Forget Road Rage. I’ve got Job-Application-Rage!

All of my students keep informing me that today (in China at least) is Children’s Day! A day to celebrate children and give them gifts. After class today, my student Anna explained to me how she (and many others) plan to celebrate. “I will go to play with some children today. Will you?” No, thanks. I didn’t want to burst anyone’s bubble by telling them that in America, every day is Children’s Day. American children get to sit around and play video games, watch movies, or maybe go on a trip to the zoo and get some ice cream afterwards. In China, it’s much different. I am always seeing little boys in the street, all unbathed looking, playing with sticks and rubbish that they found in the ditch. Somebody give these boys a NERF gun, for crying out loud! However, most of the children I see in China don’t have time to play. Their parents are always putting them to work–washing dishes, waiting tables, etc. Once we went to a store to buy Justin a new pair of glasses, and an eight-year old girl was operating the *dangerous* laser lens-cutting machine! I watched in horror, hoping that she wouldn’t lose a finger. For children such as these, I think holding a holiday in their honor isn’t such a bad idea. They need a break from their forty-hour work week!

In other news, this week I have officially begun searching for a job back in the States.  There’s nothing like a nice, shocking dose of reality to bring me back from the China dream-world I’ve been living in. Getting a teaching job in China was almost too easy, and ever since I’ve been here, I get random people coming up to me on the street and offering me jobs. All the time. I’ve got to resign myself to the fact that obtaining a job in America will NEVER be that easy.

Even more discouraging are the hoops that I must jump through to even apply for a job. Gone are the days of filling out a one to two page application by hand. Now everything is online, and every application is fifteen pages long, with multiple required documents to upload. Gone are the days of writing “references will be furnished upon request.” Even if they’re not seriously considering hiring me, most school districts refuse to even accept my application unless I allow them to send annoying surveys and letter requests to the people I’ve listed as references. I plan on applying to as many places as possible, so it’s pretty much guaranteed that my references are going to HATE me by the time I finally land a job. They’ve had to fill out four electronic surveys already, and I’m only in my first week of searching.

The worst part about these job applications is the ridiculously invasive questions I’ve been asked.

Multiple job applications have asked for “a record of all work experience (not including certified teaching experience) since high school completion.” Really? They want to know about everything? Even the part time job I held the summer after my high school graduation, when I worked for a bookstore? My boss’s name was Debra (I can’t remember her last name), and the store went out of business shortly after I quit working there, so there is no phone number to list. How useful is that “record”? And how embarrassing is it that I have to list my summers working at Tweetsie Railroad on my professional job application? I never knew that would come back to haunt me. But the problem is–what if I was like 60 years old? How would I remember every job that I’d ever worked since high school? “Well, I was the successful manager of a neighborhood lemonade stand in the summer of ’71…”

One job application confused me by instructing me to record all work experience since high school completion, and then further down the page in bold letters, instructing me to only record work experience since college completion. Which one am I supposed to do? Is this part of the test? I ended up following the instructions in bold letters, both because I was too lazy to list all of my silly summer jobs again, and because bold letters make everything seem more important.

Pretty much every job application has the criminal background questions worded in confusing legal jargon. Have you ever been convicted, pled guilty, or pled nolo contendere (whatever that means) to a criminal offense, etc. But the questions have gotten nosier and nosier over the years. Now they ask things like, “Have you ever had a criminal offense expunged from your record?” I’m pretty sure those people pay to have things “expunged” for a reason. “Have you ever resigned in lieu of being dismissed?” You think I’m really going to tell you? And this is the first time I’ve ever come across this one: “Have you ever been convicted of any traffic or moving violations? If you answered yes, please provide detailed information including case numbers, dates of action, dispositions, places of occurrence, and current status of all.” Are you kidding me?! They want to know about every speeding ticket I’ve ever gotten since the age of sixteen? Do they think I’ve framed them and hung them on the walls and cherished the memories? No! I pay them, and then I throw them away. I know there are some smug readers out there bragging to their computer screens right now saying, “Oh, well I’ve NEVER gotten a ticket.” Well, good for you! And you can wipe that smug smile off of your face! For the rest of you who have ever been late to work or late to the movies or just in a hurry, I hope you will join me in agreeing that this is a ridiculous and irrelevant question, and besides that, impossible to furnish the detailed response they’re looking for. What does my driving record have to do with my teaching ability? Answer me that!

