfortunately, the value of my time and labor has depreciated significantly during the lapse. I will be receiving just over half what Newz Group had valued it at. Tomorrow, I will be attending the first of two orientation sessions at Wal-Mart on West Broadway.

I had thought, upon leaving Newz Group, that I would be worth more than this. I thought I had a good resume: just three years out of college, two years of supervisory experience in an office setting with a fairly impressive-looking list of credentials (remote office management, 20+ employees, travel, new acquisition facilitation, etc), two years of experience with a non-profit organization… And I rode my bicycle solo from Columbia, MO to Washington, DC! That’s got to be worth something. It shows character and motivation, right? At the very least, it’s a pretty good gimmick–something to catch the eye and make me stand out in the applicant pool.

But no. I still have not heard a word from any of the 25+ applications I submitted in DC (except for the folks who turned out not to have any funding to pay me with yet, and the Hyatt’s busboy positions–who quickly returned a rejection email in exchange for my electronic application. Even more vexing is that two of the positions I applied for specifically mentioned press clipping in their job descriptions. How many people are there with press clipping experience looking for a job in DC right now?). And Wal-Mart is the only response I’ve received from the twentysome applications I’ve put in here in Columbia. I doubt that I would even have heard from Wal-Mart if a friend who works there hadn’t put a word in for me. I will be making $1.50 more an hour than I did in my first job at Schnucks Supermarket, eleven years, a high school diploma, a college degree, and many, many jobs ago.

What went wrong?

It may be the “many, many jobs” thing. I arrived at my two years of office management experience and two years of non-profit experience by trying and quitting a lot of jobs. I have been a McDonald’s grill cook (my actual first job; it lasted three days), a janitor, a produce clerk, a dairy clerk, a liquor clerk, a host, a banquet server, a delivery driver, a telecom operator, a preschool aide/tutor, a maintenance man, a prep cook, a preschool teacher, a press clipping reader, and an office manager. I’m almost certain that I’m forgetting at least one other.

I’ve been good at jobs I did not like and I’ve liked jobs I was not good at. I’ve never been fired, but it’s hard to imagine my employment prospects being any worse if I had. I am an occupational vagrant.

Tomorrow I will thankfully accept my meager vagrant’s lot from the world’s largest private employer. But all precedents of my professional history suggest that my thankfulness will not last. I will, more likely than not, become indignant toward my task and indifferent toward my pay. That’s good, honest fatalism for you. I hope that in acknowledging it, I may be taking one step away from vagrancy.

I will not wait to feel trapped. As I enter Wal-Mart tomorrow, I will already be plotting my escape. But I will remain thankful to the friend that helped me get inside.

Right now, I need money. Thanks go to Tony for helping me find it!


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