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You left your job? In this economy?!

I wasn’t thinking about the state of the economy when I handed in my resignation letter in June. Yes, I had heard about the economic woes, but it felt too abstract for me to worry about it. And I kept hearing about how the Canadian economy was better than other western economies so how bad could it be?

From what I can gather from googling, Canadian employment growth has stalled due to economic uncertainty; despite that, Canada holds the highest employment rate among G7 nations. Also, the (NEET) percentage of youth under 30 who are unemployed and actively looking for work or are not in the labour force in Canada was calculated at 13.3% – which is supposedly low compared to other G7 nations. Our unemployment rate currently sits at around 7.4% (compared to 5.9% (’07), 6.2% (’08), 8.3% (’09), 8.0% (’10), and 7.1% (’11) of Septembers past). I dunno. Whatever.

So naturally everyone wants to know why I left my job. Why did I leave my job?

On an early morning in June, working from my neighbourhood Starbucks, I received an email request to reschedule yet another work meeting. What would normally seem like a mundane request felt like someone had stuck out their leg in my path to purposely make me fall – making all things I was juggling in my hands scatter to the ground in the process. I had to put down my latte because I was physically shaking so hard. Something inside of me snapped. The proverbial breaking of the camel’s back.

I left because my job no longer felt gratifying. Because there was no longer room in my life for me. Because my life at the time felt like it was swallowing me whole. Because I felt like my work had become my life – which I swore to myself I would never do. And a part of me left because people were telling me I shouldn’t.

I felt that the only way to understand and reassess my life was to step out of it. I was spending so much of my waking hours working and what hours I had left were dedicated to putting out other fires existing in my life. I didn’t recognize my life and I didn’t like what I was seeing and I had no time to evaluate how to rectify the situation.

I needed to breathe. That’s why I quit.

The biggest misconception that has arisen from my resignation is the assumption that I am searching for a “dream job”. What is a dream job anyway?  To me a dream job is a job that you want to do rather than need to do. Since most people have needs – namely food, shelter and/or clothing – that are contingent on holding a job, most people cannot afford to hold a dream job. Anything you enjoy doing that much – something that is that dreamy – no longer qualifies as work. It’s a hobby.

Another misconception, which is related to the dream job assumption, is that I am naive and childish to think that a job can enjoyable; since nobody likes their job, to leave a job because you don’t like it is foolish. Well, there was a time when I did like my job so I know it is possible to enjoy what one does for a living. And I feel sorry for those who can leave their despised job but choose not to because they associate misery-on-the-job with wearing big-girl pants. Most of us have choices. My choice is to not live the one life I have spending most of it in misery.

Some of us don’t have choices. Some of us have economic, societal, or other institutional barriers that prevent us from reaching our potential. For obstacles that can be overcome, some people have larger obstacles in their path than others. Some of you reading this may not agree with these statements. For those who do not agree, chances are that you have not walked in the shoes of those with the barriers I speak of. In any case, I recognize that not everyone has the luxury of leaving their job without major repercussions. I would never suggest or recommend leaving a job one doesn’t enjoy, especially without having a new job secured, to everyone.

In my instance, I feel it made sense to leave my job and my rental apartment. I had some money saved, I had a network of family to fall back on, and friends who I could rely on. Not everyone has that.

I left my job in order to find an ideal situation. I suspect that “situation” will evolve as my life does. For the short-term, it means holding a job in a locale that is conducive to achieving new personal goals I have. I’d disclose them all but then the goals wouldn’t be as personal anymore.

The hardest people to explain this to are potential employers. How do I explain why I left my job? There really isn’t a way without sounding long-winded or finicky (possibly much like this blog post). I’ve settled for providing half-truths now since a lot of people do not understand why anyone would choose unemployment over employment – especially in this economy. One interviewer actually asked me, “You know the economy is bad, right?”. I grinned when I answered, “Yep!”. Not surprisingly, I haven’t heard from her since.

