As of the beginning of July I have been unemployed for 18 months. In more recent times I have temporarily abandoned social media and my art/writing projects so as to put even my leisure time into activities that will help me find a job. So this is just a check-in to let you all know that I am still alive and also to share a few funny stories.
I will start with more of a surprise than a funny story. A few months back I found myself sitting in a waiting room for a job interview. It was a trainee position (which says a lot about my desperation). What was really intriguing was the other applicants – they were mostly older people like me who were in their 50s. When I started chatting with them (if you know me then you know that I am sociable) I was surprised to discover their pedigree. One was a pure mathematician. Another was a Senior Network Engineer. Another a banker. And another the former head of a string of businesses. Yet all were unemployed now and having difficulty finding work. That amazed me. This confirms in my mind what a few agencies have told me – employers don’t like older workers in Australia.
Anyway, on to the funny (and sometimes frustrating) stories.
Keeping abreast of things
The most embarrassing interview that I attended was in an older part of town, slightly outside the CBD. I found myself sitting on one side of a table with two extremely serious individuals facing me. We were on about the seventh floor and behind them was a large window which looked onto a neighbouring hotel. All of a sudden a woman stepped out of her hotel room and onto the balcony. She had a mobile phone in one hand and was doing that instantly recognisable thing of trying to get a signal on the phone. So what is embarrassing about that? Well, she was topless and very good looking. And there I was trying to answer technical questions with that view right behind the two solemn men interviewing me. I think that I managed to hide my surprise and continue answering, but the moment she stepped back into her room I asked if the window blinds might be shut due to the “brightness” outside. LOL.
In the end I did not get the job. I suspect that I was overqualified, but who really knows.
For one interview I was asked to meet at a local landmark where, for security reasons, someone would collect me for the interview. I got there half-an-hour early and was surprised to discover that this was a local meeting spot. Quite a few people were standing around waiting for others. A few people asked me my name. No, I was not Michael, John, Dr Rogerson, George, Professor Smith, etc. I asked a few of them their names. None of them were Missy (not really name). Time ticked away. With five minutes to go before the interview was supposed to start I phoned the contact number. When the contact answered I immediately recognised the voice: it was the young lady with the foreign accent who had asked me whether I was George. She demanded where I was. I said that I had been waiting at the meeting spot for half an hour. So she marched out and up to me and, in an irritated voice, said “I asked you whether you were George and you said no!”
“I’m not George,” I replied. “I’m Greg.’
‘No. You George.”
“I assure you that I am Greg.”
“Well how do you spell your name.”
“G. R. E. G.”
“That spells George.”
‘No it spells Greg. Greg!”
I mean, I know how to spell my own name and this lady was debating it with me! I was astonished. So eventually we agree to disagree and she takes me inside the building to the interview room. By the time I get there I am around 10-15 minutes late. The panel convener looks down her nose at me and informs me that as I have arrived late my interview will have to be shortened because they cannot afford to be behind time. Huh! It was their fault! However I knew that arguing the point would not get me the job, so I placidly accepted the unfairness of the situation. From that point on the convener cut short every response I made to the interview questions. My heart sank. I knew that I was not getting the job, even though I knew that I could have done it.
Anyone got a good joke they want to share?
For one job I had to perform an intelligence-style test in a hall with about 200 other people. The organisers had slipped up somewhere and after we were seated we were informed that we had to wait. In the meanwhile, the HR representative informed us, let’s share some jokes. Huh? So he starts walking around the room asking people whether they had any jokes to share. I wondered whether this was some sort of test in itself. Anyway, I was not prepared to volunteer any humour in case it ruined my chances – after all, the job was not one known for providing entertainment – not even for engaging customers. Everyone else must have been thinking the same because no one said a word. The HR guy eventually told a few lame ones himself before someone “volunteered” a bloke in the second row. This bloke looked incredibly uncomfortable when the microphone was shoved in his face, but he gave it a go. I suspect that was a bad call on his part. With a shaky voice he says “I thought that I had married Mrs Right. It turned out her first name was Always.”
The silence was deafening.
–> Insert the sound of crickets <–
At that point the HR dude ceased trying to engage us in humour.
The fastest way there
Obviously tests are becoming a more common way of identifying potential employees. I say this because I have attended almost 10 tests during my job search. Some have been written. Some have been on computers. Some have been role plays – yes, role plays. This story comes from a written test.
So I am seated in another hall with another 200 strangers. The test is multiple choice. It is intended to test our logic (supposedly). There are three sample questions that they would like us to complete so as to demonstrate that we understand how multiple choice tests operate. OK. Hmmm. Does this mean that they sometimes get people who don’t understand the concept of multiple choice?
Anyway, we start three sample questions. I am finished within a minute. They were really, really easy… or so I thought.
The examiner reads out the answers and asks anyone who got an answer wrong to lift their hands. Hands are lifted. I am gob-smacked.
The question that got so many mistakes goes something like this:
You have to get to Kogarah station by 10:15 am. You arrive at Hurstville station at 10:00 am and you know that the train trip takes 10 minutes. Which train do you catch?
a) 9:54 am
b) 10:03 am
c) 10:07 am
d) 10:12 am
Well, several people argued that the best train to catch was the 9:54 am. Perhaps it was, but the “you” in the question did not reach the departure station until 10:00 and hence catching the 9:54 am train was impossible. Nevertheless almost ten minutes was spent in the pre-exam discussion arguing whether or not someone would have arrived earlier at the station so as to catch the 9:54 am train. People would just not let it go. Astonishing. By the way, the correct answer was obviously 10:03 am.
What a pane!
I’ve left this one til last because you won’t believe it. You will truly imagine that I am making this up or that it is a lame joke. I assure you that this is 100% true and that it happened to me.
Now you need to understand that I have sent my resume (curriculum vitae) far and wide to many, many employment agencies. These all tell my prowess with computers, my time spent as a systems admin, as a DBA, a programmer, etc. So one of these agencies contacts me and says that she has a role that she would like me to interview for. OK. The job is working as a business opportunity analyst for a glass company.
Hmmm. Strange. Not IT. But then I do have a Masters degree in business. Maybe the employer sees my potential.
So I drive the 30 minutes to the agency office where they tell me that the client is just a few minutes away. Cool.
Minutes later I am seated in a comfortable chair in front of the manager for the glass company. He seems a friendly type of person. This makes me happy.
First question: “So tell me about your experience with glass and windows. I’ve been told that you are quite the expert and I am looking for someone who can increase our sales.”
Huh? Realisation dawns.
“Actually,” I reply. “I am an IT Professional and my experience is with MS Windows, as in Windows 10 and so on.”
Well, the look he gives me is priceless. “Windows as in computer Windows?”
“That’s not what I am looking for.”
“I guess that you didn’t read my resume.”
“No. I totally relied upon the agency.”
“Well, as they probably say in your industry, what a pane.”
OK. I admit that I felt safe to joke then. After all, there was no way I was getting that job.
So I headed back to the agency and confronted the agent. She looked shocked. “But they said they wanted a glass and windows expert and you have windows on your resume.”
“yes,” I replied. “Under the sub-title of computer operating systems that I can administer and support.”
“It’s still windows,” she replies.
Obviously there is no hope for some people. And yet she has a job while I don’t.
OK. I hope that these stories brought at least one chuckle. My plan now is to write some programming articles for this blog so that I can use it to demonstrate my knowledge in the hope that it brings me work. I will return to my normal mixture of art and writing and reviews once I get work.
PS: the image is from the inside of the Doge’s Palace in Venice.