Saturday, November 21, 2009

Unemployment Diary: I Am The Man?

No, I Am Not The Boss, An Attorney Or A Stockbroker. Just Another Job Hunter

One of the great ironies of the modern job hunt is that while most work places have long since gone "business casual" those seeking employment still must dress for their interviews as if they are going to attend either a very fancy wedding or funeral as soon as the interview is done. So, you often have a situation where someone dressed well, and neatly, but in normal biz caz attire, is interviewing someone who looks like he just got out of a Brooks Brothers tag sale.

They say always dress for the job you want, not the job you have. I guess when you're unemployed dressing for the job you have is not an option. But am I dressing for the job I want? Because I've come to notice that while I might, or might not, look dynamite in my cleaned and pressed pin-striped suit (made for me in Thailand for the princely sum of $150 ten years ago), I still don't want to be a banker, politician, attorney or, I guess, hit man. And that's just about a complete list of the only people in 2009 who still wear neat, cashmere (they claimed in Thailand) pin striped suits.

And I'm happy to do it. I am serious about getting a new job. Deadly serious. I am waiting to make my interviewees an offer they can't refuse and ... hey maybe these pin stripes are getting to my head!

But, in reality, I do need a new job, and I want one very much. But I just think it's so strange to go into a modern, non-hierarchical workplace and feel like I look over-eager, perhaps, because I'm pretty much the only one there wearing a tie. In today's business world the status has flown the other way. When a guy like Steve Jobs leads one of the world's great companies without ever, ever seeming to take off a black turtleneck a suit and tie is no real sign of power. Rather it is a sign that you are the one who wants something.

The other irony, of course, is that this hardly matters to the people you see on the subway and on the street as you either go to or leave your interview. All they see is ... SUIT! And that's not a good thing. In an age where our financial system was pretty much destroyed by an army of guys from Wall Street wearing nice, neat suits wearing one raises more than a few eyebrows. In fact I kind of feel like wearing a sandwich board around my chest and shoulders that reads: "I'm NOT The Man." Needless to say I would take it off in advance of my actual interview, because I need them to in turn believe I AM The Man. Or at least the man they need.

The other thing about wearing a suit is that it makes it a lot harder, at least superficially, to not give money to homeless folks. Because I don't know about you but when I'm dressed to the nines they go right for me. In fact after one interview this week I had a guy seek me out and tell me a terrible story about how he just got out of Rikers and needs $23 to get home, and he only has $12, and ... I cut him off.

"Here you go, sir, I can give you $1," I said. "I was just laid off two weeks ago, and have a wife and child to support."

His eyes got wide ... the tables, to my shock, had been turned.

"I'm so sorry to hear about that brother, I'm so sorry," he said. "We've got to help each other out!"

"I know, I know," I said, as he took the dollar just the same. "Thank you. You take care."

He patted me on the back telling me how sorry he was for my own sorry state. I walked away feeling like even if I looked like $1 million, maybe, I sure didn't feel like it. But even so I probably felt better than he did that night in my own warm bed.

None of this is to say that I'm not going to continue wearing my suits and trying to wow those who interview me. I am for real. I mean, well, business. And I will keep wearing them until someone, somewhere hires me. And at that point I will take them off and put them in my closet, until, god willing, our next wedding.

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