Job experts say it’s easier to find a job when you have a job. While it might seem that hiring managers are more willing to take a risk on someone currently employed than someone who has been out of the game for a while, I’m telling you finding a job is tough no matter when you’re looking. And lately I’ve begun to think it’s all about who’s the better liar.
I had the terrible misfortune of finding myself without a job in September 2008. The company I worked for merged with another and my position was eliminated. The timing was the worst in the last half century. It took nearly three years before I could find another full-time, permanent job, and that was only because the hiring manager saw he was going to get “an exceptionally skilled worker for a song,” his words not mine.
That thirty-four month journey was so depressing, so ripe with hopelessness that I promised myself I wouldn’t go through that again. Funny how we make promises like that to ourselves. Just think of how many women in the throes of delivering their first child promised to never go through that again but went on to have a second child. (In my case, I had another three.)
About six months ago the manager who hired me left for a better opportunity. Immediately I started another job search, albeit quiet and behind the scenes. I can’t let my current manager know I’m looking. I can’t tell my co-workers, although I suspect at least 80 percent of them are also looking. We’ve already watched a half dozen critical employees leave since the start of the year. Morale in our office is so low a snake’s belly could rub against it. And yet, on any given day all of the managers and directors will tell you things are just fine.
Four weeks ago I went to work one morning and told my manager I had to leave early for a doctor’s appointment. Instead I left early, drove five minutes down the road (that’s the truth), and interviewed with another company. It didn’t go too well. My work day had not gone well and I was frustrated and stressed and exhausted by the time I landed in the lobby of that prospective employer. Even though I knew I needed to shake off the baggage from my bad day, I couldn’t do it. I am not a good liar. I don’t have a good poker face. That hiring manager was looking for someone to come in and help her solve problems and have the initiative to set chaos into order. Instead she saw in me an exhausted, seasoned employee at the end of the day worn down by bureaucratic hamster wheels. I asked her what she thought would be the biggest challenge in the job. Learning the product. I smiled. She didn’t have a very good poker face either. Although I desperately wanted the job, it’s a good thing I didn’t get it. It would have been a lateral move of exhaustion and frustration. Same shit, different office.
Tomorrow I have another interview. This one holds some promise, and for that reason I am concerned. Lately whenever I desperately want something, it falls apart. I desperately wanted to win that record Powerball a few weeks back. I was desperate for a Spring Break at some all-inclusive resort in the Bahamas, but that depended on the lottery winnings that never came. I desperately want to find an office “home” where I can settle in and stay a while, where I can grow and develop, learn and mentor, laugh and problem solve.
In an effort to invite good karma into my life, I’m trying a different approach. I left work early today, with an imaginary headache and stomach ache. Tomorrow I’ll call in sick early, getting the lie out there right away so I can properly recover from the guilt long before I will step foot into the lobby of this potential employer. I’m hoping for a leisurely morning, a long shower, a problem free commute, and a winning interview.
Sure enough, about an hour after I got home today I started to panic. Guilt had taken over and I feel awful about lying to leave early, knowing I’m going to miss another full day tomorrow. I was so worked up about it that I actually started to feel ill. And then I had a terrible thought. What if the universe decided to play a joke on me and tomorrow afternoon put my current manager in the building I’m headed to for my interview? I can tell already I’m going to have nightmares tonight.
I hate lying. I never tolerated it in my children when they were growing up. I don’t tolerate it with my spouse. And yet, here I am, telling a bunch of whoppers just so I can have a chance at making a better life for myself. I think it would be so much easier to find a job if I didn’t have one. Yikes! That’s going to upset the universe for certain. I take it back! It’s a lie!