One of Mike the Mad Biologist's link-farm posts led me to this affecting post on The Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog, by one Kathleen Geier*:
Finally, on a personal note, I will, at long last, out myself here: I am one of those long-term unemployed you keep hearing about, and [sociologist Ofer] Sharone's research rings painfully true to my own experience. I've attended sessions at one of those self-help centers for unemployed workers of the type Sharone refers to. Those sessions helped me in important ways -- the videotaped mock interview, with feedback, was especially useful. But the philosophy there was that finding a job is largely under your control, and that did tend to exacerbate my already robust penchant for self-blame. It also left me with a gnawing sense of perpetual guilt that I'm never doing enough in my job search.The research she's referring to is in the book Flawed System/Flawed Self: Job Searching and Unemployment Experiences, by MIT professor and sociologist Ofer Sharone. (Here is MIT's press release about the book).
"I'm not spending enough time on my job search" is one category of unemployment self-blame. The other kind comes when you land an interview, but not the job. There have been times I've raked myself over the coals: why did I never think to learn skill X that they are looking for? Or, God, I really blew that question! Why oh why didn't I do more practice interviews?
I've interviewed for some great jobs, and I've made it to the final stage several times. A few weeks ago, for my dream job, I was one of the final two people considered -- but then of course, they decided to go with the other person.
I always hear, "We really liked you!" "We were so impressed!" But someone else always turns out to be a "better fit". Always! It's beyond frustrating. That's why Sharone's findings about the emphasis on "the chemistry game" in the U.S. job market hit home for me. "Someone else was a better fit" -- story of my life.
Anyway, the objective elements of Kathleen Geier's experience --- long term unemployment, getting interviews but not jobs, someone else always being a "better fit" even though the interviewer/HR person gushes about your qualifications --- are very similar to mine, but I don't have the self-blaming response that she says she has, and that this Ofer Sharone guy says characterizes long-term-unemployed Americans in general.
I guess I think of interviews in a much more fatalistic way than she does. I see them less as a challenge for me to overcome than a way for them, the prospective employers, to look at me in person. If they like what they see, I get the job; if they don't, I don't.
Not sure if this is a healthier way to look at it or not --- yeah, I don't beat myself up over "failing" an interview, because I don't think passing or failing one is up to me, but at the same time I feel hugely disempowered in every aspect of the job search.
Obsessive self-loathing and total apathy are both aspects of depression, you know?
And, of course, my being autistic informs my ideas about why I might be rejected. For her, it sounds like she tends to blame herself for rejection because she thinks she said something wrong, or underprepared for the interview, and that if she had said a different thing or done more prep work she would have gotten the job.
It's not that simple for me, because I know there are an endless array of reasons a non-autistic person might be put off by me, an autistic person. I know that they see a whole bunch of things in my body language, and hear things in my tone of voice, that I don't know are there** and can't consciously control or correct for.
I guess an analogy might be, you're applying for work in a very New Age sort of environment, where the hiring manager says she can read auras***, and that in lieu of a conventional interview she would just evaluate you on the basis of your aura. You sit in front of her for a VERY awkward five minutes or so while she closes her eyes, goes hmm and ahhh and oh! and oh dear and you have no idea what she's reacting to, and then she opens her eyes, shakes your hand, tells you she'll get back to you with her decision, and then leaves. And you are left completely mystified as to what just happened or what she thought of you.
You would probably not think there was much you could have done to change the outcome of that interview if you failed to get the job, correct?
Well, they're all pretty much like that for me.
*I'm assuming no relation to the notorious Mark and David Geier!
**A less charitable way of putting this is that they project qualities onto me from their imaginations. And they have such active ones!
***Assume for the purpose of this analogy that you cannot perceive your own aura because auras don't exist.