Thursday, November 17, 2011

Without your Consent

"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."

Eleanor Roosevelt said that, and you've probably heard it before.  But you know what she didn't say? 
She never said people wouldn't try to make you feel inferior.  It's about what you do with it, about how you fight it when people try.

Someone tried very hard to make me feel incredibly inferior today.  I lost my job about a month ago. My contract was ended unexpectedly and without any real explanations.  Since then I've of course been unemployed and looking for work.  That's something that can really impact your self-esteem and can drag you down into depression before you even know you're there.   If it sounds like I've been there before, I have. 

Today I spoke with the staffing agency that got me the contract that I previously mentioned, in hopes to connect with them on some opportunities in the area.  When I went to get my things from my previous contract I had met this woman once. At the time, I asked to sit down and talk if she had time.  She very brusquely said that she didn't and said I should set up a meeting at another time.  I forgave the brusqueness as the product of a busy day and continued down the employment road.  I had some promising interviews with several companies including a second staffing agency with a rep who was absolutely wonderful. She took time to get to know me, my resume, and is an advocate for me every day. She's an encouragement and the absolute example of professionalism and what any recruiter should be.  She's honest about what improvements can be made but absolutely positive and upbeat and actively shows excitement and confidence in me and my skills. 

After seeing some positions here in Libertyville where I live that were posted with the staffing agency I got my last contract through, I called to set up a meeting. I got the same person who I was assigned to. She remembered me, and when I asked for a meeting, she shut me down immediately. "No, we don't need to meet."  She then made a comment about me coming all the way over, even though if she'd have looked at my file like she said she did, she'd know I was in walking distance. No matter, I was trying to be professional, and I mentioned that it would be no problem to meet any time, because I lived in walking distance, and had in fact walked there the last time I had to be at their office. But she was insistent that she didn't need to meet with me. ( Interesting, since every other staffing agency I've ever worked with did). She said she had all the information she needed in her system "from when you worked at [redacted]." Keep in mind she said that specifically, it'll be important later.

This person proceeded to summarily dress me down, point by point, on my resume. Her opening was that I didn't "really have any relevant experience" to the "types of jobs we have here." 
This just astounded me, and so I politely brought up my years of experience in Customer Service (one of the types of jobs they posted), HR, administrative tasks, management and marketing.  This is an office that fits people in corporate roles.  These are all applicable things.  

Well, that didn't stop this ball rolling. She proceeded to tell me that I didn't have ENOUGH experience. I needed at least 7 years with one place if I was ever going to get a job over anyone else. Which, hello, I do have 8 years with Pizza Hut, during which I learned to train, manage, and got a position in marketing created for me.  Granted I had a gap in service, but the first 6 years were uninterrupted. 
She says she wouldn't even submit me for anything direct hire or temp to hire because I wouldn't get it, and she'd only submit me for temp jobs anyway. (Noteworthy is that if this is what is standard, then how do they expect people to GET that kind of longevity in service?)

Now, I'm a reasonable person. My work experience is varied, and some of it is short, and I understand that that can be viewed negatively.  I'm not attempting to insinuate that nothing she said had any merit, this is more about how she said things.  

From our discussion about longevity in roles, she starts reviewing my work history from when I was in New Mexico.  How does she begin talking about it?  She's not even halfway through her "You would never get a job over someone else without 7 years experience" rant when she goes..."and you worked for...some BAGEL place?"

At this point, it's become personal. I'm attempting to bite my tongue.  She continues.  "Village Arts....I don't even know what that is...." So here's my question.  If, say, someone said, hey do you want to go to Village Arts, would you maybe possibly in your genius brain figure out that it's an ART STORE? I thought so.  I thought maybe the ART part of the name would give it away.  Not to mention that in the description under the name of the place in the resume, I've put down inventorying art supplies, and framing appointments.  Arts...framing... it's clear Village Arts is a hospital that I worked for as a neurosurgeon!!!  Then, the honey on top..."is that...retail?" 
No lady, it's a hospital, I'm a neurosurgeon, I have a feeling you have a lobe that needs removing....

From there, she says "And you didn't even work in 2011."
Here's where I realize that I may have a knack for neurosurgery after all, as I've clearly identified something missing.  Like her saying she had "all the information" she needed in her system and yet overlooking....the almost 6 months of this year I worked FOR HER COMPANY at my last contract. 
She obviously didn't have my updated resume, either, but excuse for that.

I did finally speak my piece. I asked her why she didn't think there was anything she could submit me for. I pointed out my relevant experience, and I even asked her why it was she wasn't doing any assisting in this entire matter in the first place.  I corrected her errors and oversights, still politely, but firmly.  I asked her why she had asked for my updated resume if she wasn't going to submit me for anything. I pointed out that despite her saying there wasn't anything I'd seen openings on the site I knew I would be a good fit for.  I asked her to please look locally, though in retrospect, I should have told her I was reporting her to corporate, which I did.

