We Deserve More

Once I got this new job that I love, I thought I’d pay it forward by helping others who have also been struggle to find decent work. I put in a referral for an acquaintance of mine from college for a job on the opposite coast from where she was located. Yet, after about two weeks I saw that they declined to interview her. I was disappointed. She has much more experience in this field than I do, and is willing to take less money. Between the college she went to, her background, and the referral, she should have at least gotten an interview. Yeah, she applied to a job on the opposite coast, but she has family there and was more than willing to relocate. I mean, are recruiters that close-minded to think that people do not have connections in different cities and are not willing to relocate on their own dime? This seems to be the case in Florida, but I have lowered my expectations for Florida-based companies, but I expect more from the west coast and the mid/northeast.

So when my friend saw that she was not selected for an interview, she called to follow-up with me. She said exactly what I thought, that will all she had going for her, she should have at least gotten an interview. Why no interview? She had a few positions where she was only with a company for a few months, but she has only been out of college for 5 years. She also went to a top 10 school. There is no doubt in my mind that she excelled where she went and probably learned in a few months what it would take an average person to learn in a year. I found out later that the recruiter left the company kind of abruptly. Considering potential internal communication issues, I thought it possible that the application got lost in the shuffle, so I worked with her to help her reapply.

I say all this to explain why I am not only disappointed, but also frustrated and angry. She should have at least gotten an interview. That’s exactly how I felt after I applied for hundreds of jobs and received no response: I should’ve at least gotten an interview, especially in a state with generally low standards that they broadcast to the world.

There are intelligent people everywhere, at all types of schools who work hard and work smart, yes. They shouldn’t be excluded just because they did not go to a “top” school. However, at those “top” schools, the intelligence metric is skewed towards the higher end, so if the general market is saturated with mostly average applicants, the top candidates should get an interview. A nice rejection email will not even suffice. So why don’t we get the interview? Recruiters feel intimidated (especially with the female applicants or minority applicants), recruiters/employers are cheap and assume we’ll ask for a lot of money (I ask for more now because I had bills that are past-due and I’m a little bitter. Back when I was chasing non-profits, I would have been fine with mid 30ks – mid 40Ks.), or hiring is done internally. In Florida, another issue is that people do not understand the school rankings, most likely because most of the people recruiting are not from the U.S. and come from cultures where simply going to school in the U.S. gives high class status, and also for some very strange reason, Florida is regarded as some type of Mecca where everyone is flocking to: Latin Americans, yes, Americans, no.

Since moving to Florida… I have been told that I am under-qualified to be an Administrative Assistant by the same person who had trouble making an international phone call and was more interested in hearing about my program at an un-ranked Florida state school than my undergraduate degree, and recently when I mentioned wanting to get a Ph.D. at a private university here to someone who attended the undergraduate school, the guy said it was a good school at then dropped its ranking in an obvious attempt to solicit a reaction. When you round the number you get #50. My undergrad is ranked higher. I said nothing. What was I supposed to say? What was he assuming? I was just trying to talk about the program, not the ranking…

So suffice it to say, Florida is a very special case, a twilight zone. But, going back to my prior point, when you make certain achievements in life, you deserve to sit at the table, and in this case, be granted an interview.

In getting back to the title of this piece, for me, my disappointment, frustration, and anger begins with myself and my peers not getting and interview and ends with being lumped together alongside of and compared to those who by our standards do not have the same intellectual capacity or even the desire to acquire it. The last time I felt above average was in middle school and then I would go home and my parents would give me impossible problems to solve and I felt challenged. From high school to (most of) graduate school I didn’t feel unique, and then after graduating, I felt my brain was dying for the most part of the time. Now, I feel like I am being told to slow down so others can catch up… maybe they need to move a little faster…? I had a few classes in college where I was falling behind. It was frustrating, yes, but I learned from it, and certainly did not try to slow others down because of me, and the professor certainly did not slow down for us slower students either.

I feel that I am being told to slow down, and even indirectly being held back because they’re little for me to learn from those in my same role. In our initial training, we did some things in Excel (my mother does everything in Excel, so she made me learn it) and this one guy could not find the “sort” feature. Ok, maybe he did not learn it, but I consider that to be basic Excel/Office, and so did my brother who is an Excel pro and makes fun of my minimal knowledge (not in a mean way), which compared to the guy at the office is probably advanced… Anyways, there’s the issue of him not knowing where the “sort” feature was, not searching for it, and not asking someone, another Florida thing, with the machismo (“gag”). So, I know Macros/VBA because I went on YouTube. I did this lovely Microsoft Office test where I had to create a Macro, which I did, by following the directions. This other lady comes out and says it was asking me to do stuff I had never seen… Follow the DAMN directions!

My other colleagues do not appear to be familiar with checking email regularly… We get things through Outlook that they don’t see until late, I was scheduling the meetings, and then this other person just copied and pasted directly into the Macro and not the function bar, repeatedly. Do something once, or twice, okay, but then troubleshoot and do something differently. Ironically, the stuff that I know in Outlook is more in line with being an Administrative Assistant (you know, the thing I was under-qualified for), but somethings I just happened upon by being curious. In high school, when we first got our email accounts, we went over email etiquette. Until Facebook happened I was checking everything daily, and now I’ll look through it, but only my work emails usually get a response during the week, and then on the weekends, good luck.

