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old diary notes…

September 11, 2014

It’s amazing the unfamiliar jobs you’ll try to land when you are unemployed, broke, and a month away from homelessness.

Maybe I’ll apprentice as a pastry chef, or a luxury car salesman. How about a middle-aged barista? Window cleaner?

Who cares that I’m university educated! Give me something. Anything!

The newspaper business writers say that corporate Canada is desperate to fill a million unfilled jobs, yet I sit here in another Service Canada workshop with similarly unemployed middle-aged slubs and we are all getting zero callbacks.

So where the hell are all of these unfilled jobs? Tim Horton’s isn’t even returning my calls!

Today’s mandatory workshop is about resume writing. The others sitting around the room are South Asian, Chinese, Middle Eastern. A Lebanese man beside me introduces himself as Farid, and we discuss the so-called democratic spring sweeping through the Middle East. He says it is nothing more than a spring grassfire. He thinks it will burn itself out rather quickly and things will return to the dictatorship ways they have always been. He tells me he came to Canada after he lost three family members to a suicide bombing, so I defer to his opinion.

I am one of only a half dozen Caucasians (and the only male) in attendance. Anyone in the room who looked at me and thought about it, knew that while I was also unemployed I was still a white male, thus putting me in the privileged group and I would be employed much faster than most of them.

It hasn’t happened but that’s at least the theory.

Conversely, I thought it also said something about me – I must be a screw up, if I can’t take advantage of a larger white biased system.

Except for the two young women fresh out of college, everyone in the room is over 40 and less than 55. Too old to hire, too young to retire. We still got kids to put through college, 10 years left on the mortgage – so close, now so far away.

We go around the room and we discover that we all have plenty of experience, but few of the new skill sets.

We sit uncomfortably with each other and our common dilemma until the presenter comes into the room and we are then instructed to go around the room and formally introduce ourselves – all names immediately forgotten.

One chap talks about the fact that his EI is about to run out. There are grumblings from others about the fact that the government will not extend our benefits. I remind everyone that we are already seen as lazy, that more benefits would only encourage our idleness. Others talk about how their RRSP’s have had to be cashed out. Credit cards maxed. I note that I have asked my mother for cash – like I was back in college. Someone reveals that when he takes the grandkids home for a visit with the grandparents, he fills the trunk with food from grandma’s pantry. He figures it saves him fifty or sixty bucks. He said it makes him feel very very small.

Most people visibly slump in their seats when the presenter tells us to accept the fact that we will get no more than a 1% return on resume investments. That for every 100 resumes put out there, I’ll get one call back. Maybe.

She then goes on to do a perfunctory powerpoint presentation about all the employment websites out there and everyone’s eyes glaze over as they try to plan tonight’s budget dinner, dream of their homelands, wonder how the hell they got here, and how they were going to pay the rent.

One woman, who had no idea what was being said, took out a small digital camera and took pictures of the powerpoint projections. The presenter had no concept of second language issues as she blazed through the presentation in record speed.

At the back of the room, some dozed.

I’ve come to accept all the crazy job refusal excuses. “You were so amazing in your interview Mr. Jones, that we want you in another department. Unfortunately, we have no openings in that department at this time.”

“We were so excited with your interview Mr. Jones, that we would like you to be on our Board of Directors. We really think that with your experience you would have a lot to offer our agency. Unfortunately, we are going with someone else for the job, but the Board of Directors would be a wonderful three-year opportunity for you. –No, it is not a paid position.”


I’ve done all the Employment Canada workshops. Discovered a hundred new websites to leave my resume on. A hundred new ways to be rejected. I know my personality color.

Of course, it’s all a race to the bottom these days. Job postings note that you need a page full of skills, 5 years experience (but not too much experience), and be willing to work for 30K a year. If you’re lucky the potential job comes with benefits. …I could use a visit to the dentist. I’ll take it!

Everyone in the room knows what it is to spiral into the vortex of on-line job searching, where the hours spent in front of a computer monitor becomes a thick wool blanket suffocating the mind with doubt, insecurities, and suicidal tendencies.

Pursuing the 100 websites of job postings – adding our resumes to the other 200 for that part-time job. Now there are a thousand copies of my resume drifting in the electronic void

– like an echo of the person I once was – working, employed, useful.

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