Trying to Join the Workforce

Susie has been back in residence with me since Memorial Day.  She has been devoting many of her hours to writing, and just as many (if not more) to trying to find work.  She has done this both the 21st-century way (by going to and the Websites of different businesses here in Columbus), and the old-fashioned way, by seeing HELP WANTED signs in business windows, and walking in to apply.

I have been forthright with her–looking for work is neither easy nor fun.  She is also aware, both from my telling her about it and now from experience, that just because you have applied somewhere, and conscientiously dotted every i and crossed every t when completing the information does not mean you will get called for an interview.  One major change is that at least she gets an acknowledgement email, even if it automated.  In my work-hunting days, pre-Internet, many employers would take the application and that would be the last contact you would have.

Susie did have a job for 1½ days about two weeks ago.  She was hired at a fast-food cheesesteak restaurant on N. High St., near the OSU campus, and she described the hiring situation as being a “minimum wage Hunger Games.”  They hired her and another person, and would watch them work for about a week, and then hire whoever did the better job.  Human resources meets the Colosseum, I suppose.

After Susie, because of her lack of experience and the tendency to become easily frustrated (which I admit she inherited from me), caused a logjam during the lunchtime rush, so the manager told her she was fired and gave her her wages for her brief illustrious career–about $50–in cash.

She took it in stride.  I am thinking the situation would have been even more intense had this been when OSU was in session.  (Summer school began Monday, but there are nowhere near as many students as there are the rest of the year.)

I wish I knew if Susie would consider this a last resort job or a first choice.

I wish I knew if Susie would consider this a last resort job or a first choice.

Susie picked herself up, dusted herself off, and started all over again.  This afternoon, she interviewed for a sales job at Macy’s out at Easton Town Center.  It’s a long bus ride, but Susie took the initiative to make a “dry run” yesterday to familiarize himself with the place, so she would not be late because of being lost.  (I have never shopped at Macy’s.  Indeed, I have never understood people who shop for recreation.  I do remember Macy’s in its previous incarnations in Cincinnati.  At one time or another when I lived there it was Shillito Rike’s, then Lazarus, and then Macy’s.)

And she has another interview for a desk clerk job at the Renaissance Hotel downtown tomorrow morning.  She had applied for a different job there, but she was not eligible for this job because it involved handling liquor.  But, they’re hiring desk clerks, so her interviewer passed the word along.

The only place I have expressly forbidden Susie to apply is at a convenience store.  (Since they sell alcohol and cigarettes, I am not sure she could work at one until she turns 21, but it seems like every time I turn on the news I hear that one has been robbed.  In Cincinnati, we called them “stop and robs,” since too many people seemed to think they turned into ATMs after dark.)

I also hope she can bypass temporary agencies altogether.  I bounced around several of them in Boston, Cincinnati, and Columbus, and my experiences were not good ones.  Last year, I posted on to ask if the temp agency experience had improved in the 20+ years since I last worked at one, and the answer was no.  If anything, it seems to have worsened.

The worst experience I had with a temp agency was in Columbus in 1986.  I was close to broke, and barely able to afford a tiny room at the YMCA, so I needed work desperately.  I had no phone in my room (this was at least a decade pre-cell phone), and called the agency every morning asking if they had an assignment for me.  As someone with typesetting and proofreading experience, along with a typing speed above 70 words per minute, I thought they would beat a path to my door.

I answered ads in The Columbus Dispatch which promised “hired today, work tomorrow,” and that the sky was the limit for earning power.  On one day, when I made my daily call, the woman told me they had a job for me, they were waiting to hear back from the employer.  Could I call later?

Three phone calls later, they still had not heard from the potential employer.  Could I try again later in the day?  The woman on the phone became very angry when I began singing, “It seems to me I’ve heard that song before.”

My job placement counselor was a woman whose existence I still question, other than on a business card.  Every time I called, she was either on another line, out of the office, at lunch, taking a vacation day, or in a meeting.

Susie peppered Easton Town Center businesses with applications. Instead of applying at each business individually, one can apply for jobs at all its businesses at one site.  I am pleasantly surprised they would have the foresight to streamline the process like that.

I don’t know how long her hiatus from education will last.  I have told her (as has Steph) that I would rather she forego college altogether than take out loans.  College loans are the modern equivalent of the sword of Damocles.

As of November 1994, I have been employed without any gaps, which means that I have mostly missed the wonderful world of searching for work online.  I have read mixed reviews about sites like, and I have heard that Craigslist ads are very seldom legitimate.  I usually sat down with the classified section of my local newspaper, pen in hand, ready to circle anything that struck my fancy or for which I felt I was qualified.  Then I would mail out a résumé or call the number, and wait.  And wait.  I can remember when the Sunday classified page was one or two very thick sections of the newspaper, and now it rarely takes up more a column or two.

This time is Susie’s entrance into the working world.  I know that, except for some small under-the-table jobs in Marietta the year after I graduated from high school, work was hard to find in 1981.  Ohio was 49th in employment (second to Michigan) at that time.  I did not work until I ended up in Boston in the fall of 1982.  Within a week, I was washing dishes at a deli in Coolidge Corner, the hub of Brookline, in the shadow of the S.S. Pierce Building and the birthplace of JFK.  (That job lasted about 10 days, when I was hired as a typesetter for The Harvard Crimson.)

I am trying to keep a line from Gibran’s The Prophet in mind: “Work is love made visible.”