So maybe they don’t know these things, but while they figure it out, I can be promoted and given more money, not told to slow down while people learn things that I learned years ago. And then the issue with troubleshooting. My high school, college, and parents taught me to be analytical, and I guess I was probably born inquisitive too. I cannot not be analytical, which is why my writing tends to go in multiple directions at a time because I see various topics that can be further explained or further analyzed. I cannot not ask questions. I cannot not solve problems (I love jigsaw puzzles by the way). I do not understand people who need constant instruction and cannot take the information given and run with it. I do not understand people who cannot isolate the variables to determine the cause either on their own or with others. It is basically a higher level of thinking that I was surrounded by that I need near me again so I can stop coming home and being shocked by how little people actually know how to do. Well, I guess this also speaks to the gap in education quality between institutions and regions, but that’s a separate topic.

Again, back to the point of this post. My job is amazing because of the company and the people I work with you are all very nice. I actually get along with the Managers and the people not on my team a bit better. The concept of networking seems to be lost on some… We had very comprehensive training and there is all sorts of information we can reference and people we can contact if we have any questions, but ultimately, we were given the tools and told to run with it. There was this new training recently that was more lecture-based, more European/Latin America style, so I am going to have to review the information on my own. There was no PowerPoint presentation. I feel like that really makes me sound like a spoiled, privileged American, but presentations should have PowerPoints with key takeaways. You doing something and me watching you is horrible for me and not the environment that I am used to, and arguably an environment that has proved to be the most successful.

So continuing on from that last point, I feel that it will be therapeutic for me to tell the recruiters who did not get back to me and my former employer who proved there is hell on earth exactly how I am feeling at my new billion dollar company that makes them look like fools playing in the dirt. My parents would advise against is, but the Scorpio in me is telling me I should do it. It would be smug, Bill Maher-style, but I will feel good once I write it. I did this 3 times already. One I actually regret, and another I really don’t. The third ons is not worth mentioning. For the one I regret, I misread the email… The recruiter was checking in with all applicants saying that they need more time to review the applications. I misread it, and said something like, “Thank you for letting me know and for helping me realize that now is the best time for me to move.” My moving deadline was either before or at the same time they intended to make their decision. For the other one, it was a top management company looking for bilingual Spanish speakers with Portuguese being a plus, for their Latin America team. They emphasized that the person must have a university degree from a top university. This is in Florida, and I am really sensing that here, “top university” is synonymous with Florida college/university. So, they sent me an email saying I wasn’t going further in the application, and I responded, in Portuguese, telling them they are going to have a hard time finding someone better. They’re still looking…

I most likely will write back to those recruiters who wasted my time asking for foolish things like a high school transcript. But in the next post, I will write what I want to say to the worst company/management I have every worked for. My intention is not to send it, but I make no promises.

Lower Your Expectations

I did some promotional modeling on the side and worked with a girl who was had a connection to the CEO of Carnival, or so she said. I had told her that I was relocating to the Miami, FL area and she told me to send her my résumé and she would pass it along. I did, and have yet to hear anything… Today, I came across a Black Enterprise magazine with the CEO on the cover, so I thought I would pick it up and take a look. Inside, I found a list, “The 10 Wealth for Life Principles,” in the Frugal and Fabulous section. Not surprisingly, I take issue with numbers 1 and 2: I will live within my means, and I will maximize my income potential through education and training, respectively.

Overall, I thought it was a good article with sound advice, and I really liked how the author mentioned that saving has become hard for those that are unemployed and underemployed. However, items 1 and 2 are vague, and the assume a return on investment, that is no longer guaranteed, and further the two can conflict with each other.

If I were to have lived within my means, I should have gone to state school and not Duke University. I should have also never attended graduate school. I wanted to go to Duke because of the work hard/play hard philosophy (people at Duke do not take themselves too seriously), and the opportunities in international affairs. I also applied to Boston College, Tulane, American University, the University of Miami, Wake Forest, Yale (I felt obligated to apply to at least one ivy), and Furman University. Duke was my first choice, followed by Wake Forest and the University of Miami. My mother thought that at least BC would offer me money, but no one did. However, had I scored just 10 points higher on my SAT, I would have received money from UM, and I occasionally wonder how my life would have been different. So, because no one offered me money, I got into my first choice, which was recommended by my mentor and also out-ranked the other universities (I did not get into Yale, but someone would have had to force me to go if I had), Duke is where I went. Interestingly, one of my good college friends turned down Columbia for Duke because Duke gave her a full ride, and she was very bitter about this for quite some time.

I honestly don’t regret attending Duke. I’m disappointed, or rather go through bouts of depression thinking about the $160K+interest I owe, but there is no other place I wanted to go. And I do believe, that had I, being who I am, chosen to go to a lower ranked school my prospects and earning potential would have decreased significantly. So, as for wealth tip #1, sometimes you have to live above your means for the sake of #2.

