When you have to look for a job, it's hard enough when you have your arms, legs, eyes and ears working fine. But how much harder is it when you have a disability? I was about to find out and learn a few lessons along the way.
As a person with a vision impairment, I'd nutted out the address for my latest face-to-face job interview and entered the foyer full of anticipation. It was empty.
You're in the wrong place. Our other office is across the road, offered a female staff member.
I was off to a magnificent start with this, my latest interview in the search for new employment.
It's not about me
Being out of a job began with what human resources departments love to call a retrenchment. It's not about me. It's simply the position. Fine, we move on. I embraced the chance to make a fresh start.
I was directed to a few sessions with an external consultant whose knowledge of blindness was equivalent to a Bedouin's familiarity with polar bears. He promptly wished to overhaul my resume. It even came down to the 18 point heading font being the right shade of teal.
My goal was clear. I'd apply for customer service roles short term with the long-term view to find something better. After all don't they want workers with initiative?
The first hurdle was to apply online using text-to-speech software. I dutifully filled in the forms and proceeded to the upload resume button. It didn't work.
Eventually I managed to fire off a few applications and was rewarded with some brief automated acknowledgements.
At last, someone rang and offered an interview over the phone. As I was a seasoned customer service operator, such an exchange was a walk by the seaside. I was invited to an interview the following morning.
I need to tell you that I have a vision impairment. I hoped I sounded confident.
The appointment was rescheduled because there was a catch. It was a group interview.
The right office
After crossing the road, I waited with a gaggle of candidates who mostly seemed the backpacking variety.
We were grouped around tables, with our names propped before us on bent paper.
We want you to work together to devise a campaign to market a pet shop, breezed a chirpy facilitator. Great, they were going to assess my group interaction skills with a bunch of people I couldn't see, couldn't name and whose body language was an utter mystery. Notwithstanding this, I thought my idea of calling the shop
Furry tails was a good start.
Several times applicants were invited to respond in writing. But I was told not to worry about that. They'd ask me any relevant questions at the finish.
So after an extensive one-on-one interview at the end of the morning, what did they forget? But I wasn't going to be short-changed and reminded them of the outstanding questions.
I figured I'd performed pretty well, at least until I read the email that arrived.
I was not only unsuccessful, but told I should look for another line of work.
In the next face-to-face interview I walked into a foyer whose open-plan space pounded me with an uproar of voices topped by a radio on full volume. I couldn't even locate the enquiries desk.
At least this time, there was only one candidate and one interviewer.
Judging from her murmurs of approval, I figured I'd said all the right things about listening to clients and focusing on solutions. I was told I would hear back in two weeks.
I waited. Two weeks passed. And three weeks. This time I didn't even receive an email or a text.
And on it goes
A happy ending would be great. Aren't such accounts of looking for work supposed to ignite the torch of hope in others?
In a few days I'll attend another interview. At least this time I have a clear address and there's only one office to be found.
Have you had any interesting encounters when looking for work?