Monday, May 19, 2008

Help Wanted. Must Be Dumber Than Velveeta. EOE.

Let’s hear it for President Bush! Thanks to him, being unemployed is considerably less irritating than it was in the old days.

I’m completely sincere about this. The last time I was out of work for too long came in 2003, before the Do Not Call anti-telemarketing law. I remember a particular eight-hour period where I got seventeen calls, each one answered in a polite, professional voice in case it held a job offer, and each one turning out instead to be some twit mispronouncing my name in hopes of selling a home-equity loan to my apartment-dwelling non-equity-having self.

But not this time! Thank you, Mr. President. And as a small- government libertarian, I have no problem justifying the Do Not Call law on the grounds that expecting solicitors to respect my number’s presence on a DNC list is no different than expecting door-to-door solicitors to respect a “No Trespassing” sign on my house.

Unfortunately, I can’t invent a proper justification for a firm law (not necessarily involving the death penalty, but a good horsewhipping at minimum) against that other bane of a job-hunter’s existence: the would-be scam artist who thinks that if he can trick me into wasting my time at a pointless job interview in which I have no interest, he’ll also coax me into parting with a good chunk of my own cash.

Many years ago, when I’d finished school and started looking for my first Real Job, I sent resumes and cover letters to any help-wanted ad that sounded willing to hire an English major. One ad said something about jobs in “advertising,” and a couple days after mailing my resume I got a call for an interview. The woman was rather vague about exactly what the job would entail, and since this was my first-ever Real Job Call I didn’t know enough to ask certain questions.

Next day I arrived at the interview a few minutes early, as recommended by the career guidebooks, and sat in the waiting room with a couple other applicants filling out a thick pile of forms. After a few minutes, I saw two dozen people file into the conference room adjacent to the room where we sat.

We heard a low, muffled voice speaking, and then everyone in the next room suddenly shouted “YEAH!!!” in raucous voices.

This continued for the next several minutes: Mumble mumble YEAH!! Blah blah YEAH!! Something something YEAH!!

We four in the waiting room exchanged looks. I can’t say what the others were thinking, but I remembered the mandatory pep rallies in high school and how much I’d hated them. So I quit filling out the application, put my pen down and began chatting with the others in the waiting room.

No one knew anymore than I did what this job was supposed to be about. One man had responded to an ad offering “management” jobs, another sought positions in “sales,” and the third also wanted work in “advertising.”

Hmm.

The pep rally finally ended and people streamed out of the conference room. Everyone left the building except for one man – presumably the muffled speaker – who came into the waiting room and started the "interview."

The company turned out to be a pyramid scam. They wanted us all to spend a couple hundred dollars buying some coupon books that we’d sell door-to-door, and if we could sucker other people into selling coupons for us we’d get a cut of their profits.

I had more than enough money to buy the books, and far too many IQ points to ever consider doing so. Instead, I spent awhile saying things like “This sounds great but I don’t have two hundred dollars, that’s why I’m looking for a job,” and tried to persuade him to pretty-please give me an advance on my first paycheck so I could afford to buy these coupon books and embark upon a wonderful and rewarding new career. (I actually said “wonderful and rewarding new career.”) He said I could earn the money by selling his coupon books door-to-door.

Once I figured I’d wasted about as much of his time as he’d wasted of mine, I abruptly ended the discussion and went home.

But that was years ago. The Internet makes such job offers more streamlined; instead of getting dressed and driving to an actual interview, you can stay in your bathrobe while people try to scam you on your own couch. I turned down the chance to make up to $5,000 a month, working on my computer at home, in my spare time, because I’m too stingy to buy and too lazy to install the $100 software package I’d need for this exciting opportunity.

I told the guy that if he’d just give me the name of the software, my friend-who’s-good-with-computers could probably find me a copy cheaper. He didn’t like my idea.

21 Comments:

Blogger Windypundit said...

OH GOD! NO! FLASHBACKS! The Pain! The Pain!

I had a few of those kinds of interviews. I eventually learned that if they can't describe the job over the phone, it's going to be trouble.

"I turned down the chance to make up to $5,000 a month, working on my computer at home, in my spare time, because I’m too stingy to buy and too lazy to install the $100 software package I’d need for this exciting opportunity."

That made me laugh because---and I don't mean to taunt you---that kind of describes my job now. I make about that much working at home on my own time.

Only I spent about $4000 on software. And $6000 on hardware. And $350 a month on networking, phones, and web hosting. And $1000 a year in legal and accounting costs. And I have two college degrees and 20 years of experience.

I must not be doing this right.

