Saturday, August 31, 2013

Blown Jobs

I work for a very large company. Well, maybe it isn’t so much a “company” as an “organization.” OK, “organization” may be somewhat of a misnomer because it isn’t, well, terribly organized. But I believe I once saw a statistic quoted in a press release implying that the cluster of people paid by the same entity as I am are technically coworkers in a behemoth so behemothish it very well may be the largest employer in not only my city, but perhaps the entire universe. There are so many people employed by this nebulous group that pretty much everybody in a certain echelon of society (hint: not THAT echelon, look lower) has their bank account replenished every 15th and 30th of the month in the same way I do. I will not identify for whom I work, but you can easily find out by asking either the NSA or Russian government.

I provide this information as a context for you to understand that the powers that be or not to be have literally google number of people from whom to choose when assigning people to actual jobs. And these jobs are usually union-driven, with discrete tasks simultaneously so specific and vague, that I fear my cat may one day become my supervisor. Yes, I now have a cat. Long story.

So, for those of you who work in smaller companies, where managers and supervisors and the like struggle with hiring employees with the right “skill set” to “fit” the “job,” take heart. It isn’t rocket science. Does the job applicant have somewhat of a pulse? Perhaps a pulse that is supplemented by Beta-blockers or a pacemaker? Even better. Then viola! You have yourself the perfect employee for the job. No matter what the job is.

Where I work, employees are chosen for their positions not by any particular qualifications, but by where they appear on a list of names. The list isn’t by actual experience in the field, alphabetical or, clearly, by SAT score. I believe the list is compiled in a way IO professionals refer to as the “throw darts at a dart board” method. By the way, I purposely did not spell out the acronym for IO (sorry, AP Manual of Style), to give you a flavor of what it is like to work in a faceless bureaucracy. It is fitting that my name begins with a “K,” just like Kafka’s Joseph K.

The way you find out you have been selected to be interviewed for a position is you receive both spammish (postal) mail and phone calls offering you the opportunity to vie for a position. Neither the mail nor caller provide any details whatsoever about the position, aside from the union-generated title and legally vetted tasks. Apparently being a Ph.D. in a completely sedentary job requires no more than 50 pounds of lifting. I guess I am in violation every time I heave myself out of my chair.

Just a head’s up for those of you in the job market. The more words and syllables to the job title, the fewer qualifications you need. I always suspected this, but had my suspicions confirmed recently when a slew of “fashionably dressed” people paraded down the hallway, presumably being considered for a job title with at least 65 qualifiers, but ending with the word “clerk.” My only knowledge of “clerks” prior to this had been Supreme Court law clerks and differently “fashionably dressed” clerks at Tower Records. None of these applicants fit into either category, adding to my confusion.

So once you have been placed on the “list,” sometime within one day and 40 years later you may receive the aforementioned letter and phone call. The letter, I suspect, is sent to literally millions of people, or at least that was probably the case before the company ran through its stash of “Forever” stamps.

The call, however, may be reserved for only the top 10,000 on the list. Often, you are already working for the company, but on the list for a promotion or just to get the hell away from your current boss. In case you are waiting for “the call,” I will give you a sneak peek: At the most professionally inopportune moment, a blocked number pops up on your phone. You assume it is either your child’s school or that your home is being foreclosed on. You pick up the call, imagining all sorts of horrible possibilities. And the horror on the other end of the phone is even worse than what you imagined. A monotone muttered in an accent indicating that English is not even in the top 10 languages this employee has encountered. Usually in an accent also indicating this person recently relocated from a part of the world where horrific human rights abuses are reported to occur. You immediately fear for their safety, but then realize they are explaining they work for your company and may very well be calling from down the hall, at which time you fear for your own safety.  While your cortisol is soaring, you are being repeatedly, relentlessly, monotonously asked if you want the interview time being offered, despite the fact that it clearly conflicts with the actual job you currently have, and would show an enormous lack of professionalism to leave your work at the designated time. Is this a trick to test your work ethic? Or is it really a means to recruit you as a spy for a hostile government, where your accent would be considered “hard to understand”? Your efforts to glean more information about the job are stymied by the caller’s lack of communication skills. Aha! Part of their nefarious plan! You will be lured into a “To Catch a Predator” type scenario for monolingual, career-driven people!

The applicants who don't find themselves outed on MSNBC’s “Lockdown” eventually find themselves with a plastic badge and dozens of keys. The IDs are color coded, and get you a 10 percent discount at Subway, but don’t seem to make much of a difference in terms of job expectations. Again, the pub dartboard apparently had its role at a managerial liquid lunch, because in addition to the non-communicative phone callers, I have encountered a blind chartroom employee and a wheelchair-bound amputee grounds keeper. The latter, I might add, I almost mowed down in the parking lot because he was inexplicably wheeled smack dab in the middle of the lot, smoking a cigarette.

Clearly, there is a method to this madness because many, many, many people apparently make their way to the mysterious “interviews” and are “hired” for “jobs,” because there are plenty of people milling around the circa 1986 Xerox and fax machines in the various industrial complexes throughout the greater metropolitan area. And most of them drive nicer cars than I do.