Taking Risks—Hump Day: Mid-week Musings

August 19, 2010 at 12:01 am (Hump Day: Mid-week Musings)

Now and then, I talk here about my job hunting ventures in this awful economic situation as well as the strangeness of the process. It has certainly been an adjustment to be job hunting at my age in a world that is so different from the way it was when I was leaving college and entering the work world. The arena of job searching is, in my opinion, one area where the increased reliance on technology has not helped us at all. It has, I think, taken a process that, by nature, needs to be as personal and interactive as possible and transformed it into the most impersonal, randomized, dull-witted, and banal activity it can be. It is so void of anything resembling interaction that one wonders how any person actually gets an interview or gets hired. There is only one thing about the new way of things that is good: volume. 

When there are actually several jobs to apply for, a person can apply for a large number in a relatively short amount of time and with a fair degree of efficiency—at least, in regard to completing the process. What happens in the ether is anyone’s guess. Whether a person ever looks at or reads our applications is a mystery. But, if the jobs are there to apply for, a massive amount of applications can be done in one day. For example, in the past week and a half, I have applied for approximately 35 jobs. A vast number of these were the any-old-retail-job-will-do kinds of jobs. But there were several of them for a change. This past week, however, it was not only quantity that was different; there was a difference in quality as well. 

There were actually three postings for Executive Director positions with three different non-profits in our area. I nearly fell over from shock. Well, truth is, I have applied for so many jobs for which I am over-qualified, for so long, that I almost missed these. Like my brain had trouble recognizing what I was seeing—kind of like what happens when you have been in a very dark room and walk out into the sun. These things stung my eyes at first, and I had to adjust. Then, because I had not seen a posting for a professional job in so long, I had to remember that I was one of those candidates. It was a lot like when I woke up after surgery and everyone was asking me what my name was. I had to stop and think for a moment. And, then, I had to say it a few times before it sounded right. Once I remembered who I was and the kind of jobs I am actually capable of and want, I applied for all three. 

Applying for these jobs, stepping even partially back into the light of my previous professional achievements and standards, was risky. But, reaching deep within to pull out that old and dusty leather coat of confidence and studded belt of self-awareness was not the real risk I took this past week. No, indeed. I went one further. I wore the metaphoric coat, so to speak.

One of these executive positions was posted by a non-profit clever enough to make use of the techno-application age to begin weeding out the gross multitude of applications they had the good sense to know they would get in this economic climate. They created a questionnaire, put it in a pdf file, and required the completed product be sent, by email, with a resume, list of references and an actual cover letter. I had to like these guys. I could not help but wonder how many applicants freaked over the cover letter due to lack of practice. I’m old school, however. Not a drop of worried sweat even formed on my little brow. Nor did I freak over the questionnaire. I am a writer—of sorts, anyway. I tore through that thing, handling with ease and renewed confidence the topics regarding experience working volunteers, working with Boards, managing budgets, management style and philosophies. I was in my element. Until I hit the last question. Then, I felt a little queasy. 

I did what I always do when I am thrown. I did what any real butch does when uncertain about the next move. I called my girlfriend. And, I ended up taking her advice. 

The last question was one of those canned interview questions for which everyone prepares a canned answer. And, as a previous business owner and a person who has been interviewing a long time, I asked at least one of those questions on purpose and for one reason only: to see if I got a canned answer or a real, honest response. These kinds of questions always have some other value; they do get at some basic stuff you want to know. But, their main purpose is to weed out the bullshit. It was the trick question. They wanted to know about a situation in a previous job that was irritating, why it was irritating,  and how we responded to it. Not that hard in itself. Except, it’s the trick question. And, given the probable volume of applicants, it is important to be sure you stand out from the masses. This was the question to nail, to hit it square on the head the first swing—it was the only swing I was going to get. 

My girlfriend’s response. “Be honest. Tell the truth. What have you got to lose at this point?” What, indeed. [This is one reason why I love her. She values honesty and integrity as much as I do. But she also loves to shake things up. Rock the boat a bit. Live close to the bone. Got to love her.] 