11:31 PM  
Anonymous smartass sob said...

"Help Wanted. Must Be Dumber Than Velveeta. EOE."

Dumber than cheese? Aw rats!

4:15 AM  
Blogger Jennifer Abel said...

Somehow, Windy, I suspect the "job" I rejected wasn't like yours. I've done work-at-home jobs before, and of course I would've had to spend money on a computer if I didn't already have one. And if my word-processing and other programs had gone on the fritz, I would've had to replace those. If I had talent for graphic design, I could see where I might have to buy the latest graphics package to replace my old one.

But this vague "You must buy mystery software from me and I won't even tell you the name of the software package" is bullshit.

8:48 AM  
Blogger Windypundit said...

Oh, yes, total bullshit. I was just amused at the idea that all it takes build your career is $100 worth of software. All those other people who learn skills and work hard are just suckers, I guess.

It reminds me of all those get-rich-quick infomercials that go on and on about the wonders of whatever business scheme they're selling without ever actually describing what you have to do to make all that money.

I swear, if I ever start videoblogging, I'm going to model my presentation after Don Lapre. He just cracks me up

9:22 AM  
Blogger rhhardin said...

Verbal skills, let's see. There's phone sex.

7:52 PM  
Blogger Jennifer Abel said...

Actually, Ron, I've decided to keep that off my resume, what with the whole "getting fired my first night" and all.

8:08 PM  
Anonymous NoStar said...

I hear that it's possible to make money with a 24 hour web cam showing the goings on in a lovely lass's apartment.

10:43 AM  
Blogger rhhardin said...

Well I didn't know what I wanted to do, when I got out of college with a math degree, so I dropped in on a large nationally known telephone company research organization on a whim and they hired me because I seemed weird, and also they were hiring anybody then. They hired music majors even (bad move : they got married and left).

I'd suggest looking for a job as a scientist. Let them know you're willing to learn.

11:55 AM  
Blogger Windypundit said...

Any idea what it takes to break in at a place like Reason? You'd be a natural, and I think everybody knows you there.

Of course, Kerry Howley donating her ova and writing about it does set the bar kind of high for female staffers...

2:18 PM  
Blogger Jennifer Abel said...

I'd thought about that, Windy, but the sort of writing I do best isn't really what they're looking for. (Remember the magazine is different from the blog.)

2:42 PM  
Anonymous NoStar said...

Jen, I have a vision of you being paired with cartoonist Peter Bagge who could illustrate your interviews and columns in Reason.

As you go for the jugular with a killer question, Peter draws your flaming red hair as Medusa-like snakes ready to pounce.

Just think, a monthly column would give you plenty of time for other projects.

Your tenacity at getting quotes for a Congressional bill that almost nobody wanted to talk about was impressive. And Reason noticed, even if I had to point it out to them. Submit a rez and some ideas for a monthly column that fits your strengths and their interests.

Just do it, damn it!

NS

4:29 PM  
Blogger Jennifer Abel said...

NoStar, as justifiably proud as I am of my "gotcha-question" pieces, and as much as I hope to find another position doing more of them and would love to have my own column, believe me when I say that they're not interested in the sort of thing I do. They're more into serious, in-depth analysis.

There's a huge difference between writing "Here are some important principled reasons why strangers, as well as friends, should be legally allowed to play poker for money, plus quotes from important people emphasizing this" versus calling the head of the state gambling division to ask just how a stranger gets legal friendship status, and can you legally play poker with a stranger if you have sex with him first?

6:00 PM  
Anonymous NoStar said...

Jennifer,

The magazine would be better off if they mixed the serious in-depth PhD-Noble level analysis with a column of lighter fair.

They need to give something to the neophyte libertarian, so they can educate him with the heavier articles.

The CATO journal is where there is room only for no-time-for-humor, we're-deadly-serious, intellectual articles.

Reason NEEDS a beltway gadfly who can expose the Congress-critters and Sinators for the dim-bulbs and wrong-headed jerks that they are; a modern day H.L. Mencken with flaming red curls. They need you.

They just don't know it yet. That's why you need to send them a proposal.

Does the fear of a rejection hold you back? Think of it this way: even if rejected, it could open up an avenue of networked referrals.

9:00 AM  
Blogger Windypundit said...

"...calling the head of the state gambling division to ask just how a stranger gets legal friendship status, and can you legally play poker with a stranger if you have sex with him first?"

You're right, that sounds more like Liberty, but I think they pay in copies.

Seriously, now that you've pointed it out, I see what you mean. I guess you can believe in the principles Reason stands for without wanting to write about them.

