Less is More

I was going to write this post yesterday, under the title of “The Devil You Know vs. The Devil You Don’t”, but as I stopped procrastinating on my job applications, another idea came to mind.

I moved to D.C. in December 2013, with the intention of moving to Florida in May/June 2014. I also decided that I would stop applying for full-time jobs because of the agony it caused me. And as I was copying and pasting across résumés and cover letters, and revising my LinkedIn profile I felt myself becoming more and more depressed and realized why I had stopped trying.

I don’t like the Washington DC metro area. I have family here and we would come here a lot over the summers, and it does have its charms, but it’s just not a good fit. I only came because I was offered a job, and because I had to get out of Boston where I was being harassed by a Trinidadian mother who spent her days being a religious hypocrite, a busy-body, and one of those people who feels they have all this wisdom when in fact at above a half a century they have the intelligence of a naive child still in elementary school. (I don’t mean to be harsh, but she is very cruel and represents the things I detest most in this world.) But back to DC…

DC has jobs, but it also has segregation, ego, arrogance without qualifications, men with goat beards, and an over-priced housing market. It’s pretentious and I pay $1295/mo for a small studio in which the cable doesn’t work because snow melts into the cable boxes, there’s a draft from the window and the melting snow creates mold and flushes insects through, and in the summer there is a major bug problem as they all come up through the cracks in the floor covered by the rug. And this is in Arlington Country, one of the most expensive in the nation, and I am not living in the projects. This is “prime real estate.” By comparison, I can/will pay $1275/mo for a 1 bedroom in downtown Ft. Lauderdale, FL, about 10 mins from the beach. It’s managed by the same company that manages the apartment I’m currently in, ironically. (The transfer process was nice, and while they do have some crappy places, they have some nice ones too.) With the apartment I’m in now, they clearly feel that less means more profit for them, which they can get away with in Arlington, VA. Also, I can expect to make as much as I’m making here, but that’s a whole different conversation.

While I had every intention of leaving Washington, DC, I decided to do a quick search on jobs. I only found two that matched what I was looking for, so that reaffirmed my belief that D.C. does not have jobs for me. I applied to the two that I found and am giving them two weeks to get back to me; so far, I have heard back from one, a rejection. Why two weeks? Based on my experience, that is all the time HR needs to decide if a candidate will be a good fit. If HR has a basic understanding of how to add value to a company, then they will be pro-active in pursuing a candidate before they’re hired by someone else. So if you don’t hear anything within two weeks, then they’re not interested; it’s like dating, even though you shouldn’t wait two weeks for that. If you hear back after two weeks, then you know that their HR is lacking. I heard back from an internship after I had already switched to my second job in DC, yet I applied to both at the same time. Even if the need for a new hire wasn’t as great, if people do they’re job well, then they’ll try to secure someone for the spot, like with apartments, you want full occupancy.

So the one company I heard back from in DC responded saying they were very impressed with my résumé, etc., etc. After the job market crash, it was the norm for employers not to respond to candidates, not even with a mass email, now I feel some are trying to engage with responses at least mentioning something positive about the résumé. If I wanted their opinion on my résumé, I would have asked for it. What I was looking for was a job. I was flown in for another interview where the guy said I was smarter than him and said I would be great for one of those top consulting firms. He was a nice guy, I was flattered, but what I wanted was a job, not flattery. And the consulting firms were not looking for someone like me because my GPA was not a least a 3.7, and now I’m too “specialized.”

With the job interview that I was flown in for, after I had a phone interview with some random HR person over the phone and didn’t get called back for the next round, I called the number they had provided to speak with someone. I was polite about it. The only thing snarky I said was that I could do PowerPoint in my sleep. During the phone interview, the person was asking routine questions that lacked substance, and it was clear she did not know what the requirements were. She couldn’t even test my Spanish or Portuguese. Just like Excel, languages have to be learned, and frankly its a lot easier to learn Excel at an advanced level than it is to learn Spanish or Portuguese. I asked my mother to teach me pivot tables just for the interview.