Given that all jobs have their frustrations and bad days, and I am a realist, there are only two things in my employment history that were really what I would call irritating. One was the massive mess that the mental health system has become due to lack of theoretical and practical cohesiveness and consistency, as well as inappropriate oversight. The other was the recent troubles I had with one particular demographic group and their response to my appearance. Everything else was just random daily shit that any professional accepts, handles and moves on in response to. Clearly, referring to the first would be a bad move. It would imply an inability to work within systems and accept things as they are. The second one…well…I am sure you can see the risks involved there. But, Di made a wonderful point I had not considered. If I bring it up first, if I put the whole androgyny thing on the table, there is no surprise when they see me. And, having the honesty and the guts to talk openly about it might be the thing that makes them bring me in for the actual interview in person, not on paper.

So, I took her advice. I answered by explaining the hell I went through with this particular client base:  affluent, retired, Southern folks. I talked openly about being called “sir” after I had introduced myself repeatedly. I discussed having to endure actually being asked what I was. I told them about my staff having to listen to statements such as “that thing that is your manager.” And, I talked openly about what it was like to face that every day after several years of relative reprieve found in my previous profession. I also discussed how I have developed a way of being and moving in the world that is open, accessible, light and engaging with people—a way of being that greets them first, lets them hear my voice, clears up any confusion and invites them in without being overly friendly or intrusive. I simply am with people. And, as a result, people are put at ease without ever having to acknowledge that there was a moment when they were not. I have learned to let others see me, to be light-hearted, and engaging.

Over the years, and with the exception of circumstances where interaction is not possible or is not appropriate—such as public restrooms, malls, gas stations, etc.—I have rarely had problems with people. Until, that is, I was working, daily, with this particular group of people. Many were very nice. Many did not cause problems. And, many of the people I saw each day, responded to me in ways I am used to; they liked me. But, every day, there were several who made it hell for all of us. They wore their frustration that I had confused them like a bad dress. I was open about all of this in my answer on the questionnaire. And, I was honest about my response to the whole thing. 

I told them that I resigned my position after having done everything I knew to do. And, I told them why. This is the part of my answer that I felt was most important because it speaks to who I am, how I see things, and my basic values. I resigned because the situation was not fair to me or to my team. There was nothing I could do to make it better for any of us. I could not, and would not, change who I am. It was affecting our performance numbers. It was not fair for them to suffer my situation with me. In my answer, I also pointed out what I believe to be a basic truth. In the business world, we are almost brainwashed to believe that there is a solution to every problem, that there is always a win-win if we look for it. The truth is that this is not true. Some things cannot be solved or prevented. When that happens, the only thing we can do is seek to determine what is the next right thing and do it. The next right thing is always the thing that, both, serves the greater good and comes the closest to fulfilling the original goal, whatever that is. I stated these things in my answer. 

The risk has been taken. The truth has been told. In many ways. Perhaps, the trials of the past three years in this awful job market and the dwindling of my resources, have transformed me in some way. Perhaps, all that has so beaten me down and demoralized me has somehow pulled me back to my own center. Perhaps, after retreating as far as they could, my balls are finally descending again. [Wait, that sounds like a different post…] I don’t know. I do know this: this is the scariest time in my life.

My savings are gone. The crap jobs I have had caused such a drop in income that I have spent my savings to keep my house and pay my bills. I have had major issues with my health and nearly died before I got treated for the right thing and started getting better. Then, I had to face the cancer. I have reunited with the woman I have loved for a long, long time and was concerned at times we would not find a way to stay with each other and make it all work. Yet, we have. And, somehow in the midst of my greatest fears, I am finding that my sense of self keeps growing, despite the blows to its weathered housing. And, I am finding courage persists when I feel as if I have run out. I am finding that I am worth a little risk taking. I am remembering who I am, learning more about myself, and remembering that taking risks and putting myself on the line are the ways that I achieved all the things I have in the past. I am rediscovering the warrior I have always been. At heart, my hair is long; my shield is made of many inner aspects; my sword is sharp and heavy. I am taking risks again. Maybe, I am remembering when to raise my shield and when to wield my weapons. Risking has given me more in my life than playing it safe ever has. I am hoping it will again. 

