Friday, December 13, 2013

I'm Applying Myself.

I've been officially unemployed for almost four months. That opens up a lot of extra time to fill out job applications. Irony haunts me.

I've spent this week seeking a part time job close to home. Some of the experiences I've had in recent days have been rather illuminating. Submitting applications at one store in particular was the stuff of classic hiring manager forte. "How much experience do you have in stocking shelves?", queried a stocky, mustachioed man in his early forties, no fewer than seven ball point pens perched at attention in his shirt pocket in an attempt to look authoritative to several cashiers who seemed unimpressed by his collection of Bic classics. Not being one to look for an argument during an interview, I resisted the urge to mention that I've enrolled in Shelf Stocking 600 in an online UVa course. "I recently concluded a seven year stint with a local nonprofit organization", I announced to a man whose focus on his coffee makes me wonder if I should apply at Mill Mountain instead. "I was responsible for donation intakes, customer carry outs, and stocking. In fact", I drone on with the hopes of showing leadership potential with my questionable gift of gab, "due to the types of merchandise we received on a daily basis, I constantly had to improvise. And I did it without the benefit of planograms. I'm sure there isn't anything in this store which I can't stock."

That, of course, fell on deaf ears as Manager Rahn  mused about the furniture pricing at my former employer. "Are you the one who put the five-hundred dollar price tag on an old, frayed sofa covered with cat hair?" was a pretty tricky question to work around without implicating a former boss. "No, sir", I begin. "The man who priced that sofa no longer works there" I say, immediately before worrying that I'm going to sound sour if I don't correct my course. "But in all fairness he really didn't do much in the way of pricing". I feel compelled to say he didn't do much of anything, but wisely choose discretion. Rahn loves shopping at the popular nonprofit, as it turns out. I see an opportunity to lend a little support to my former employer, so I remind him that, with a small cash layout, a little creativity, and the willingness to sweat, he can produce some pretty nifty Christmas presents and/or home improvements over the holiday season. (My friends think I'm nuts because I once bought some ceiling fan blades from the store with the intent of fastening them to the wall over my bed and creating an impromptu headboard.) "Nah", winks the front man for cheap pens. "I get all my stuff from Amazon" -a damning indictment considering his role in a retail store.

The rather informal interview, which took place no further than four feet from the store's entrance, was observed by impatient customers hurrying to purchase pot holders and PoliGrip before traffic backed up on Avenham Avenue. I found myself wondering if the interview seemed like a verbal tennis match, Rahn putting spins on his questions and me counter-spinning with my responses. At some point, during the close of the process, I envisioned the manager of seven stoic employees jumping over the verbal net to congratulate me for my fine performance. I think that's why I felt mildly let down when he imparted that "we'll let you know if anything opens up". Still, for my experience it seemed like I won the first set.

I love engaging in that kind of thinking.

It applies.


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