E-Failing: The Joys of the Cyber-Resume

Everyone knows that, like the ballet dancer, the working life of the casual bartender is fleeting. Comes the time (as the mid-20s waistline creeps and the hairline gives a little) for choices. Mine was university. Four years later, in the day-long convocation queue, I wondered why Ryerson didn’t simply e-mail the degrees.

Hah! Such insouciance. Now, several hundred e-mailed job applications later, I languish in the cheerless void of the Internet and am grateful for that on-stage moment, the handshake, good wishes — fellowship, if you will.

Somewhere, out there, I know my qualifications must find a kinder eye and generate a response. But where? When? Like Odysseus in career-opportunity cyberspace, I wander and search for that special listing with requirements that match my vitals. Communication skills? Seamless. Want to make a difference? Absolutely. Work well on deadline? It’s in my blood. Team player? Send me in, coach.

So far, though, my digital curriculum vitae is a bust, piles of it dumped, for all I know, unread (certainly unheeded), into the infinity that yawns at the tap of a delete button.

“No new messages.” Such a curt letdown for high hopes.

Not that I’m unaccustomed to rejection. I had a modelling career that was notable for its generous share of the audition putdown that actors and models experience daily. Some modest bookings apart, my looks were found wanting in Milan, Athens and Hamburg. While modelling an Armani suit in Florence, my backside was deemed too flat by an art director who made frantic half-circles with her hands while yelling: “We have to stuff his ass.” And they did, the cardboard cut, contoured and stuffed into the pants. Dignity? That’s always parked with the street clothes.

In Milan, a designer dared me to blink as she wordlessly slid my composite card (a résumé with pictures, basically) into a bin with the toe of a gleaming Gucci boot. One adapted with a shrug.

In Toronto, a casting director had me read for a flicker of a role in a television commercial. My delivery was flawless. “You’re a natural — but this is a talkie,” he said, squeezing scorn from every syllable. Miserable; but at least he looked me in the eye.

Then there was bartending. O sweet potables! No e-mailed disembodiment here. This is an industry that appreciates those who pound the pavement with swagger and a hand-held paper resume, confident that, once in the door, smiles and personality will do the rest. It’s all on-the-sleeve in the booze business. (Except in the joints where the phrase “You’re hired” is, directed at a female, often synonymous with “How much did your boobs cost?”) Alas, it’s not a career.

No new messages. I understand the attraction of the on-line application process. For the hopefuls, it’s faster than faxing or mail and saves postage. It has enabled me to apply (unsuccessfully) for jobs in Vancouver, Toronto, London and Geneva. For employers, it’s an easy way to siphon applications without the prospect of having to call security to remove the truly tenacious. (Most of us know someone who, in the electronic equivalent of bushwhacking, has been fired by e-mail from a supervisor in the office next door. The injustice rankles, so we e-mail them our sympathies.) It is also much easier to murder type on a screen than to jettison a letter that came with a self-addressed stamped envelope.

The fact is that the “Dear John” response, under threat in increasingly unmannered times, finally perished with the introduction of the delete button. At a click, facility replaced civility. Destiny lies not at the sum of talents but in the span of a hand. Nevertheless, I search and jiggle, click, scroll, poke and prod, no longer craving success but simply confirmation that someone is reading the stuff. Is the CV lacking, critically flawed? Aware that follow-up calls are verboten in the sanitized application process, I fret about secure computer connections and, neurotically, routinely e-mail myself for assurance.

No new messages — but jams of spam. A guy in Nigeria wants to give me $42-million (U.S); alert on the W32.Klez virus; offers of credit; free trips and those keep-in-touch balls that, in lieu of a phone call, bounce from desktop bunker to friends’ in-boxes: Hey, how’s it going? What’s new your side? They list the top 10 reasons why men are dumber than women. I already know why, having just read 10 reasons why women are smarter than men. I forward everything, and check for new mail.

Glory day! My screen glows. Receiving Message: One of one. My heart flaps. I know, I know — all it takes is one hit. A click produces an automated reply: “Someone from human resources will be in contact with you should we wish to advance your application.” There are more conditions in that sentence than onecould cop in a courtroom. As for human resources, I now consider that an oxymoron.

But, hey, at least it’s contact. For the jobless surfer, optimism fuels the future.

-30-

Original story by Graeme McRanor originally appeared in the Globe and Mail.

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