Monday, July 16, 2007

Wish Me Luck

Seven come eleven, I'm on a roll folks. Just when I thought I was sending out all those resumes for nothing, I'm getting call backs. Daily. I got one yesterday, on a Sunday even.

However, the two folks who left comments on my last post were quick to chip dents in the armor that is my self-esteem. They quickly let me know, that far from finding the humor in my situation, I should take myself far too seriously, thus guaranteeing that I'll never find a job.

The person posting as
hr office made sure to spell out clearly to me that if I don't get a good job it will always and only be my own fault. And most certainly, it would definitely have nothing to do with race. Not ever:
There's any number of reasons that you're getting passed over & I suspect it isn't the color of your skin. It's time to take serious stock & inventory.
FYI guy: I'm still in the 'sending out resumes' phase of my search, so I don't expect much in the way of discrimination yet and I've only been interviewed once so I haven't yet been passed over yet. I also suggest that you read Barbara Ehrenreich's book, Nickel and Dimed, so you can put paid to any such notions for people of any color.

But just in case there's something I missed, let's start with my resume.

My name doesn't send up any red flags so I don't have the Shaniqua/ Shaquon factor in my way (you can read more about that at this link). It took me much longer than it should have to realize that one of the reasons I get called back for nearly every job I apply for is that my full name is one people assume belongs to a white woman.

Calling my house doesn't screen me out either. I trained my daughter from an early age to answer the phone properly so there's no, "MOM-MEEE! Come and get the PHO-OWNE! She knows how to answer the phone properly and people are surprised to find out that she's my teen daughter, not an adult.

Even after speaking with me, I find, that most white interviewers register that particular brand of surprise unique to white folks when they unexpectedly come into contact with black people. It's only a look, a glance, a remark, a shuffle but it's telling and then I know what they are trying hard (and failing miserably) to hide - until the moment I showed up, they didn't realize I was black and they were glad that I wasn't.

Until suddenly I am, and then they have to compensate. I have a variety of techniques, as do all black people, that are designed to put white folks at ease. It's usually a joke, or a bit about some point of white culture - sports for men, fashion or a professional reference for women - and then suddenly they feel as if they can go on and at least get through the interview. At that point, either one of two things will happen. They will knuckle down, get over their shock and interview me as they would "anyone else".

Less frequently, but in my experience has happened distinctly as least three times that I was aware of, there is nothing I can do or say that will get me or anyone else who looks like me hired. I just got in under their radar that's all.

But back to my resume. My address and zip code don't spell out H-O-O-D or P-R-O-J-E-C-T-S, although I learned from a previous experience that if you do live in the hood or the projects to use a more affluent friend or relative's address.

In my earlier years, I worked as a front desk clerk at a Howard Johnson. I had previously applied at the Hamiltonian Hotel (formerly, now the Courtyard Marriott Hamilton), which was a scant 15 minute walk from the housing project where I lived. I never got a call back, let alone an interview despite much follow up. I finally applied at Howard Johnson, where even there it took them over a week to get over the shock that, no, I was not applying as a housekeeper, I expected to work the front desk.

I finally got that job only to find later that both hotels were owned, at the time, by the same parent company, BriLyn.

Both bloggers made points about appearance as I described myself, especially my comment that I may have smelled like a candy factory by the time I hit the interview, due to combination of raspberry lip gloss, vanilla perfume and nervously popping peppermints beforehand.

Anon 3:54
One word of advice - ditch the vanilla "perfume" fragrance. Your next interviewer may have horrific allergies & you won't make the cut!
hr office
Allergies are an entirely different path than migraines. Some fragrances cause very threatening reactions in people with allergic conditons. A neutral bath powder will solve the Summertime conditions. Some companies have put the brakes on colognes, "perfumes", & after shaves.
Their points about my perfume are well taken, although I do object to the statement that "allergies" and "migraines" are that far apart when it comes to scent triggers. As with this woman, I too understand what it means to have a strong reaction by merely being in the detergent or candle aisle, let alone the illness, nausea, skin reactions and headaches that can ensue when people overindulge in perfume. You'll simply have to take my word for it, that I'm not a "douser" and that the one scent I do wear is undetectable unless you are a really close talker, hand shaker or you hug me.

Both posters take issue with my use of the phrase "business casual".
Anon 3:54
You also need to be careful with the "business casual" threads, too. That sort of attire is OK after you get the job, not before.
Despite my assurances that I dressed quite professionally for this first interview, the second poster couldn't resist a quick admonishment either, while going on to describe exactly what I think of as business casual:
hr office
BTW, you could take a hint from
Anon 3:54. A black or blue skirt properly fitted with a conservative blouse and a jacket or sweater will make a much better impression. If you have hard-hitting, proven skills & a solid track record, you'll want your dress to reflect that.
I'll risk sounding a bit defensive and not quite nice to make my point clear: From that description of acceptable clothing, I am quite certain that my standards of job interview dress are higher than his. I was taught that a matching suit and sharply coordinated blouse for women- and for males, a matching suite and sharply coordinated shirt and tie - are professional dress.

Anything less is business casual - of which their are varying degrees but all are business casual nonetheless. I shudder to think of anyone showing up at a job interview in a cardigan, especially a woman. A cardigan denotes a schoolgirl, not a professional woman.

hr office also assured me that race isn't any factor as to whether I get the job (actually I'm more worried about my weight being a factor than race but please, no diatribes on weight loss) however he went on to say:
Diversity - buzzword du jour? There are very few companies in Cincinnati that promote & foster true diversity. The offices & plants just have a bunch of black & white people in them. That isn't diversity. I'm very fortunate to have an employer who has a United Nations of people in the place. It's been a wonderful ### of years. I wouldn't trade it in for what is now pseudo-diversity.
I could go write an entire other post on how he swings the difference between the contradictoray ideas of "race not being a factor" and "very few companies in Cincinnati that promote & foster true diversity" in the breadth of a paragraph or two. I will settle for simply shaking my head and commenting thusly: I think you'd be surprised at how many black folks will settle for pseudo-diversity if it means the difference between being employed or unemployed. By the same token (no pun intended) I can tell how well versed in "diversity" a place is by walking in the door or taking a short tour.

But really, what does it matter without a job? As with any job, you have to get in the door and work your but off proving yourself. Just know that if you're black, proving yourself is always going to be harder. Accept that and keep on trucking.

And black folks have to realize that sometimes desperation at getting a keeping a job, should not always override what you know to be true. We tell school children every day that they know the difference between a "good touch" and a "bad one" or how to recognize bullying and abuse. Yet somehow grown people, when black, suddenly don't know or recognize discrimination or subtle racism when it's right in front of them. Had I followed my instincts this time last year, I would never have had that awful experience working for Girl Scouts.

Lastly, just to prove that people don't always read
hr office had this to say:
You need to "interview" the company before you submit your resume & get an interview, to see if they're a good match for you. Then you present your solid, proven track to them so they can "interview" you.
But I had already told Anon 3:54:
They're not just interviewing me, hon, I'm most definitely interviewing them.
I know that "everyone" is not a racist. I know that every decision to hire me or other black people hasn't been made on the basis of race alone or even in spite of race. But it is folly for black people to surrender all notions of race playing no factor in the hiring decisions of many businesses in Cincinnati and across this nation.

It seems to me that even taking into the account the opinions of hyper-critical people who've never met me, I'm keeping my employment game pimp tight.

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