Tall, Dark, and Mysterious


Biting the hand that helps me feed myself

File under: When We Were Young, Know Thyself. Posted by Moebius Stripper at 1:21 pm.

First things first: yes, that is a copy of Landing a Job For Canadians For Dummies on my nightstand. Because, well, I’m trying to land a job, and I’m Canadian, and although I’m not a dummy, I’ve been advised not to look a gift horse in the mouth - another adage that I shall now proceed to violate.

First thoughts: they take their demographic very seriously. I’d suspected that that Dummies series catered merely to, for instance, those job-seekers who didn’t hold MBA’s and who weren’t totally up on such things as (to quote the literature) “tapping into the hidden job market”. Not so: this book caters to the bone-stupid. “There will be no business jargon in this book!” promises the author, who then goes on to define, for the benefit of the truly stupid among us, some of the terminology that we will be using, such as the word job. I’m not making this up.

After that’s taken care of, we get a word of caution:

…this book doesn’t provide you with a sure-fire formula for getting hired. Know why? Frankly, because such a formula doesn’t exist (despite what your math teacher might have said).

Straw poll of the several dozen math teachers who read this blog: who here has told their students that there exists a formula for getting a job?

(Crickets chirping, bigass ball of twine rolling across barren desert landscape.)

To its credit, the book doesn’t assume that the reader has a career in mind. Unfortunately, it addresses this issue in a way that reminds me exactly why I hated my grade nine English class. In particular, there’s this bizarre little brainstorming exercise in the first chapter, devoted to figuring out if the wayward reader actually does know, deep down inside, what sort of career he or she is looking for. We get suggestions such as this one:

If you were to write a book, what would it be about? Does the topic suggest a potential career to you?

Well, I’d like to write a recreational math book. Say, that does suggest a career to me: writer of recreational math book. Anyone hiring?

Ignoring constraints on my talent and experience, I’d probably like to write the sort of fiction that I like to read: hard-boiled detective novels. This suggests such careers as “fictional hard-boiled detective” and “serial rape-murderer”, none of which is particularly viable.

Moving along:

If you had a twin, what would they tell you to do? Of course, you have to assume you have a twin that knows you very well and tells you exactly what he or she thinks! This is often not what your parents would suggest, or even what you yourself would think of.

First of all, I commend the author for stating that assumption explicitly. It’s often taken for granted that identical twins are exactly alike, but those of us who uh, had friends who read all of the Sweet Valley books, know quite well that twins’ personalities can in fact develop entirely outside the influences of either nature or nurture. But now I feel threatened by this fictional twin, who apparently knows me better than I know myself. And since she’s otherwise just like me, that translates into a level of self-awareness that far surpasses mine. Is she unemployed? Because if so, she and I are neck-and-neck in terms of personality, education, and transferable skills, but she’ll totally kick my ass in the part of the interview where we’re asked things like Where do you see yourself ten years from now? Thank God the embryo didn’t split, is all I can say.

Anyway, that was fun! Now that I know what sort of job I want, it’s time to start searching. This requires me to set up a little area where I look for work, which the author cutely calls “Mission Control”. Where should I set up Mission Control? Well, that’s up to me, but the author kindly provides some suggestions as to where not to set it up:

Your garage. Far too cold and dirty!

Your walk-in closet. Some people go to any extreme for a little privacy! But in return, you get bad lighting and potentially claustrophobia! I don’t have to mention the spare bathroom, do I?

And yet, in the pages that follow, even those of us who are thick enough to conduct business from a toilet seat or a garage can check off “Strongly Agree” on statements such as “I am resourceful and practical”, thereby paving the way for a challenging, high-paying job as an interior designer. And they say America is the land of opportunity.

[Related anecdote from back when my brother and I were kids: my dad was on a business trip, and he, the King of the Free Upgrade, had gotten us this enormous posh hotel room that had three phones. I was old enough to recognize decadence when I saw it, and I knew that three phones was decadence. At one point my dad had to make a business call, so he figured he’d have some privacy if he left my brother and mom and me to watch TV while he used the phone in the bathroom. Because, well, there was a phone in the bathroom. And my brother was three or four years old, still at the stage where he felt entirely at ease doing things like wandering into the bathroom while my father was on the bathroom phone, leaving the door wide open, picking up the toilet seat, and conducting his business. So, maybe I’m being too hard on the author: none of us were born knowing the full extent of what bathrooms are and are not suitable for, and not all of us had the benefit of learning same during our formative years.]