One of Drew Carey's criticisms of Reason was that it doesn't do a good enough job of putting a human face on the issues. That's one of the things that reason.tv is trying to correct. Maybe you could fit into that effort somehow.

(Or maybe you'd rather do your own career planning...)

11:22 PM  
Blogger Jennifer Abel said...

I guess you can believe in the principles Reason stands for without wanting to write about them.

It's not even that "I don't want to write about them," it's more "the type of writing I do about them isn't what the magazine prints."

Sigh. I don't know if anybody DOES print such things, for that matter; my boss did at the Advocate, but he got fired same time I did, and the fact that I had more readers than anyone else (according to our Web stats) didn't matter. I don't think our new publisher liked being known as "the guy whose paper always flips the bird to the powers that be." Maybe I wouldn't either, if I were in his position. I never was or wanted to be an editor or publisher, so I don't know what stuff THEY had to deal with.

One of Drew Carey's criticisms of Reason was that it doesn't do a good enough job of putting a human face on the issues. That's one of the things that reason.tv is trying to correct. Maybe you could fit into that effort somehow.

Look, I'm not trying to sound overly picky here; God knows if anyone from Reason said "Hey, we'd like to try going in a new direction and think your writing is just the sort of thing we need" I would do backflips of joy. But they're not going to do that, and I can't bring myself to say "Hey, guys, you really should give your whole publication a makeover in such a way as to provide a job opportunity to li'l ol' me."

10:07 AM  
Blogger Jennifer Abel said...

I thought of an analogy: say I'm an out-of-work TV script writer whose specialty is writing darkly sarcastic sitcoms. And it so happens I know a few folks who handle the various shows in the Law & Order franchise.

If the producers ever said "We're thinking of doing another spinoff, this one with a tongue-in-cheek anti-authority tone," I would absolutely bring myself to their attention and say "Hey, guys, how about me?" But I am not going to go to them and suggest they create such a spin-off, even though you guys are far from the first Law & Order fans who've said they'd like to see me write one.

2:15 PM  
Blogger Windypundit said...

It's not even that "I don't want to write about them," it's more "the type of writing I do about them isn't what the magazine prints."

That's sort of what I meant, in that you don't seem want to do "serious, in-depth analysis" directly about libertarian ideas.

But enough. I'm trying to encourage you, but even to myself I keep sounding like I'm scolding you for your choices. I really don't mean to be doing that.

I just know that I like your writing---your Hit & Run one-liners killed, and you tell some great stories in your Advocate pieces---and I want to see that power used for good.

(Also, maybe I'm projecting. I'd like to write for Reason myself, and it is the kind of writing I'd like to do, but I am sadly lacking in several important skills, such as writing, researching, and reporting.)

Anyway, sorry for the fuss. Good luck finding a place where you belong.

10:23 PM  
Blogger Jennifer Abel said...

That's sort of what I meant, in that you don't seem want to do "serious, in-depth analysis" directly about libertarian ideas.

With rare exceptions, I don't want to do "serious" analysis about anything. Funny in-depth analysis is what I have a special talent for; I had much fun writing the TSA/"Face Crimes" piece. And generally speaking, my funny stories did, I think, a MUCH better job of selling ideas than did the pieces I had to write in a serious tone for some reason or other.

I'm perfectly capable of researching and writing a serious piece explaining why Connecticut's poker laws are dumb. But that's not as much fun to read OR write as a piece grilling government officials about how the state draws legal distinctions 'twixt friends and strangers for poker-playing purposes.

There's got to be somebody who wants serious news written humorously. I just need to find them.

11:13 PM  
Blogger Jennifer Abel said...

I'm trying to encourage you, but even to myself I keep sounding like I'm scolding you for your choices. I really don't mean to be doing that.

No, I'm not taking it that way at all. For all I know my choices are catastrophically stupid. But I am not yet ready to give up hope of writing what I really want to write. And the readers liked it; it's not as though "everybody says my stuff is boring but I insist on doing it anyway."

I don't know of any openly libertarian publications that publish humor. Too bad; that would be perfect for us both.

11:29 PM  
Blogger rhhardin said...

Most people just take a job and go from there.

New environment, new interests, new possibilities.

9:03 AM  
Anonymous A Moose said...

I don't know of any openly libertarian publications that publish humor.

Of course the MBA in me thinks "Opportunity!" in reading that. JEnnifer's WEekLy Rant for Young-at-heart libertarians, or JEWELRY for short (ok, so I had to work for the "y", cut me some slack here).

11:54 AM  

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