Anyway, the search for a new job continues. I have dabbled in some temp work which has helped with income and has been a welcome break from all the job board combing.  My new HR Management course has reintroduced me to student life: essays, tests, and exams – oh my! And I have replaced working in Starbucks with studying at my local Tim Hortons.

I’ll admit two things:

  1. It’s not the best time to be looking for a new job.
  2. I miss Grande Soy Chai Tea Lattes.

But I have no regrets. Not yet anyway.

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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How do you know when to accept a job offer?

I had a dream this morning.

I dreamt that I was in a small office with a former employer of mine. The office was bare except for a row of three desks, three chairs, and one computer. I was on one side of the row; my former boss was on the other side. He was explaining to me that his former business had gone belly-up shortly after I had chosen to leave. The reason I was summoned to his current office was to make a proposal: he will offer me $300/month, for one year, if I perform one task. At this time, an assistant materializes out of nowhere and lays out a pair of undies. Hideous, green, lace panties that appeared to shimmer in the stark light. I was to wear it everyday in order to test the quality of it. I asked if there was another pair to alternate with this one. No. The assistant places a contract on the desk. I would not be allowed to wear any other underwear but this pair. I’m now holding the underwear in my hand, inspecting the condition and the tag, to figure what material it was made out of. All it said was Made In Noneofyourbusiness. My boss is casually reminding me that I have not found a job yet, and that if I had any sense or conscience for what I did to his former business, that I should sign the contract. The green panties revolving in my hands was a kaleidoscope of aqua, turquoise, teal, peacock…

I woke up, had a bowl of cereal, and am now writing this post.

It is true that my former boss no longer operates the business I used to work at. It now seems to be a skeleton of what it used to be. Am I conceited enough to believe that my absence was to blame? A little bit.

What strikes me about the dream is that I was actually considering the job offer. I don’t feel desperate enough – in real life – to take on low-paying, unhygienic and sexually humiliating work.  I do think that being unemployed is a departure from the confidence and security one feels when he or she does have a job, and I have found myself – in real life – considering job positions I normally never would just to have a job again.

I recently received a job offer. On paper, it was a slight step backwards in terms of the level of responsibility I used to have in my former job. It would also be a huge difference of pay in the wrong direction. I found myself justifying my desire for the job by making excuses: I know I can do this job because I’ve held a similar job like it before; it is a smaller business in a different industry so their monetary offer is based on what they can afford; I haven’t received any other job offers and I don’t want to regret not taking this one.

In my internal struggle, I recalled a book I had read called The Sexual Paradox: Men, Women and the Real Gender Gap by Susan Pinker*. I remembered reading about how women have a tendency to not want to negotiate employment contracts, or higher pay, for fear of losing the job. This fear (and the employer’s knowledge of this fear) often helps to maintain the gender gap in salaries. Even if that woman ends up successfully asking for a raise in later years, because she accepted the initial contract that offered less, she will still find herself paid less than her male peers.

Upon remembering this, I tried my hand – for the first time – at negotiating an offer. My potential employer wanted to meet with me the next day to go over details. I decided to bounce my thoughts off of a friend to get her opinion. She reminded me that if the job doesn’t feel right then I shouldn’t accept the offer. Why negotiate for a job you don’t really want in the first place?

Since I love to over-analyze things to death I turned to Google. I love Google. I googled “how do you know when to accept a job offer?”. I clicked on a Harvard Business Review blog post titled Accept the Job Offer? Or Walk Away? While the author provided some good reasoning, it was actually a reply to the blog post that grabbed me. This person, named Sharon, suggested asking yourself three questions when deciding to accept a job or not:

1) Will the job teach you something you want to learn?
2) Will you be exposed to industry professionals who may be helpful to you later?
3) How will future employers / graduate schools view this experience?

After reading this, and realizing that my answer to all three questions was No, I decided not to take the job.

My job search continues.

