Popular Businesses Insult My Intelligence

Of businesses.

(I could end my poem here and it wouldn’t seem incomplete, right?)

I think this guy has interviewed me a few times.  (Photo Credit: J.J.)

I think this guy has interviewed me a few times. (Photo Credit: J.J.)


of businesses
that everyone loves,
that everyone admires,
that everyone dreams of working for.

Two million applicants per job vacancy.
One million
nine hundred ninety nine thousand
they don’t have to

HR can be
Then comes the
Long hours,
low pay,
no respect,
weak benefits.

You know the drill.

But if the office
a swimming pool,
pool table,
nifty decorations,
and free food…

No one will notice the shit?


Until the shit hits
their fan
and their replacements
show up and
the free food.

Assumptions Insult My Intelligence

Imagine that you’re walking into court to divorce your spouse of ten years.  When you got married, you had wanted to stay with her for the rest of your life.  You enjoyed your honeymoon but cracks in the relationship had emerged by year five.  By year eight, you could barely stand her presence but you didn’t file divorce papers until year ten for financial reasons.

Now, you’re wearing the biggest grin you’ve had in years because you’re finally free.  You only need the judge’s approval and your life belongs to you again.

No permanent bondage here...  (Photo credit: Tangopaso)

No permanent bondage here… (Photo credit: Tangopaso)

The judge calls you to step forward and then immediately denies your petition to divorce.  The logic?  You were married to that woman for ten years so you must obviously love her too much to let her go… and you are to remain a prisoner to your former self.

You may think the scenario’s impossible, but…

I am an unemployed Ph.D.  Employers see the degree that took many years to earn and they assume that I am too wedded to my old field to really want the job for which I applied.  My resume doesn’t show how cracks started forming early on or how I had decided to pursue a nonacademic career a year or two before completing the degree.  It also doesn’t show that I only finished the degree because I had already poured so much time into it and was so close to completing it when I made that decision.

There’s not enough real estate on a cover letter to fit everything in.

And employers never get to hear much of that because you’re never supposed to badmouth your former employers or academic institutions.

When I’m lucky, employers ask me about it.  Usually, they just move on to the next resume.

Volunteer Organizations Insult My Intelligence

My regular readers already know that I’ve been looking for a job. However, I haven’t yet described the pleasures of finding things to do when I’m not writing cover letters, submitting resumes, searching employment listings, networking, and completing all sorts of other fun stuff.

Volunteering isn't always glitz and glamour, nor should we expect it to be. (Photo credit: Borden31)

After an exciting concert, someone always volunteers to hide the dead bodies. (Photo credit: Borden31)

For some pursuits, I don’t need to affiliate with an organization; for example, I have this nifty little blog.  But if I want to volunteer somewhere, I need a “somewhere.”

And that’s where things get tricky…

I currently have a volunteer position I very much enjoy and the organization seems happy with me.  I do work that I could never get hired to do for money because, according to HR departments, one cannot possess a set of skills unless one has a degree in the relevant subject.  (I’ve touched on the topic in this post.)  It took a very long time to get me on board with this organization, partly because snow tends to halt everything down here… but the organization did manage to get me through the process.

But things aren’t always that simple.  I’ve bounced around between volunteer positions and tried to pursue others.  I’ve received the same line about being “overqualified” because of my Ph.D. that I get from potential employers.  Could someone please explain to me how a person can be overqualified to volunteer?

And then there are the cute little people who keep volunteer organizations staffed.  Or not.  A lot of volunteer organizations are swamped and they don’t always have the time to bring in new people.  That’s right.  When you have too much work to do, your lowest priority should be adding more people to share the burden.  I’ve seen and heard about this again and again and again.

Sometimes, organizations look like they’ve grasped the concept of adequate personnel.  And then they bring in new volunteers for orientation (or an equivalent) right at the end of busy season when there will soon be no more work to do.  They give you a tour and forget about you until fundraising time comes.  Then you hear from them, but they don’t want to talk to you about actually doing something.

Let’s review: wasting my time does not incline me to donate my nonexistent money to your organization.

Or sometimes they do have work for you, but they dangle one job function in front of you and, once you’ve signed up, change the offer.  In theory, I’m okay with this because volunteering should be about doing what needs to be done.  In practice, I found (the one time this happened to me) that the real task was something I should not be asked to do.

If you need me to tutor kids, I’m good at that; when you change the assignment to “be a fun guy and take them to the Bieber concert,” there’s a problem.  I’m not good at feigning enthusiasm and I can pretty well promise you that attending a Bieber concert with me would not be a positive experience for those kids.  I mean, for reasons other than the performer…

Yeah… I’d rather deal with math homework than Justin Bieber.  But, come to think of it, so would everyone else.  Maybe that’s why the organization needed a volunteer for the concert.  My bad.

