Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cattle Call

National Grid held a Job Fair on Monday, 2-6pm. I worked for their predecessor years ago, when I was fresh out of secretarial school. It was a wonderful company then, and still is; it's one of the biggest employers in these parts.

I was undecided about this, as I knew it would be more of a Cattle Call than a Job Fair. Our region reeled from job eliminations well before the current recession, and there are at least 100 applicants for each job. I figured there would be 300 people, at least, hoping for a shot. However, I tarted-up my resume and cleaned my "nice shoes."

I became No. 60 in line at 1:30pm. The National Grid building is an outstanding example of Art Deco architecture, that I didn't really appreciate way back when, when I worked in the mailroom. We started into the building at 1:50pm -- by then the line stretched around the block.

Through security, register, obtain application, go through to the auditorium which wasn't there during my tenure. This was formerly the bill payment area, and they had left the Art Deco signage. Tiny auditorium swing-up writing platform and lots of paperwork. I juggled my papers and signed okay to everything -- background check, credit check, drug test, cavity search, what the heck? Waited in line to hand in everything, and sat down again until my name was called by HR.

I had an opportunity to see the grim statistics of the recession. There weren't 300 people total -- there were 300 in the auditorium and it was only 2:30pm. Applicants were all ages, but predominantly female. One young couple brought their six-month old baby with them. I had never had to block out the sound of a crying infant before while I filled out a job app. I was overwhelmed, and a bit discouraged -- why even try? But then, I decided that this was my surreal life and to just go with it and enjoy the ride.

An HR woman called my name and led me to a table and chairs set up in the lobby, where I could see the wall of people waiting to check through security. HR asked me about my prior experience with the firm. She asked if I knew the job was at the call center -- and did I care? (Heck no.) She selected me for testing, smiled, shook my hand, and told me to "try to stand out." So I made the first cut!

I exited the building two hours after I had entered, and the line stretched around the block.

Second Chance?

Saw a job advertised for R Company in Sunday's paper. I applied for a job at R Company over five years ago, and had a great first interview. I had just accepted a different job when R Company called me for the second interview. I sent my new and improved resume to R Company on Monday. I have an unusal last name, so the HR manager might remember me. If so, will I be remembered as the one that got away, or will they pout like a jilted lover?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Craig's List

I heard Craig's List is a good job source, so I started checking it each morning. One of the first office jobs listed wanted a woman "who is not afraid to wear lingerie and scanty clothes. Spike heels a must." I called my cousin, Carol, who is 59 and a retired executive assistant, but has the body of a 20-something. "Oooh, Carol, this one is for you! Print it out and put it on the fridge so you can show Pete (spouse) you're serious about finding a job."

I did see a job I really wanted -- in my town, basic office/data entry duties, perfect hours. I recognised the listing company as a temp firm through which a friend had found employment. That's okay, as I worked as a temp once before, with good results. All I wanted was a shot at that job. The agency wanted me to come down THAT VERY DAY for an interview!

At the reception desk I was given a ream of paperwork to complete, including complete work history, okay to computer testing, okay to a background check, okay to pee in a bottle, references, and on and on. Apparently I was signing-up with the agency. By this time I had a bad feeling about the whole affair, but all I wanted was a shot at that job.

Paperwork completed, I sat for computer testing. I pretty much sucked at Word, but was confident of my data entry and keyboarding speed tests. Then I suffered through a presentation about the firm and how wonderful it was and how much, how very much, it cared for its employees. One segment spoke of correct ergonomics at work. Interesting, as the computer test I just took was about as ergonomically unfriendly as possible.

An hour later, I finally met with interviewer Cheryl. Cheryl said my Word abilities are average (you're kidding) and my data entry and keyboarding are "good." Gee, thanks. I tackled the age thing immediately -- can I get a job at my age? She replied that "you certainly don't look your age." Shove it. "There are 100 applicants for every job now, so anyone who isn't with an agency is at a disadvantage." Scare tactic. I could tell she was interested in temping me out, but not with the listed job. I realized I was in a bait-and-switch operation. I pressed her about the desired job, which would be perfect for the company and me. Cheryl said that particular firm requires any applicants score "correctly" on a personality test; she reluctantly agreed to email the test.

The Taylor Protocols consist of about 40 blocks of four words each. The subject selects which word from each block that most closely describes them, spending so longer than five seconds on each block. The whole test took less than three minutes and generated five pages of evaluation of my personality -- including graphs! I am a Banker/Innovator! (Does that mean I know how to cook the books?)

