Open Letter to Prospective Employers
To Whom It May Concern:
It is that time again. Once again, through no fault of my own, it is time to look for another job. I’ve been working on the resume, gathering the work history and reference information. I have been doing all the things I have been advised are the tools to a successful job search. Frankly, it is a little disheartening.
I have a resume and job history that is long on variety and shorter, much shorter on duration. Some might see that as an indication of my lack of commitment and ease of distraction. I see it differently, of course. All those jobs, those diverse and unusual jobs have given me some worthy skills. How does one go from bank teller to convenience store clerk to greenhouse worker to bookkeeper to sales person to greenhouse manager to cost accountant to garden designer to café server to baker without learning about adaptability, original thinking, accountability, motivation, consistency, and determination? If one is aware, of one’s self and one’s surroundings, one learns how to plan, how to implement, how to recover and recoup, how to persuade, and how to deliver. One learns how to do what needs to be done in a timely and professional manner. Yes, that resume of multiple different jobs over the course of the 35 years of my working life is a very good sample of the qualities employers should be looking for in employees.
So why do the job descriptions in the various want ads list potential employee qualifications such as eager, hardworking, able to stand for eight hours, able to lift 50 pounds? The physical abilities, one would think, based on the job title and description, would be obvious. As a baker I knew I would be lifting 50 lb bags of flour and 60 lb containers of honey. As a greenhouse worker I knew I would be standing for hours on end, often under the mist of the propagation house, or at a conveyor belt planting line. I knew as a cost accountant I would be sitting, staring at a computer screen for hours. Why would these employment conditions need to be spelled out? As for motivation and work ethic, is there really a belief a bored, lazy person would be self-aware enough to defer from applying based on the listed qualifications?
And why, when it comes down to the actual job being advertised, are there no lists of qualification for the mental aspects of the job? Is it assumed that everyone can think independently? That anyone can identify a problem, devise a solution to that problem, and finally implement that solution successfully?
Or is it, and this I fear is the real reason there is no list of mental qualifications; employers simple do not want people who can think working for them. They don’t want people who ask questions, think of alternative ways of doing things, use words like if, perhaps, maybe, try, idea, consider, different, better. From what I gather, curiosity, and creativity are not useful qualities when looking for a job. That’s a shame.
What appears to be essential for any type of employment is the team player attribute. When seeing this in an employment ad, I cringe. Team equals competition, battle, sports. Why must I participate in a competition? A Battle? Sports? Perhaps, if I was going to receive the salary of the NFL football player for my work, I could be persuaded to buy into the sports metaphor for employment. Perhaps.
I am not a team person. I don’t like sports, especially team sports. As a child on the playground during recess I was not very interested in being chosen for the softball game. It wasn’t that I couldn’t play (I had a mean and powerful drive up the center field, and I was a left-handed batter.) I just wasn’t interested. While teams were being chosen I would be at the fence trying to figure out when recess would end based on the length of the shadows of my classmates or what was the strategic value of the outfield positions based on the percentage of left and right-handed batters on each team. I personally preferred left field because there wasn’t much activity and that part of the playground was shaded
I am not a group project person either. When Stephen, in fifth grade, decided to blow off the state of Montana in our Western United States project, I was left, as group leader, with the unanticipated job of filling in for him. I have been leery of group projects ever since. It was a valuable lesson in the limitations of expectations and trust.
So, this team idea, it isn’t a good one for me. I don’t fit well in that cooperative cheerleader driven team player workforce. Remember you are paying me to work; I don’t need any other incentive. That’s why I show up every day, for the pay. I don’t need to win, and I don’t need to bond with my team mates.
In fact I probably won’t. I will be pleasant, and cooperative. I won’t share my personal life with my coworkers and I won’t participate in extra-work social activities. I just won’t. I am not working to make new friends or expand my social life. I’m not. I am working for the money. Employment is a simple, honest contract between worker and employer. I do my job, employer pays me for it. That is the extent of it. The rest of my life is mine. Simple.
If I have to, to get the job, to get paid, I will play the team member role. I can participate, if I have to, but I don’t think I do my best work as a member of a team. Really, I just want a job, instructions on how to do the job, and then let me go off and do it. All by myself.
I promise, I will do my very best, given my entire attention to the job, (while I am at work) and strive to produce as requested to the best of my abilities. I am, if nothing else, adaptable, determined and accountable.