Unemployment has been one of my most humbling experiences, up there with divorce, nearly dying, and contemplating Conrad Black’s ego.
I was recently jobless for three months, the longest stretch of my life. It was demoralizing. Not only was I unemployed, I was bad at being unemployed.
If you have ever used the Canada Job Bank, you know there are no jobs in this country unless you are a tradesman, a dental assistant, or a line cook, so raise your children accordingly.
So I had to look on foot instead. The manila envelope holding my resumés felt like a badge of shame, an adult dunce cap or a modern-day scarlet letter. People could tell I was behind on my debt payments, I was sure of it.
The first place I tried in person was a hospital, and the first words out of my mouth were — this is true — “I’m on the street looking for work. Can you help me?”
They seemed less than intrigued.
Understand that I come from New Brunswick, where job searches involve walking into places and saying, “I’d like to work here.” Employers respond with hardball questions such as, “Your mom’s name is Margie, right?” (Don’t tell anyone, but I had my answer prepped for that one and always got it right.)
Now I live in Toronto, where most of the interviews involve a tired-looking recruiter sitting next to a stack of resumés the size of the late Gary Coleman and hitting me with a long string of hypothetical and ethical questions. For example: “If you were on shift and your supervisor was asleep, but he had told you specifically not to wake him, and the supervisor was YOUR DAD, what would you do?”
“My dad’s name is Bob,” I’d reply. “Do you know him?”
After a couple months of this I started to wear down. But then I broke through and found a great job.
If you look at it one way, I stuck with it even through the dark times and proved to myself I can do whatever I set my mind to.
In another, more accurate way, I got a job without an interview and at a place where my boss knows my mom. Remember: If you’re looking for work, her name is Margie.
John Mazerolle is a comic and writer in Toronto. Read more at www.beaverexaminer.ca