Sunday, April 18, 2010

Barriers to Employment

It’s chilly outside the career center, but the camaraderie is warm. Eddie is always first in line, always with a big toothless smile on his face.

The line forms early for free computer classes. We stand under the palm trees and try not to get pooped on by excited sparrows. There’s an interesting mix of people - some are young, working towards their GED; others are shocked to find themselves unemployed for the first time in 25 years. One woman held the same job for 30 years. She was hoping to become a CPA, but her transcripts from the university she attended were destroyed. A few seniors just want to learn to email and buy birthday presents online, but most folks come in hopes of becoming more employable.

One day I notice a middle-aged woman with every feature on her face – eyebrows, nose, mouth, ears - completely encircled with piercings. She looks as though she got caught in the crossfire of some bizarre Bedazzler shoot-out. Plus, her hair is all the colors of a box of popsicles. I can’t help wondering what kind of job she is going for. I’m guessing not preschool teacher. I’m tempted to try to count the number of studs in her head - there must be over a hundred – but I don’t want to stare. She glances over at me and smiles. I smile back. I quickly surmise that she’s nice, but I still worry she’d scare the tattoos right off the manager at Al’s Auto Parts.

Some weeks ago I took a resume workshop. Mostly I wanted to know how skills like boo-boo kissing and vacuuming Doritos crumbs from car seats transfer to the job market. No one buys terms like household manager or domestic engineer.

Every few minutes the presentation was hijacked by someone else wanting to discuss how their felony convictions hinder their job search. For a moment I wondered if I’d wandered into the wrong workshop. Even the instructor gently reminded everyone about his other workshop, “From Hard Time to Full Time.” I was intrigued by the euphemisms everyone used. No one was convicted, they “picked up” a felony. It sounded like a trip to the farmer’s market. I picked up some squash, a watermelon, a couple of felonies…

There was another stay-home mom in the workshop, about my age. Her hand went up. Finally, I thought, I might get some useful information out of this class.

“Um, yeah,” the woman said, “I picked up my felony when I was eighteen…”

Okay then. I may have some things going for me. I don’t have a criminal record, and my face won’t set off any metal detectors. It’s still a chilly climate for job seekers everywhere.


Kelly said...

Great picture into what so many people are facing today.
My family has been hard hit with lay offs and businesses closing.
Let's hope the economy picks up soon.
And yow on the piercings!!

Kim Kasch said...

I took a parenting class when I was young, with another Mom. We were hoping to learn new "great" parenting techniques. We were surprised to discover everyone else in the class was court-mandated to be there - YIKES! I don't want to even tell you the things they were saying.

So, I sorta know how you felt-a little out of place - heck, a lot out of place.

LW said...

When I see a young face filled with piercings I try to picture that face forty or fifty years from now.
I saw a tattoo on an older women’s back thigh at the beach a few summers ago, the once too large pretty rose looked like it was stepped on a few too many times.
I do hope it all comes together for you and you find something soon.


ICQB said...

From an archaeologist's point of view, a few hundred years from now, the intact bodies with the piercings and the tattoos will be the interesting ones :-)

I'm wishing you every good luck with the searching. Hope your obvious intelligence and creativity can warm the climate for you.

Keats The Sunshine Girl said...

What more is there left not to be studded etc!! In such a damp job market, where is she headed for??
I hope you will do well and get yourself something good:)) keep fingers crossed.

Suzanne Casamento said...

Something will come. Just keep on keepin' on. That's the only thing you can do.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Oof, it does sound rough out there. My sister was kvetching how she keeps getting passed over for a promotion to management at her job. Then I visited her for the first time in 2 years. Ummm, yeah, between the new tattoos (on wrist and back of neck with VERY short hair)and the nose piercing? She is NOT management material. *Sigh* And she's 36 years old and still doesn't get it. At least she hasn't picked up any felonies.

Anne Spollen said...

One of the wonderful things about being a writer is no one really cares what you look like and you can imagine an entire (tiny) village existing on Doritos crumbs trapped in car seats.

You might get some really good ideas for a story at those places. The weirdness factor can be a plus.

Ara Burklund said...

You're so right, Adrienne! My brother just graduated from NYU, but his most promising interview so far has been with Game Stop. Good luck!

Rena said...

LOL Adrienne. And they're all innocent of any crimes. I'm sure most will tell you that.

Good luck, all the same!

Keri Mikulski said...


Good luck!

Rebecca Ramsey said...

You are hilarious. What a great recap of the experience. I love it.

I'll be thinking of the bedazzler shoot out all day. :)

Ocean Girl said...

You are funny and cute Adrienne. And that will put you at the top of the list!

Mary Witzl said...

Reading this made me want to laugh and cry at the same time.

Three years ago, I went to a job center in Scotland against my husband's advice. I felt so utterly out of place! A few people looked like they were fresh out of the penitentiary, but if anyone there knew how to conjugate a verb properly, I couldn't tell. (Not that there were any jobs for people who could...)

sruble said...

Your descriptions are so vivid that I can see the people at the career center in my head. We're searching here too, but haven't been to the career center yet. Although it reminds me of the unemployment office when I was there several years ago, when you actually had to go into the office.

Sending lots of good job search and career vibes your way!! Hope you find something soon!