The company that responded to my last attempt at finding employment in DC related to my interest and skills by basically saying I was overqualified received a response email in English and French. The job was related to security issues in Haiti, but ironically, they did not mention anything about knowing Creole. That should have been a sign there that they were already quite limited in their understanding of the basics of the country and the Latin American and Caribbean region. They could have also been assuming that few people know Creole, which is true, because in the DC area someone who knows a foreign language well (reading, writing, and speaking) is very hard to find. I should have at least gotten an interview, so I just described the candidate they chose who probably over-stated his language skills, and then I offered my foreign language services. I provided the French in the email so they could have something to use to actually test his skills. (I went for an interview once where the level of French for the person who tested me where so basic, that I talked faster and threw in some complex pronouns so it would end quicker as she would realize that she was not able to evaluate me. I was very disappointed. This was a non-profit in DC.) I did not say anything to them about that.

I wrote another response email in Portuguese to a consulting firm looking for people who were multilingual. These people clearly have no one to test the skills they desire. While they say they want someone who’s skilled in areas they are not, the candidate can’t be too impressive because that will mess with their ego.

I don’t find my résumé impressive. I don’t find anyone’s résumé impressive. What my résumé shows are my interests, and the jobs I took related to my interests so I could find some enjoyment between 9-5 as I worked to live, to create the lifestyle I want, and increase my investment portfolio so that one day I will not have to work for people who are egotistical and narcissistic. All I want is money and happiness, and probably in that order, especially since I have already done a good amount of traveling which gave me happiness, so now it’s about the money.

So people, acquaintances and recruiters, have said positive things about my résumé, but yet I’m not getting hired for a full-time job, so how about they tell me what part of my résumé screams I do not deserve a full-time job. That information would be useful, because that is the point of the résumé, to get a job, not to impress people. On my own, I have come to the conclusion, that my résumé is too impressive. My cousin told me my intelligence was intimidating. She’s about the age of HR recruiters, so I’ve decided to go with less being more, especially with the Florida market with people placing Associate Degree as a requirement when BK has even decided to put a BA as a recruitment for cashiers.

So in my résumé, I include what they want to hear. I did that before with key words, but now I have to omit the education. I don’t want them to be impressed, I want them to be comfortable. I can’t give myself a male name because that would be unethical, so I have to strive for comfort and sticking with the status quo in the other areas. Plus, my first MA is not really relevant except to say that I am educated, which has done very little to help me find a job. At this point, it’s weighing me down. I should sue for a faulty product.

This is not the first time that I realized that less is more. A friend of mine had gone to the Middlebury Language Schools twice and applied to the Peace Scholarship both times. She speaks Spanish, French, Portuguese, Chinese, and some Italian and Arabic, so, the first time she talked about using language to connect with people on a deeper level to allow for connection. She did not get the scholarship. She told me that the recipients seem to be pretty homogenous and some of them had ideas that they never followed through on. So two years later, she decided to be a little more artistic and push for some emotion.

She’s black and from the inner city, but her parents are upper middle-class, like in the category without an end number and just the “& over”, and they both went to MIT. The income wasn’t enough to pay for her elite college and living expenses though, and Middlebury did not know anything about her parents income/background. Some people get intrigued when they find out she’s from the inner city and confused if they hear her parents went to MIT. So she used some of that. I should also mention she went to a private middle school and high school. She said her passion for languages and relating to people clearly got her no where, so she played the race card. She talked about the constant struggle of trying to pursue her education while being surrounded by gangs and violence as she grew up in the inner city. (They were nearby, just like serial killers in the suburb, but she did not spend her days running and ducking from them.) Then, she got wait-listed for the scholarship. If she had only talked about starting a coop for single mothers in the inner city and some place in subsaharan Africa, without a business plan, she probably would have received the scholarship.

So the conclusion is: for money, fit the stereotype. The job application process is not the time to be you and try to alter the status quo, say what they want to hear. Nuance is not their fortée; simple is better. That’s what being a good fit is all about, there’s a silhouette that you have to fill, which has nothing to do with being ambitious and trying new things, I mean clearly because I have been looking at places with a multinational focus, but yet they continue to hire people who don’t have an appreciatiation for multiculturalism.