NOTE:  This work is published here as proprietary and may not be reproduced, distributed, sold, or otherwise utilized outside the posting on this site without the express permission of the author; these works are the sole property of the author writing as Androgynonamous or DreadPirateRobert.

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8 Comments

  1. Blazer said,

    I have to say that I am amazed that a person with your education, talent and experience has had such a difficult time finding proper employment. We have talked about this many times and it is not like you haven’t done everything possible. We have talked about how the business community has ceased to value experience and dismisses those of us a bit long in the tooth. You are correct, the electronic age has taken the humanity out of the recruiting and hiring process for the most part.

    I think it is a good sign that in amongst the entry level jobs listed you found 3 exciting prospects and I am certainly glad that you noticed them, even if it was at second or third glance. Hopefully this is an indication that job market is taking a positive turn.

    I am glad you took Scin’s advice. Not only will she be easier to live with (no I told you so conversations later) but I think she is right. I believe that you will be able to go into your eventual interview with added confidence knowing that you have been fully honest and having less apprehension regarding that initial response to your gender presentation.

    I will continue to cross, spin and spit until you are securely in a job that is worthy of all of the talents you offer.

    • androgynonamous said,

      I will tell you, my friend, I do not know what I would do without access to your insight and your willingness to undulge my little superstitions–the ritual is so important, as you know! Seriously, I do so value your opinion, your perspective and your wisdom. And, I can only hope I have been effective in my efforts to make you aware of how much your support and friendship mean to me. [keep an eye out for an upcoming post…] I hope you are right. I hope we all are.
      Mostly, that you believe in me and encourage me is no small thing–the value of these is immeasurable. LYB. And, will keep you posted.

  2. scintillectual said,

    Blazer!!! Easier to live with??? You are SO in the doghouse! Banished! Yeesh.

    Darling,
    Whatever may come or not come of this, I’m glad you took my advice and traveled the road rarely taken. As a manager myself, I get sick and tired of canned answers and feel that, at the very least, they could appreciate directness and honesty. Perhaps they will not be able to handle it. Hopefully, the phone is ringing as I write this. In any event, what you did took courage, as does what you do every day you get up and keep on going when I’d rather just stick my head under the covers and let life pass by unnoticed.

    So proud of you.
    Always and in all ways,
    your Scin

    • androgynonamous said,

      Love of my often difficult, but always interesting life,
      Thank you so much for your support. And, your encouragement. I love you and I am proud of you too–for so many things. I am ever yours, as you know…
      Li

  3. Jolie said,

    I have to say…

    I have tremendous admiration for your courage, for your honesty, and for your approach. To both this application, and to your life in general. My fingers are crossed for you, that you get every positive outcome you’re searching for.

    I love the story of you and Scin, and I love that the two of you so obviously work together,

    Beyond that mushiness, I really just enjoy your writing.

    • androgynonamous said,

      I don’t know what to say…
      This is, truly, one of the kindest and uplifting comments I have gotten. I am grateful that you like my writing and appreciate your readership. [BTW: the mushiness is kind of new thing–particular to Scin and me. I still find it hard to get used to at times, but I think I can live with it…it feels good for a change to really love and be loved.] I also appreciate that you get the story of me and Scin–I think it is a beautiful story, even when it is troubled with real life stuff. But, I am biased, I’m sure. *smile* I cannot thank you enough for your compassion and well-wishes. I hope to hear more from you and will be checking out your site. I also hope the best for you and look forward to you dropping in here now and then. Peace to you…

  4. FemmeFairyGodmother said,

    All I can say is this: those people are fools if they don’t interview you. And hire you. Good luck! And also, I know you’ve looked in a number of places for jobs but have you looked at any queer sites? Like … oh,hell. I can’t remember. Email me so that I have your email address and I will send you things as I get them. Even if they are not in the area, it will give you more resources for looking for things.

    • androgynonamous said,

      Sweetie,
      Thanks so much!! Your support means a great deal to me…and to your BFF. You are the best and I am lucky to have you in my corner. [BTW: loved the recent wordsmithing post!! So appreciate your intellect…but you know that, I’m sure. And, “irregardless” chaps my ass!!!] I’ll be emailing you in a bit…I would so appreciate the help, especially the queer sites. Take care, love

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