Wednesday, September 22, 2010

This Woman's Search for Work is Never Done

No one disputes that a picture paints a thousand words. But these days, writers and people who need wordsmiths are not on the same page regarding payment for those words. The people in need appear to be people with greed. They seem to think those communicative clumps of letters are worth much less than a dime a dozen.

In my case, few people question the quality of my comedy writing ability. In fact, I would be an extremely wealthy woman if I had a dollar for each time I hear, "You really want to get paid for your work? That's funny. You're a freelancer not a paidlancer."

Still, I must admit my guilty pleasure. There are few things I love more than seeing my name in print. Those things happen to be stocking my cupboard with Ramen noodles, investing in my landlord's future and hiring a hairdresser to paint my skunk stripe red.

Unfortunately, the best things in life are not free. Otherwise, I'd just get a puppy.

To do my part for economic stimulus, I recently decided to supplement my writing income by diving into the temp agency talent pool. After all, I have the audacity to assume I have a lot to offer. I can type 60 words a minute. I can write a complete sentence. I'm proficient with several computer applications. I can even file because as a writer I know "I" comes before "E" except after "C".

However, I'm beginning to think corporate America is not cut out for me. Fortune 500 companies will have to become Fortune 5000 companies without my help. Although I scored above 95 percent on skills assessment tests, temp agency consultants continuously tell me, "It's tough out there. Only the cream-of-the-crop gets hired. You're going to be hard to place because you're over-qualified."

As a former full-time journalist, I'm trained to ask questions. "If only the best get hired, then shouldn't being over-qualified be to my advantage?"

"Well, we only place our most-qualified candidates," one hiring executive in Beverly Hills explained.

"Well, what is the difference between most-qualified and over-qualified?"

Her possibly illegal answer to that question left me baffled. "Younger people with less experience are easier to teach because they're eager to learn."

"So does over-qualified really mean overweight or over 30?" I queried for clarification. "If it means over 30, I can look younger. But, you have to get me a temp gig so I can afford to get my skunk stripe painted."

The employment consultant tried to save face. "Oh, your hair looks fine. But, you might want to go shopping on Rodeo Drive and buy some designer suits. When you go, think Paris."

"But, I don't want a Chihuahua."

My cynicism caused her to reconsider, "OK, that dress looks professional, but those orthopedic shoes have to go. You need to wear heels or I can't send you out to a Fortune 500 company. They adhere to a dress code."

None-the-less, dressing for so-called success may not be feasible for some folks – including moi. "I understand the need to look the part. But in 2002, I broke both of my ankles. I have to wear orthopedic shoes so I won't sustain further injury or look like a human leaning tower of Pisa."

I risked digging the rest of my grave while defending my rights. "I thought it was illegal to discriminate against people with physical disabilities. I think a pair of orthopedic shoes is a reasonable ADA accommodation. It's astonishing to think heels on my feet would increase my typing speed."

"Well, they're not going to hire you in those shoes."

"Let's sic Judge Judy on them," I suggested. "She won't let those heels walk all over us."

Finally, I got sent for an interview for a temporary position answering phones. The youthful company cheerleader tried to stump me with her thought-provoking question. "How do you feel about world peace?"

I said, "Is my tiara on straight?"

This confused the child panelist. Maybe it was because I wasn't wearing my tiara. While my crown would have concealed my skunk stripe, the zirconium clashed with my shoes.

An hour after the interview, the agency representative called to say, "They decided to hire the office manager's girlfriend's husband's niece."

Two mornings later, my ringing phone interrupted me as I poured kibbles into my new Chihuahua's dish.

"I've got the perfect job for you," the agency rep announced. "It uses all of your skills. You'll be reporting to a bank president. So brush up on Excel. Now, don't mess this up. Your future depends on this."

I eagerly reported for duty, which began with a two-hour training session on the art of using a staple remover. Yep, my job for the next two weeks was to prep paper files for scanning.

The trainer didn't have a boring instructional manual, so she dramatically demonstrated the desired technique of using the gadget resembling Pac Man. Thumb on the bottom. Fingers on the top. Then, click as if I were playing castanets.

"Don't worry if you don't get it immediately," my instructor said. "The important thing is to get familiar with the feel of the staple remover. Think of it as a giant claw in an arcade machine. But, this little jewel clutches staples instead of a stuffed monkey or a tiara."

After completing the gig, I have to admit my hiring manager was right. Acquiring staple-removing skills is a stepping stone to success. I'm now qualified for a career in sock puppetry, which I understand pays almost as well as freelance comedy writing. I just need a sock that resembles a puppy.