by Eric Campbell
I read Bait & Switch when it was first published. I am an IT professional (or at least I used to be), and many of Barbara's experiences in Bait & Switch sounded familiar. I've been there.
The job fairs, where smiling college interns collected my resume while being unable to answer the simplest of questions about the company or the jobs they allegedly needed to fill.
The so-called "recruiters" and "headhunters" who have no real placement or HR experience. They seem delighted just to meet with me, to put me into the all-important DATABASE.
The networking groups, which remind me of the I Love Lucy episode featuring the Friends of the Friendless. People bring cookies and other sweets, perhaps to mitigate the overall bitterness they feel.
I have been told to find spiritual guidance, because HE will help me make my car payments, if I accept HIM into my heart. OK, I exaggerate a little here.
Endless hours spent trolling the online job boards. Monster has 2,347,891 jobs today!
Thousands (yes, thousands!) of resumes and cover letters. I've licked enough stamps to cover the Eiffel Tower. I've created enough digital refuse to fill Madison Square Garden. Still no job.
In the past 5 1/2 years, I have been stuck in a downward spiral. I quit looking exclusively for a computer job long ago. I have applied for jobs that pay less than a livable wage, only to be turned away as "over-qualified".
I have had potential employers not hire me because they were worried about the number of jobs I have had over the past few years. The fact that I have been repeatedly laid-off, my jobs out-sourced, matters little to them. They sympathize, but I still appear to be damaged goods to them.
I have failed to get interviews for jobs that I am qualified to perform. The reasons for this are many: been out of IT for too long; too many employers in too short a period of time; and the very vague yet commonly used explanation of how I am "just not the perfect fit".
I have worked off the books as a painter and landscaper. I have gone broke twice, and I'm on my way there for a third time. I have lost my apartment, been forced to move in with my elderly parents. I'm 39; they're in their 60's. They (and I) live in a retirement community. Oh, joy!
I have worked for temp-agencies and I took a so-called "survival job", which featured a profane, 73-year-old boss, and a vastly misrepresented job. I lasted a whole year there.
Health insurance is a distant memory. So are most of the dreams I had for myself. Some of my best years have been wasted. I'll never get them back.
I have fundamentally changed as a person. I no longer laugh or make jokes as much. When I do joke around, I notice my humor is tinged with bitterness. I miss the person I used to be.
My personal life is of course intertwined with the professional side. How can I initiate and nurture a relationship when I can't even support myself? At a time when my contemporaries are married, having kids, and moving up in their careers, I just sit on the sidelines and watch. Forever the fan, I long to be on the field.
The goal-oriented man I used to be has been replaced by a depressed soul whose greatest accomplishment today may be fighting off the urge to take a midday nap.
I have learned some things about myself that I can use as positives. I realize I'm a bit stronger than I gave myself credit for, more resilient.
I seemed to have recaptured a compassionate streak I had in my youth. By that, I mean that I have empathy for people who are suffering. Do I volunteer? No, but neither do I simply dismiss the downtrodden as those who simply "don't try hard enough".
I've searched for enjoyment not through the accumulation of "stuff" but through the accumulation of experience. To that end, I have taken up hiking, and I reconnected with my passion for reading.
I have also written several short stories, and I am working on my third novel. All of my work remains unpublished at this time, but I don't sweat it. I have bigger problems. Job-hunting in this day and age requires a thick skin, so when my queries to literary agents and various publications are returned with a "no thanks", I don't let it get to me. I write for myself.