Unemployment: Day 179
It was about six months ago that I quit my job. The work was fine, the people were nice and the pay was adequate, but my decision to walk away had nothing to do with all that. At some point, at least in my head, the benefits of sticking around were overshadowed by the opportunity costs.
"I have more to offer the world than this," I thought. "I can do better." This was my mantra. It was my inspiration. It may also have been my hubris.
I’ve applied for roughly four dozen jobs since then. The net result? One interview and two rejection letters, which leaves about 45 who couldn’t even be bothered to say, “Fuck you.”
I’m not alone, of course. Unemployment the last few years has been at its highest point since the Reagan era. In the human capital market, supply is up and demand is down. That means even if I find work, it won’t likely be rewarding, either personally or financially. But I try, anyway.
How could I not? I grew up in a country that glorifies work. Only in recent decades, the Puritan work ethic has given way to a new value system, where work is judged on the basis of whether or not it’s paid. In today’s America, if you’re, say, a mortgage underwriter who’s systematically flirting with economic ruin, you’re a productive citizen. But if you’re a mother who busts her ass all day keeping a household running, you’re just an entitled deadbeat.
Trouble is, the more signals people get that they’re useless wastes, the harder it gets for them to ignore it. Being sequestered on the margins of society and having your repeated attempts to reconnect ignored feels a lot like not getting invited to the cool kid’s party in high school. Only this party — the labor force — is supposed to be a meritocracy, not a popularity contest. So if you’re not invited, what’s the logical conclusion?
Save your sympathy; I’m not depressed. No, I’m pissed off. Not because I think I’m entitled to a job or even to an interview, but because of the not-so-faint whiff of self-importance I’m getting off the job creators. Every single job description I read is rife with smug asides about how goddamn special the company is, and (often explicit) warnings for potential applicants that if they even think about sending something as pedestrian as a resume and a cover letter outlining why they’re a good fit, the company will devote all of its resources to developing time-travel technology for the sole purpose of going back to the very moment your parents first met and punching them both in the face.
The good news is those threats are idle. The bad news is that what really happens is worse: Basically, you spend a whole day of your life (sometimes more) jumping through a ridiculous series of hoops to tailor your pitch and craft it just so, taking things like design, language, overall tone and choice of medium (or media) into consideration. In other words, you work.
And sometimes you’re not going to be right for the job. Or they’re going to find someone better. And that’s fair.
But you’re telling me they can’t even find time to e-mail a polite, “Fuck you”?
Because while you might think you’re part of the solution (creating jobs, innovating, smashing old-school inside-the-box conventions), you’re wrong. For every person you hire, you’re initiating or sustaining the shame spirals of dozens of others.
See, the more times I get ignored, the less I even bother to try. So let’s just cut to the chase. Here’s the cover letter you deserve, and may eventually get:
Dear obliviously undifferentiated company,
I’m writing about the job opening for an Assistant Deputy Manager for Mundane Activities. As you describe it, the work sounds dreadful, tedious, degrading and quite frankly beneath me. However, I have bills to pay. I’m sure you understand.
I’m a smart guy with a lot of experience in a variety of fields. While it’s difficult for me to translate the industry jargon you used to describe the role’s responsibilities into anything remotely meaningful, I’m confident that I can learn whatever routine tasks are involved and master whatever banal “strategy” you apply to them in order to make yourselves feel less hopelessly ordinary.
While the tone of this letter may seem brusque, I assure you I get along splendidly with people who are not assholes.
When you’re prepared to have an honest discussion about what you need and how I can help, you may contact me at the number below or through any of the zillion other Internet-based methods you’ve no doubt heard about from your socially maladjusted nephew.
Go fuck yourself,