The last time that I job searched Ronald Reagan was in the White House. At that time, long long ago, assembling a coherent resume, wracking my brain to identify personal strengths, and figuring out what to wear was a self-flagellating ordeal. The first district that called me led to a chatty, comfortable interview which after a few days landed me a position I soon loved. In the meantime, while waiting, I interviewed with a neighboring district who essentially informed me that I was so lucky to have even secured an interview with them, I needn’t expect anything else to materialize. The two interviews left me confused–I certainly was the same person sitting before each interviewer, so what subtleties created such contrasting experiences?
Flash forward to now. The young people in my family have all finished their educations and have entered the job market in various occupations. They’ve described to me today’s method of the hunt. All had to monitor various websites for employment openings, apply on-line for each posting, a telephone interview hopefully followed, an initial personal interview and, if lucky a second interview. Even in my field, education, the process has come to involve an empirical, impersonal, but fair, aptitude test for job fitness.
And seeking employment does appear more fair. But the process has certainly eliminated the immeasurable. And I do understand that past abuses concerning skin color, ethnic affinity, and gender, skewed employment which explains the complexity of finding a position. But it seems job hunting has evolved where blind equity has trumped human potential and trust.
How much of us transcends a resume?
Could Helen or Chum have excelled in their fields under today’s rules? How spiffy would their talents look on paper? Was it better for them that the ink was still wet writing down the qualifications for dancing or flying? Could you or I achieve the same heights waiting for that second interview?
For both of these ambitious people, the differences came from their persistence, crossing paths with pivotal figures and providential situations. Neither Helen, nor Chum were held back by corporate rules limiting their goals. They took each opportunity life offered up, and by pluck, or by intuition seized the chance.
She danced in the New York Subway! He babysat officer’s children on base in Norfolk!
Has the remedy of a faceless, genderless driven employment process improved the workforce? Could Helen or Chum have done today what they did in the 1930’s?
Is fair really all that fair?