I’ve only skimmed through the rest, and though much of it follows this format of guiding complete idiots through the job-hunting process (don’t look up the home phone number of the person who interviewed you, and call her the next day at midnight to see if you have the job!), there’s a lot of value, such as the link to the Canadian government site that lists 25,000 different careers with their descriptions. (On preview: nope, that site doesn’t exist. But here’s the HRDC site that’s almost as good, giving descriptions of a whopping one hundred and seventy jobs. Feh.) So I can scan ahead to everything in courier font and skip the rest, which already makes this book more useful than the meeting with the employment counselor, who never talked in courier font at all.


  1. Now I’m curious… how do they define “job”?

    - meep — 7/31/2005 @ 6:13 am

  2. I don’t have the book on me right now, but it was something along the lines of “a specific position with a paid salary”. The other terms defined in that section were “career”, “occupation”, and “field”.

    Anyway, the book seems pretty useful, for the most part, once you get past advice like “you’ll need to set yourself apart from the pack with your cover letter, so follow this template.”

    - Moebius Stripper — 7/31/2005 @ 2:18 pm

  3. Bwa ha ha ha.

    Anyway, looking for a job and looking for a career are two different things.

    And not all the “Dummies” book are that dumb. The computer books tend to be very good references for those at all levels.

    And I should’ve actually read that entry on “Rigoletto” in my Opera for Dummies before I went to the performance. That old man, he cursed me!

    - meep — 7/31/2005 @ 4:15 pm

  4. I was in the bookstore today and I noted that instead of ‘Diabetes for Dummies’ they titled it ‘Diabetes for Canadians for Dummies’. I guess Diabetes for Dummies didn’t sound too good.

    I’ve always found the titles: ‘Crosswords for Dummies’ and ‘Chess for Dummies’ amusing as well. I opened up the latter expecting it to be a book about Checkers…

    - Declan — 7/31/2005 @ 11:14 pm

  5. ‘Hypergeometric Functions for Dummies’
    ‘Cardiothoracic Surgery for Canadians for Dummies’
    Heh, this is fun. Seriously though, I don’t get the Canadian in the title. Other than a few country specific job resources, isn’t job hunting about the same north and south of the 49th?

    - sheepish — 8/1/2005 @ 9:47 am

  6. Well, employment law is probably different in Canada. These are in the details, of course.

    I don’t know about Canada, but I understand that in Europe, it’s common for people to attach pictures to their resumes. Because of discrimination law in the U.S., any HR department would throw out pics (unless it’s for modeling/acting.) Interviewers aren’t allowed to ask if you’re married, pregnant, or how old you are in the U.S. I can’t imagine hiring law is that different in Canada, but you never know. I’m sure that in Quebec, various language policies would come in play, whereas in the U.S. there’s no particular problem with discrimination based on whether you can speak particular languages.

    I’m not terribly surprised there would be a different book for Canadians. A lot of job-seeking, job-market info is rather location-specific.

    - meep — 8/1/2005 @ 10:38 am

  7. “ball of twine”?

    You must be Canadian.

    Seriously though. That recreational math thing…You should contact this guy (http://math-teacher.blogspot.com/) and get something together.

    - Jack — 8/1/2005 @ 11:20 am

  8. Haha, Chess for Dummies. Back when I was in undergrad, a friend of mine was thinking of writing Measure Theory for Dummies.

    And yeah, there’s a lot on Canadian labour laws. There’s a pretty useful table listing what employers in the various provinces and territories are and are not allowed to discriminate on the basis of. Fun fact: in BC, you’re not allowed to discriminate on the basis of political belief, but you are allowed to discriminate on the basis of “national or ethnic origin”. In other words, if you’re interviewing for the position of high school biology teacher, you can’t ask your candidate what they think of teaching creationism alongside evolution, but you can ask if that’s a Pakistani accent you hear.