I can probably cross that school district off of my potential job list. The snarky response I wanted to type into their box exceeded the character limit anyways.

I had another school give me dire warnings in italic letters to please not indicate my sex, age, race, religion, or national origin on my application! Then of course, ironically, the next page of the application asked me to decide whether I optionally wanted fill in my sex, age, race and national origin. They also enigmatically asked me to “make a brief statement regarding my thoughts on diversity, including various facets of my life that might contribute to said thoughts/beliefs such as early education, socio-economic status, culture, race/ethnicity, and work experience.” Is this another part of the test?

My least favorite part of the job applications this time around was the question, “Have you ever had a contract non-renewed? If you answered yes, please briefly explain the circumstances.” *Sigh.* I hate that I have to answer “yes” to this question now. And I also hate that the question is worded using the word “ever,” which means that even when I’m sixty years old and filling out job applications (Let’s hope not! I would like to have found a steady job by then!), I will still have to explain why I was let go from my job thirty-five years ago. How discouraging is that?

No, there’s nothing quite like filling out job applications that makes me feel so woefully incompetent. I’m going to have to find something extra exciting from the harsh reality of my job search this weekend! And I think I know just the thing…


11 thoughts on “Forget Road Rage. I’ve got Job-Application-Rage!

  1. Hi Rachel,

    I can totally sympathize with your rage at the current job-seeking practices in America. I am also totally frustrated with an educational system that feels perfectly justified in hiring people with the exact same credentials (a Masters Degree, teaching experience,etc) as their full-time professors for a fraction of the pay and no benefits (medical or otherwise) whatsoever. I truly believe the media needs to do an expose on the fact that a high percentage (some colleges and universities, as much as 70% ) of college professors are adjuncts who have no office on campus to meet with students and are not paid for the time needed to help students outside of the classtime. If more parents and students knew what the difference was, they would be demanding that,since they pay the same tuition for a 3hr course with a full-time professor (who can meet with them during office hours), colleges and universities should hire more full-time professors. Until colleges and universities begin to recognize and reward all of their instructors with equal pay and benefits, they will continue to lose many “star” educators to administrative positions or businesses Happy Hunting!.

    • The only reason schools can treat teachers like that is because they know that teachers come to work each day for their STUDENTS, and not for the pay, the benefits, and the extras. If they were to start treating business executives this way, there WOULD be an outcry on the news. But I think as long as there are students who want to learn, the teachers will be there no matter how crummy the circumstances get! 🙂

  2. Rachel, I saw an interesting documentary the other day–“Waiting for Superman”; it wasn’t exactly about teacher pay, per se, but there were a few interesting points about hiring and retention incentives, especially in light of performance-based-pay and unions… Anyways, if you get a chance to watch it, you should. 🙂

    • I heard a lot about “Waiting for Superman” awhile back, and I never got the chance to watch it. Thanks for reminding me! I need to go check it out. The title is so accurate….even on my job applications, the schools want to know, “Can you coach a sports team? Can you direct a school play? Can you construct prom dresses out of duct tape? CAN YOU SUCCESSFULLY DISARM A BOMB?” Well….maybe not the last one. But you know, they’re really looking more for a “superhero” than a teacher–someone who can swoop in and singlehandedly save the entire school! The expectations are really high…

  3. Wow, that sounds ridiculous. Maybe you should consider teaching abroad again? Japan is good. You could probably get a job in Bhutan with your experience too. Or what about Canada, England or Australia?

    • It’s really tempting! My husband and I really enjoyed South Korea when we visited for a couple of weeks. That would probably be our choice if we had to teach overseas again. But we’re really ready to go home! We miss our family, and we’d also like to start our own little family at some point in the future, and I can’t imagine doing that overseas away from the support and help of family and friends.

  4. Counting the days until you both come home. GOD knows where HE wants two of HIS favorite children and HE will see that you get there. Love you both.

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