Nobody deserves to be treated that way. Especially not when they are actively looking for work.  Nobody in a recruiting office should treat someone like the scum on the bottom of their shoes.  It's not right. She'd even managed a final jab at  the end when I asked her to look locally.  "Do you *have* transportation?"Not worded politely.  As in "do you even HAVE transportation?"

I hung up from that phone call feeling AWFUL. I felt like I could never get a job, like clearly my resume was a pile of crap, and like I was doomed to work temp the rest of my life.
Then I remembered what Eleanor Roosevelt said.

You know what my resume says? 
Yes, I did work at Pizza Hut for years.  In that time I learned to multi-task, to handle money, to give amazing customer service in person and on the phones.  I learned inventory, ordering, waitressing, delivery driving, cooking, managing, and when I wanted to go further, Pizza Hut corporate gave me a marketing position they DESIGNED for me that didn't previously exist. Because they believed in me and they KNEW that I was passionate about it and could do well at it.  And I did.  I learned to train, I learned to handle emergencies....

At my job in the HRO field, I learned all about employee benefits, legal issues, confidentiality, HIPAA, 401ks, and pensions. I started as a temp, worked my way to hire, and excelled. I started being a retirement specialist, handling death calls, and eventually taking escalations and being a leader to newer reps. I excelled at that, and I was made the lead of the team.  I handled very sensitive issues, issues for high powered execs of global companies, and was a liason between them and the insurance companies, banks and even government agencies.  In that role I learned about leadership, about the inner workings of HR, and most importantly how to handle heated and sensitive issues, which takes me far in life.  And I'm proud of it. 

And you know what? I'm proud of working at "some bagel place" too.  Very proud.  That was one of the bravest moments of my life.  I put it all on the line, and when it didn't work out the way I planned when I got there, I kept going.  I thought a million times I was going to fail, and while I had to come back, or thought I did, it was a success. I don't regret a moment of it.
When I worked at SOME bagel place, I apprenticed under a professional baker. I learned the tools and tricks of the trade. I learned how to function in a VITAL role.  As the baker, if I didn't do my job right, that bagel place had nothing to sell.  I worked EXTRA in that role as a prep cook on the weekends.  I was able to help create and problem-solve.  I worked with my hands before the sun was up and we made  the food that town ran on, at least in part.  Some of the loaves of bread I made were made into free sandwiches for firefighters working burns in the mountains.  Some of the bagels I made were donated at a race to benefit children's charities.  I learned perseverance, a trade, and followed a passion. 

At the art store I learned how to do things I always wanted to know how to do. And more importantly? I held down 3 jobs at one point.  I had 2 that kept me on my feet all day, slinging fish or making bread, and I did it.  My feet would ache so bad that I came home one night and cried on the phone to my mom back in IL, because I was so overwhelmed and exhausted. 

I *am* a fighter. I have an amazing work ethic, I have fantastic skills, relevant to office work, and you know what? More importantly, relevant to LIFE.  Most people will never pack up everything they have and give it a go somewhere they don't know.  I got my scars, literal and metaphorical, from it, but I wear them proudly. 

Is my resume pristine?  Did I constantly work 15 years for one company? No. 
Did I hold some "odd jobs"?
Odd to whom? I learned valuable life skills and working skills from each and every one of those roles. I would never have had the ability to field the escalations and the high pressure environment of the HR role without the experiences I had at the restaurant.  Because I knew what it was like to have your heels to the coals already. I knew what URGENT meant. I knew deadlines, and I knew how to multi-task. 

So you know what? You say odd jobs. You say I won't be able to get a job.
But YOU can't make me feel inferior without my consent.
I am the 99%
And I'm a fighter. 


Mrs. A said...

great piece! I have also dealt with these type of pseudo-professional people who, because they hold this position, feel they must make everyone else under them feel inferior. I taught school for 20 years before going into corporate america. stayed there 6 years and had to get out. now i am retired and loving it. you go girl

Dawn said...

Good on you, love! You are far kinder than I, because after the "bagel" comment, I might've been tempted to say, "Yes, bagels. Tell me, have YOU ever made anything with your own two hands? Done any direct charity work? And another thing, any company looking for 7 or more years of experience with one employer clearly doesn't WANT to hire anyone because experience like that doesn't really exist anymore. Bitch."

(But that's just me. :-) )

Arm said...

Most recruiters only exist to fill a job so they can pocket part of your salary. If you get a permanent job with the hiring business, they don't get as much. I have seen recruiters post for jobs they didn't even have, just to be able to say they have people available for businesses. Recruiters say "we help people find jobs", but in truth, if they didn't exist, people would be able to get the same jobs, keep more of their pay, and not have to deal with the idiots who work at the recruiting agency. Please do not feel bad from anything those do- nothings at a recruiting agency say. They probably just wanted to manipulate you into taking a job that benefits them. It is a lot better to contact companies that have a job you want directly. You end up with better benefits, better pay, and you dont have to see part of your paycheck go to some agency. (Example, job pays $18 an hour, you get something like $12) Good luck with the search.