    To be fair to the book, it’s really quite good, hokiness aside. And I can’t even fault it for its hokiness; I think the real problem is that the job search process itself is so overwhelmingly stultifying that any book on the topic is going to be so, as well. I mean, the consensus among job-search experts is that no matter how much an employer wants a creative, outside-the-box thinker with a dynamic personality, they will not even consider such a person if they deviate more than marginally from the standard resume, standard wardrobe, standard answers to interview questions, and so on. I’ll be glad when this is all over, if only because I won’t have to fake that sort of conformity anymore.

    - Moebius Stripper — 8/1/2005 @ 11:27 am

  9. In’s the hiring manager who wants the out-of-the-box thinker. The HR department wants a conformist who won’t come back to bite them on the tuckus with non-conformist behavior. Hence the process of the hiring manager trying to whack the HR department with a clue bat, and the HR department trying to duck the blows. Unfortunately, the applicant has to interview with both parties.

    - John — 8/1/2005 @ 1:02 pm

  10. I may not be “on the market” in the same way you are, but I know that it must be horrid. You’ll find something soon, if not you can do what I do and do private tutoring for $20/hr for a while.

    Kids learn some math, you get good pay. It works out for all parties involved.

    Also, I don’t know what part of Canada you are in, I wouldn’t give out that kind of info either, but you might want to check craigslist.org, it’s a pretty resourceful site (I’ve found) and may or may not have what you are looking for. I’ve seem some listings for math-related things (even teaching) in my area, but alas, no degree yet… yet.

    - Vanes63 — 8/1/2005 @ 1:29 pm

  11. In Quebec, you often need to speak French; there are many jobs for which other languages cannot be required (ie, in hospitals, and any job in the government, apparently). Generally, though, most people will have two languages, and it’s rather assumed (in Montreal, and probably in Gatineau).

    - wolfangel — 8/1/2005 @ 1:38 pm

  12. Ignoring constraints on my talent and experience, I’d probably like to write the sort of fiction that I like to read: hard-boiled detective novels

    Yes! Yes! I’ve always known that, deep down, there lurked a novelist inside you, MS.

    - lobster — 8/1/2005 @ 4:22 pm

  13. Well, it’s been a while since we’ve had a serial rape-murderer here. Job openings abound!

    - wolfangel — 8/1/2005 @ 5:36 pm

  14. Of course, based on your definition, it’s not a “job”, because there’s no salary. Nor is writing novels a job.

    - wolfangel — 8/1/2005 @ 5:36 pm

  15. Vanes63, I’m doing some private tutoring. It’s a good gig: eight hours a week gets me just as frustrated as 40 hours a week last year! At least last year, I could ban the fucking graphing calculator from my classroom, whereas this year, I have to deal with it every single day. (And, with private tutoring, your students are your clients, so they call the shots. In the case of one kid I’m working with, his goal is to pass his provincials and then never think about math again. So that’s what I’m teaching him to do - it’s a completely different process from teaching him to understand exactly what he’s doing. The other student is better.)

    Lobster - um, yes, ignoring constraints on experience and talent, there is. Alas, if I were to base a hard-boiled detective novel on my own life, every single one of my readers would be able to guess the ending: “It was the cranky teacher who killed the obnoxious student! DUH!”

    Wolfangel - Well, it’s been a while since we’ve had a serial rape-murderer here. Job openings abound! - right, because Karla is reformed!

    - Moebius Stripper — 8/1/2005 @ 7:35 pm

  16. Are you insulting my neighbour?

    - wolfangel — 8/1/2005 @ 10:25 pm

  17. If I had a twin, I think I would be the evil one. At least, according to the formula I just worked out.

    - TonyB — 8/3/2005 @ 12:10 pm

  18. Not many people know this, but they are actually writing a special new volume in the Dummies series: Moebius Stripper for Dummies: The Inscrutable Mathematician and Philosopher Explained for Ordinary People.


    - lobster — 8/3/2005 @ 2:31 pm

  19. Friends who read Sweet Valley. Heh.

    - Saheli — 8/9/2005 @ 1:00 am

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