January 9, 2011

Leggo my Ego.

Last year at this time, I was watching Wolf Blitzer cover the news about a massive Earthquake in Haiti--from my hotel room in Phnom Penh. Today, as I sat in my parents' dining room, CNN informed me that a deranged young man had gone on a shooting spree in Arizona. And earlier this week, it was a school shooting in Omaha.

So this year, instead of my certain death by Cambodian bus trip, I'm thinking more about catching a stray bullet during everyday activities. Neither is a good way to go.

And rather than wiping the sweat from my brow, I'm rubbing my eyes which have glazed over from filling out the online job applications. I've been reading books and articles about the job hunt since July, but I didn't realize until today how deeply jobs can affect our egos. After having a job as a writing consultant or as an English teacher in a place of high need, sacking groceries or stocking shelves just seems, well, unimportant. Beneath me is what I really want to say, but how conceited and snobbish am I? My first applications were to temporary state jobs and to a staffing agency. These were probably a little out of my range, but I liked the pay, and the jobs seemed like real work--a solid nine to five. After taking a series of clerical proficieny tests, I felt a little less proficient, and my ego settled for another round of searching.

Today I applied to Gallup, yes the survey place. As part of the application, I had to take a hefty survey to gage my compatibility with the position, or at least my ability to avoid the answers that make me sound lazy, dishonest or rude. Following the test of character--which I passed with flying colors because they didn't ask about an inflated ego--I got inspired to apply to places that could possibly have branches in my future towns. I can transfer my positive attitude and rule-following behavior to whatever state I want. My answers on the applications showed that while I have very little interest or experience in home improvement, cashiering or working full-time; I am not a convicted felon, and I would report a coworker if I saw him stealing.

As sorry as I felt for my own ego, I thought of how hard it must be for the people who have been laid off from actual jobs who have to do the same thing I am doing now. To apply for hourly jobs that pay very little and challenge you even less is difficult. In my brain, I understand that any job is better than no job, and that 40 hours a week is the right thing for me to do, but why is it so hard to apply to drug store chains? Why can't amazing, unadvertised opportunity just ring me up on the telephone: Jena, we've seen your work, and our company really needs your expertise. We want to pay you loads of money to learn foreign languages, teach English and consult our writers. Can you come in tomorrow? 

Back in the real world, I hope to land at least two interviews and a job offer out of my applications. The only thing worse than applying for a job you don't want is getting rejected by the job you didn't want in the first place.

To all my fellow job-seekers, I salute you and your difficult journey to a higher paycheck and more fulfilling life.