I am one of those people who believes that dreams have meaning. It’s like your conscience saying “Since you clearly aren’t getting it while you’re awake, let me hit you over the head with it now while you’re sleeping”.

What I’m going to take away from this dream is:

  • Acknowledge that I have deep-seeded desperation and figure out how to challenge it without needing to consider jobs that I know I aren’t right for me.
  • When I receive a job offer, don’t be a girl about it (yes, I cringed just typing that). Have confidence in my position and decide to either decline or make a counter-offer.
  • It’s probably time to buy some new underwear.
NOTES
* I highly recommend this book, The Gender Paradox,  to anyone curious about gender psychology and its relation to the world of work. Highly, highly recommend it.
 
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Posted by on September 15, 2012 in Applying for Jobs

 

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The Curriculum Vitae: Not Beating Around the Bush, eh?

The Curriculum Vitae: Not Beating Around the Bush, eh?

So it appears that when applying for jobs in Germany (and Europe in general), job applicants are expected to provide a curriculum vitae (better known as a CV). It’s like a resume, but different. In Germany, it’s called a lebenslauf.

It shouldn’t be a big deal but… it kind of is.

The biggest difference between a resume and a CV is that the latter requires the applicant to include a picture and personal information – and when I say personal, I mean information that would be illegal for a hiring employer to illicit during the recruitment process in Canada: age, sex/gender, marital/family status, citizenship, etc. I’ve even seen samples of the CV where the applicant lists the names of their children.

So… I’ve drafted a CV but I can’t help but wonder what bearing these insights into my personal life would have on me getting/not getting the position. Will my photo work in my favour, or against me? Will they see that I’m childless and think “Oh good, so she won’t mind working lots of overtime”?

Having said that, at least they’re not beating around the bush. They are admitting to having a discriminatory eye upfront rather than trying to pry the same kind of insights by asking roundabout questions during the interview process. If the German employer is not looking for someone like me then at least they’re not wasting both of our time going through the niceties of an interview that would go nowhere.

If anything, it’s not like one cannot pass judgement on resumes lacking personal details. If someone earned their high school diploma in 1992, does this not help imply (infer?) someone’s age? If someone has been employed and educated in Warsaw, is there not a big possibility that he/she is not a Canadian citizen?

I borrowed a book from the library: Unbeatable Resumes, by Tony Beshara. The book is okay; it has some good tips. I was somewhat disappointed though when I came upon this section addressing – what I’d like to call – textually-apparent minorities:

“If your name makes it obvious that you are of a member of a minority group or are foreign born, you may want to consider changing it for resume purposes only. Now, you probably will respond with horror: “Well, that’s discrimination! People shouldn’t decide on interviewing me based on my name.” You’re absolutely right! It is discrimination. All hiring is discriminatory. Some of it is legal, and some of it isn’t. But remember that you are trying to get job interviews, not change the world. If you’re uncomfortable doing this, don’t do it.”

I’ve seen coworkers disregard resumes that have crossed their desks based on the applicant’s name because it was “funny” looking, or took it to mean that the applicant couldn’t possibly be fluent in English – or that even if they were fluent, our customers/clients wouldn’t be able to get past their (assumed) foreign accent.

On the flip side, there is the instance when your English/Christian name awards you an interview – only to arrive for the interview and be informed that “the job has been taken” because they weren’t expecting you, racially speaking.

According to Beshara, “All hiring is discriminatory”. This is true. If it wasn’t, recruiters would place all resumes in a … big hat, close their eyes, and draw one from the bunch. The degree of discriminatory practices may vary, but it will happen: if not based on your resume, or CV, then based on your interview. It’s inevitable.

So is my hesitation of submitting a CV a reflection of the discriminatory practice or my assumptions/paranoia regarding the practice? In other words, is this anxiety about the curriculum vitae? Or is it about how I see myself in the eyes of others?

One thing is for sure: I am overanalyzing the s**t out of this.

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2012 in Applying for Jobs

 

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