Jobs and pasts

I went to a “job fair” today at a hardware store about two miles from here, that is actually hiring full time people.

I really don’t get why companies call things “job fairs” when its actually just doing open interviews on the spot after you’ve turned in your app, but that’s another discussion entirely.

I have a particular outfit that I wear to these… a particular nice shirt and a skirt… decently formal but not as formal as I do for a regular scheduled interview.

The first thing that surprised me right inside the door was how few people were there. Half an hour after start time, and only 6 people ahead of me… most of which were still filling out their paperwork. These things tend to be packed! One that I went to for a video store had a 2 hour wait. Another one at a restaurant chain had about half the place blocked off for it, and was standing room only.

All I can guess is that this one only gave a few days notice in the paper instead of a week or so like most of the others. A sporting goods store has one a week later that was announced earlier than this one. Or people don’t like hardware stores? I only saw one other female there in the time I was around.

But the second thing that surprised me was the people themselves that were there.

This open interview was pretty much the exact opposite of the interview for one of the seasonal jobs… where I found myself frustrated that people with good full time jobs were going after these jobs just for extra spending cash.

These men by and large were dressed much more like they were going shopping at a hardware store than wanting to work for one. T-shirts and jeans, some of which had seen much better days.

The man that was interviewing as I came in answered a question about why he’d left a particular job with “That’s when I went back to prison.”

I had to wince… and think that he’s really got to come up with a better way of phrasing that if he’s going to get hired somewhere… call it personal life issues, or forced to relocate, or something.

Another man a bit later told the interviewer that they couldn’t contact their past few employers “because they were under the table cuz I owe child support.”

I’m not even sure what you could do with that one other than spin it to show that you were now going for a legal job so that you could get back on the right foot.

Of the six interviews that I overheard while waiting, only one of the men was one that I probably would have considered had I been the interviewer.

Only two of the men answered that they had a valid drivers license, something I would have pretty much considered a given. (The store does offer a delivery option on some things for a steep fee, so it was a valid question).

The whole thing just struck me as really unusual… these aren’t the people I’m used to seeing at job events. The interviewer didn’t seem thrown off, even by the prison comment… so I sort of got the impression that it probably wasn’t too unusual to them.

But it left me with sort of a mixed feeling…

Partly hope… because it seemed like my chances on this job might be brighter than a lot of the other ones where I know I was probably easily outweighed on experience. Maybe I can find more of these sorts of job fields?

Partly grateful… freshly reminded that while I have my own issues, a lot of these guys have a lot steeper of a path to climb to overcome them than I do.

But the more time passes, the more the feeling that overtakes the situation is just sort of sad.

Do I want the ex-prison guy to be the one duplicating my house keys or delivering stuff inside my home? Probably not, and I can’t imagine most people would answer otherwise.

But then, how do we expect him to stay out of future trouble if there’s nowhere he can get a job to support himself?

With so many applicants for every position, is there going to be a job that decides that he’s the best candidate?

If I’ve been feeling this frustrated, desperate, even hopeless at times about my chances of ever getting back into steady, stable, dependable, full time and livable wage employment… and I have a high school diploma, valid legal paperwork including drivers license, and clear background check… how much bleaker does the future look for those that don’t even have that much?

And where are things going as a society as fewer and fewer are getting first shots to even try to pull themselves back up… let alone any hope for a second try if they don’t have it together enough to succeed the first time?

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