#2 Should specifically reference college education. I think that’s implied especially since I am finding that in some areas an advanced degree has some sort of unattainability and prestige attached to it, which I believe is unwarranted. Also, one cannot just get an education or training form anywhere, with any sort of degree and expect a return on investment, and despite people saying that attitude and passion are a factor, not so much. What affects the value of the college degree: name, type (BS vs BA), major, GPA, internships, and location. Basically, if you want to work in the high profile areas in banking and consulting, where the money is to pay off your loans, this is what is important: name, BS, (quant field or economics), 3.5+ (3.7+ preferred), and relevant internships (with a higher GPA, internships are less important, with a lower one, they become more important). In this instance location is irrelevant. If your GPA is lower, then you actually compete with people who graduated Phi Beta Kappa from lower-ranked schools, but good for them, and not good for you. They’ll still have more hoops to jump through, but then that makes you wonder if paying for the name was worth it when you could have gone somewhere else and graduate summa cum laude.

Location is another important factor because of school recognition nationally (FYI, I’m just focusing on US markets). With more recognition you and your degree can generally move more freely from one place to the next, but there are also some less high profile areas that prefer their own kind and stick with the regional schools. Another important thing to consider is what jobs are available in an area, and what degree is required for that job. This is exactly why I went to graduate school in DC: to work in DC and belong to one of the schools that I thought the actively recruit from. Now, however, as I leave DC, I face the challenge of being overqualified and even pricing out of jobs because recruiter think they know what I’ll ask for. This one person assumed that I should get 70K easily with a MA. We were the same age, but I knew about those other factors mentioned above. It’s really frustrating to think that the people that review my résumé have that same simple-minded understanding of the value of a degree and applicant expectations.

This brings me to two other articles I read on résumé review practices: How Recruiters Read Résumés in 10 Seconds and Five Résumé Red Flags. Because of where they’re published, they’re not the most credible, but considering that I keep being told that my résumé is impressive, while not receiving any offers for full-time work, what’s written makes sense.
For the first article for #1 Location and #7 Turnover, screw you recruiter. The author says that many companies don’t want to pay relocation in this economy, but did they ever think about how many applicants would relocate themselves because of this economy? I’m hoping that the people who reviewed my résumés and were impressed enough to write back, but still turned me down, followed this logic because then it was obvious we’re not a good fit if they’re unable to look at both sides. Those companies that are intellectually-challenged say on the postings that they will only consider local candidates. More astute companies will just say that they do not pay relocation expenses.

#7 I applied to a well-regarded company in home furnishings and wasn’t invited to an interview until I became angry and called back. I wasn’t rude, but just explained very directly how I met all the qualifications mentioned in the job posting, and some. I think I did an online assessment, and then had a brief phone interview with someone who was clearly reading a script. (I hope to God she was new.) Foreign language ability was a requirement, and she just asked me about my skills, but didn’t test me; that and all the other questions had been answered on my résumé. There was no room for dialogue, so it was pretty pointless. I was mostly shocked about not hearing back because not many people want to move to that area for work, let alone those who with the needed language skills, who could probably barely be counted on one hand. This interview was in early 2013 and I had graduated in May 2012, and this person asked about my switching jobs and not staying in one place for too long. I wanted to ask her if she could read, but I just said I was in school and those were temporary positions. So from that experience, I guess I need to include temporary next to the job title/company name, which is valid, but I can’t make the font any larger to help them read the education section.

#7 of the first article relates to “Employment Gaps”, the first item in the second article. The same recruiter with reading challenges, asked me about gaps in employment. I was also asked that when I was being interviewed for my Secret Clearance, and they could tell I was annoyed, but alas, they were both following the script. My answer: I was in school. Them: and then? Me: I was in school. Them: Oh. Me, to myself: stupid. So after that home furnishings interview, I tried to fill in the “gaps” in the employment section to limit confusion.

My mother tells me to stop calling those people stupid. In person I humor them. That makes me think of when I did a French speaking test with NDI and was basically talking to myself because they person on the end couldn’t follow. Hopefully she recorded that to share with someone else who could actually test me. They were offering a whopping $12/hr for DC, for me to move back from Boston to DC. It would have been different if it was just part-time, and I thought about getting a second job, but I would’ve been overqualified…

Throughout this job process, I have expected employers and recruiters to review my résumé and cover letter against the job description and the overall mission of the company. I expected the job description to be accurate, but in my cover letter I would address how I could assist them beyond what was in the description, so the accuracy of the job description itself wasn’t a big deal unless it was far off. I expected job descriptions to not have typos. I expected companies to want to best candidate, not the cheapest, while basing the salary requirements on their own assumptions without negotiating with the candidate. Yet, from this process I have learned that those expectations are too high, or maybe they’re just too high for most people and I am just waiting for that diamond in the rough. After all, all my credentials landed me a temp position with a company whose name makes people oooh and aaah (smh). I was just a temp position though. I just need to find normal people, companies, recruiters, who don’t have to be dropped on their head to recognize a quality candidate, and can put their ego aside and not be intimidated.