Cheryl emailed me that, so sorry, the company only interviews Banker/Builders. Feck me! My husband asked why they didn't want Banker/Candlestick Maker.

That was the last I heard from the temp agency. I now notice quite a lot of Craig's List jobs are from agencies, probably on fishing expeditions. I've been hooked once and that's enough.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Sniffer 1 and Sniffer 2

Took the Typist I civil service test this morning. I reviewed for it until I couldn't stand thinking about it another second. The test was administered at our local community college, in their auditorium. No personal seat selection allowed; we were slotted one desk apart and the space was very tight. My teeny weeny fold-away desktop was barely letter paper size. Was it like this when I went to college in the '80's? Here's a horrible thought -- I've gotten bigger -- yew. At least I did fit into the seat and didn't have to ask for a Big Person/Handicapped Seat in the back. I juggled the admission form, survey sheet, scratch paper, answer page, and testing book. I was glad I chose my smallest calculator, as the regular one I use would have taken up most of the desktop. It was pretty claustrophobic.

Dr. Seuss has nothing on me, as I was placed between Sniffer 1 and Sniffer 2. They couldn't get into sync, as Sniffer 2 was occasional and Sniffer 1 was every minute. Perhaps this was a signal between them -- the updated Old North Church --"one sniff if by answer a, two sniffs if by answer b."

As with the Clerk test three weeks ago, I filled out the voluntary purple survey form, noting I was White and Female, just like 99% of the others today. Last time it was 100%.

Here's a survey question: why even test spelling any more? SpellCheck has cleared out much-needed space in my brain once reserved for spelling memory. I'm sure I took all of my hits on the spelling portion, as the rest of the test was common sense and attention to detail.

I finished an hour and ten minutes into the three hours allotted, and almost everyone else had already turned in their papers. It's all computer scored, but the results still take four weeks.

Outside once again, taking great breaths of clean air, trying to get my nasal passages to forget the bug spray some babe doused herself with. Claustrophobia, nasty cheap perfume, sniffling -- this civil service test was a true test -- of concentration.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Math Work Problems

I'm preparing for another civil service test this Saturday. This test does not have grammar, but does have math problems. These are generally straightforward addition, subtraction, etc., but also contain another of my nemesis -- work problems. "If six men can build three houses in six months, how many men will it take to build five houses in three months?" Fortunately, my practice books have the solving formulas.

On the other hand, these problems do not reflect the real world. Are the men union? If so, add on an extra week or two, and do you count the phantom workers? Are cigarette breaks factored-in; how about Monday morning hangovers? And regarding clerical problems -- if one secretary can type 20 pages a day, how long will it take if she has a new manicure?

How long will it take a person to study math problems if they don't give a feck?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

New Job?

So, I was surfing the web and came across a woman who wants to be the heaviest woman on record. She currently is a svelt 600 pounds, but needs to gain at least 600 more to win the coveted (?) Guinness title. Her food bill is $750 a week, which is more than I made, by far, at my old job. She supports her quest via her website -- where men pay to watch her eat. She doesn't even have to take her clothes off or send guys her used panties.

I wonder if men would pay to watch me eat? I do have a webcam in this laptop. I could even wear appropriate costumes -- green for St. Patrick's Day, red/white/blue for Flag Day, and some wicked pirate garb on Talk Like a Pirate Day. I don't want to challenge her for the tile -- but charging for three squares a day? I could publish recipes for any fans that want to eat along with me.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Civil Service Text Redux

It is the day before my Keyboard Specialist exam and I am as prepared as I can be. Took another grammar practice exam and did okay -- I am better with nominative and objective pronouns.

Don't know what to expect with the keyboarding questions. The only practice sections I've found deal with typewriters. Did you know that the electronic typewriter is so much better than the manual typewiter? Since my office career began in 1970, I was well able to answer questions about erasing onion skin. Anyone just a bit younger than me probably thinks onion skin only pertains to the veggie.

I'm having difficulty getting a new job because I lack Word and Excel skills, so I am apprehensive about keyboarding questions. The Keyboarding Exam is given again in June, so by that time I will have completed my Word, Excel, Access, and Powerpoint courses. Yippee! I'm employable! Oh wait -- I'm still a geezer. Damn. Worked ever since I was 16 and now I'm unemployable.