Job Applications Insult My Intelligence

application time

(Photo credit: Mouse)

People like to ask me what’s cooking with my job search.  Unfortunately, I’m the one who’s cooking.  It’s to be expected in this economy.

And even more so because I have a Ph.D.

We all know that you have to arouse an employer’s hunger when you’re applying for jobs.  Employers seek specific entrees and they often spell out the required and preferred ingredients.

However, things change a little when your education is Piled Higher and Deeper because no one knows what to do with your ingredients.  When I apply for jobs, I present a recipe for myself that should taste good to employers.  Employers, in turn, have envisioned their own recipe for a Ph.D. like me.

Therefore, I offer two dueling recipes to you today: theirs (in red) and the one I wish I could submit to employers in its entirety (in blue).


An extra decade of sitting passively in class.  (This makes the entree stale.)

One year of coursework beyond a Master’s and ten sticks of buttery independent work

Barely one speck of discernable skills

Three heaping tablespoons each of long term planning, research, writing, foreign language, oral communication, teaching, intercultural competence, technology, instructional design, etc.

Fifteen tons of unbearable intellectual snobbery

Five gallons of experience keeping my “snobby” opinions to myself (when I’m not blogging)

Zero personality. None whatsoever.

Zero personality. None whatsoever.

100,000 British Pounds of excessive salary expectations because of the high wages professors make in comparison

Two British Pounds of recognition that many college teachers need food stamps to survive  (Sprinkle with one iota of understanding that a British Pound is not a unit of measurement plus a hint of irony.)

Immeasurable dedication to the major he completed the degree in… because no one finishes the degree otherwise

Too many years of work invested to quit before finishing the degree… even though I had become weary of the whole thing.  Mix that with 250 kilograms of endurance (one kilogram for each page of the dissertation)

27 pints of writing incompetence because he didn’t major in English

A sprinkle of wishes that people knew you don’t have to complete a particular college major to develop the skills it certifies.  For example, one can improve one’s writing by completing a 250-page dissertation and composing written feedback to students, plus emails and classroom materials, etc.

8 liters of slow-paced anti-deadline serum

A half dozen baking sheets of homework, every night, corrected and returned to students plus a dose of rapidly graded tests and essays.  And several lesson plans each week.

Less than a pinch of interest in trying anything new

Solid chocolate block of disgust for the old rinsed under a steady stream of warm eagerness for the new

Teaspoon of concentrated Love Of Old extracted from his insatiable desire to return to the ivory tower

Nothing sour or spicy (because speaking ill of former employers kills your job application)

20,000 packages of bloviating yeast because these educated folk explain everything on and on and on and on and on

20,000 packages of bloviating yeast because people don’t automatically understand how a Ph.D. qualifies me for a job.  Applications don’t rise unless you can connect your qualifications to the position.  If I had a BA in the preferred major, I wouldn’t have to explain and I would probably lack the writing skills to do so.

One million dollars worth of sterling credentials that should have allowed him to find a job anywhere he wanted, plus three cups of laziness

A dozen daily complaints that everyone assumes a Ph.D. makes it easier to get hired… and then they refuse to hire me because of it.  (Sear these on a grill first.)

Cooking Directions:

Place immediately in circular file for all eternity!

Insert behind desk and savor the aroma!

Um… no, that’s not what I meant by “savor the aroma.”  I meant that I would have a positive impact on the people around me.  Yeah, that’s it.

HR Incompetence Insults My Intelligence

25Aug09 ~ Grammar Assignment

(Photo credit: grace_kat)

I’ve been seeking employment for a long time and I’ve grown weary of HR departments.  Job applicants are supposed to submit an impeccably proofread cover letter and resume whenever we apply for jobs.  This is reasonable.  However, I regularly see job advertisements that list “mastery of spelling and grammer” [sic] as a qualification requirement.

Take a moment to let the irony sink in.

Take a second moment to pray it’s not your kid’s school that’s hiring people like this.  Or your employer, for that matter.  Remember, HR still handles many critical details for you and their incompetence can be even more challenging for current employees.

I especially love job ads for teachers that mandate a “mastery of spelling and grammer” right after extolling the school’s high academic standards.  Something’s high at those schools and it isn’t the standards.

So, if the folks in HR get things wrong, how are they supposed to know which applicants are getting things right?  Are applicants supposed to predict what mistakes HR will think are correct and replicate them?

Stupidity pays dividends if you’re stupid in the right way.