It’s been almost a year, since I held a full time job, and I’m not all eager to test the shallow end of the job market. The months fly by when you’re actively waiting for the grace of being unexpectedly swept off your feet by an opportunity that restores your faith in an industry, that turned its back on you at the worst time.
Back in 2007, I was desperately trying to make up for all the time lost, withering away in New York City, with thankless retail jobs that were supposed to provide relief, as I pounded the pavement for editorial gigs.
I was the quintessential twenty-something in the late 90’s and early 00’s who believed t in the falsehood of relying on youthful vigor, oodles of charisma and a stellar work ethic as ample ammunition for a city that’s almost impossible to impress.
At the ripe old age of thirty-five, I was finally ready to make the final attempt at resurrecting the dream that just wouldn’t die. I had tried the half-assed move to Los Angeles in late 2004, and while the experience was fruitful and enlightening enough to make the West Coast a permanent solution, my unrequited love affair with the city of my discontent wouldn’t let me be.
After exhausting the temp circuit, and mastering the muddled language of Concur, I managed to snag an executive assistant role at the private bank of a top financial institution. I would like to say that my supreme interviewing skills and college degree sealed the deal, but I’m going to assume that being able to flawlessly stage my own reference check, may have earned my seat at the table.
And while I kept switching seats to accommodate the undignified regimen of administrative work, I was able to secure a tiny but cute studio apartment on the Upper East Side, thanks to the economic collapse of 2008, that ironically provided the stability that many were tragically losing.
I was also starting to garner paid writing assignments, after spending enough years offering my words for free, and dutifully paying my dues for the sweet reward of “clips and exposure.”
Apparently I was “exposed” enough to be aligned with a handful of online publications that were desperate for quality content with speedy delivery.
We didn’t realize it then, but 2010–2013 was basically going to be the “golden age” for energetic and ambitious writers like me, who had full time jobs that paid the bills, but also wanted the additional income from specific avenues that fed our passions.
Back then, the issue wasn’t finding the jobs, it was making sure that my bloated schedule didn’t become disfigured from the temptation of taking on more than I could handle.
The confidence that comes with seamlessly juggling the hours of day and night, for the benefit of taking care of the roof over your head, while also exercising your ability to be a daily editor, definitely goes to your head.
You feel invincible and even more determined to maintain the tempo that results in at least three checks per month.
In the late summer of 2013, I was badly battered and bruised from the abuse of what I had hoped would be the “dream job,” that would triumphantly erase the years of anguish that left me tearfully regretful about my impromptu move to New York City — sixteen years prior.
After seven years of service at the private bank, and the inconvenience of suddenly being aligned with a ruthless manager, who refused to continue the tradition of bonuses and salary increases — I decided to make my well-planned exit.
The job market was still reeling from the economic crisis, and while that posed a valid challenge for job seekers, the climate still zealously courted applicants with robust resumes and above-average skill sets. And this was demonstrated with force when I began the task of sending out updated resumes to temp agencies and HR representatives.
The response was immediate, and the first appointment with a popular employment agency a a few blocks from my office building, set off the two- month search for the new position that would kill my frightful stagnancy.
It wasn’t just the day job that was a buzzkill, as my editorial gigs that were once steady, and an excellent source of extra income had begun to vanish. The outlets that were thriving after taking off with promise at the start of the boom of 2006/2007 — seemed to be struggling under the pressure of the change that was silently underway.
I was now only contributing to one online pub, and the compensation wasn’t even close to ideal. That’s what made my job search that much more urgent, as I contemplated the alternative of remaining in a dead end job that was sucking away the remaining dignity I had left.
The great thing about the interview circuit of 2013, compared to the present, is the fact that interviewees were treated professionally and respectfully. The process was thorough and appropriately catered to the experience level of the candidate.
There was no time to waste, and so things moved along accordingly, under the direction of those who were equipped to handle the initial phone screening, first interview, and the slew of final meetings with the mangers and staff that you would hopefully end up working with — if all goes well.
The seven years I accrued from a prestigious firm elevated my status, and made me a very busy interviewee — juggling the kind of options I never imagined for myself. It was this boost that seduced me into the plan of possibly letting go of the writing career, and concentrating more on climbing the corporate ladder.
Turning forty had been a terrifying reality that sobered me up — by forcing me to answer questions that I had been avoiding. If I was going to remain in New York City, I would need to embrace a lifestyle that could only be possible with a full time, salaried position with benefits, and the assurance that these potential companies weren’t going out of business anytime soon.
After making my rounds to a handful of reputable firms, I was blessed with two solid offers and the headache of trying to decide my fate within the time allotted. Unfortunately I chose the wrong company, and after a hellish summer, there was a mutual parting of ways that left me jobless for the first time in almost a decade.
It was vital to my sanity to take some time away from the job scene, to re-evaluate my objectives. As scary as it was to be locked out of the security of direct deposits on a monthly basis — there was also excitement stemming from the freedom of being able to translate my predicament as the gift that would nurture my writing pursuits.
Five years later, and I have become and even more battered and bruised relic of the past.
Gone are the days, when jobseekers held the power of negotiation or the basic right to vocalize reasonable demands to capable agents that were swift in their quest to satisfy obligations.
The job market has become a blistering battlefield that aims to make mince meat out of jobseekers who dare to commit the ultimate sin of requiring the dependency of the workforce for survival.
Actively looking for work has evolved into a debilitating exercise in mental discipline as your pathetic reliance on a system that no longer valiantly serves your needs — reduces you to a helpless beggar among the ruins.
No resume is dazzling enough to save you from the excruciatingly worthless face to face with zombie-like creatures, that get paid to accumulate enough leads to reach the quota required for job retainment. And the phone version isn’t any better, as you either get mixed up with another candidate or submitted for a job that’s blatantly all wrong.
And when you do manage to score the updated definition of an editorial assignment that may or may not last the six months, you can be sure that your job duties will be embedded in the finesse of carting a shitload of content from various folders with robotic flair.
Eventually, you will be blinded by the steady increase of items that need to be tackled with rapid efficiency. And the growing responsibilities are shoved your way with the insulting assumption that your dispensability makes you easy prey for shitty treatment.
And so before the six months are up — you’re back to the beat of pounding the pavement for the pleasure of being churned by the grinder — that has become more violently energetic at your expense.
Employers have perfected the deplorable practice of making you eat shit before the offer that never comes — because getting hired is an honor that barely applies to those who have earned that right.
In the summer of 2017, when I was abruptly released from the job that exposed to me to the horrors of how recycled content and viral videos have replaced what writers like me were paid to do not too long ago — I was in no shape to sign up for another round of torture.
A year later, I’m still unwilling to “explore my options” or send over my frazzled resume in response to incoherent job titles and descriptions that bear a strong resemblance to the email notifications from three years ago.
My lifestyle is slowly adapting to the lack of a full time job as well as the strong possibility that I may never get one.
I moved out of New York City almost three years ago, and tried again to make L.A. a feasible feat, but it turned out to be an unremarkable pursuit that drove me into the temperamental maze of binge drinking. The fear of permanently losing both my mind and body — drove me back to the clutches of my parents.
Things are simpler now, but also quite complicated as I settle into the rampant longing for the past, and contend with a future that arms me with the defiance of never again pleading for the bare minimum — or tolerating the intolerable for the sake of forgettable interviews — and misleading job duties that undergo treacherous revisions that are meant to incite insanity.
There has to be a better way to spend the precious time we’ve been given, and even though I can’t really afford the luxury of indefinite soul searching — some things are definitely worth the sacrifice.
A six-month gig as a content processor doesn’t count.