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.
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.