Just breathing

At about 1.30 last night I woke from a disturbed sleep. Rigby, as he always does, had somehow made me aware that he needed to go out. Grumbling I put on a robe and took him through the house to the back door, and let him out.

A misty rain was falling. It had been falling for a while. The grass was wet and shiny in the moonlight. Scattered clouds ringed the moon. It was quiet and still but for the rain, cold, but not too cold.

As I stood in the doorway waiting for Rigby to return I reflected upon my first day back unemployed. I felt weighed down and pessimistic. The little rousing speeches I give myself had no power in the moonlight alone in the middle of the night.

I had set about the task of finding a job methodically. I searched out some contacts in the recruitment industry and gave each one a call. Once upon a time I had excellent connections, but no longer, and in any case the industry has greatly changed since then.

All but one went through to voicemail. They never answer, or hardly ever. With the one contact I got through to I had a decent and depressing conversation. He explained how it is today. He works for one of the big name recruiting firms. They tender each year to the big business around town to become one of their preferred recruiters. They are measured by KPI’s that boil down to how many applicants are accepted for interview from the resumes submitted. Get it wrong and they lose the business – and it’s big business.

What makes it more difficult now is that it’s very much a buyers market. Most companies these days are preposterously specific in their requirements. If they ask for a left-handed Jesuit you have to submit to them a left-handed Jesuit for appraisal. No good being left-handed. No good being a Jesuit. You have to be both, and if you’re neither then God help you – no matter how good you are.

I could hear the frustration in his voice as he explained this. He’s a professional recruiter in an industry that has become superficial in recent years. ‘Recruiters’ come and go, driven to achieve targets and earn commissions for delivering candidates that tick the right boxes. Discretion and judgement have been replaced by computer driven analysis and a bright manner. The reason I have so few contacts now is because there appears such a high degree of churn in the industry.

My contact is an old school recruiter, like the types I would deal with back in the day. In those days you formed a partnership based on trust and understanding. As a candidate I was valued and invested in. They knew my capabilities, my character, my ethic, and I trusted they would do the right thing by me. It was a beneficial and productive arrangement based on their intimate understanding of what I could do.

That’s rarely possible these days, even when you manage to find one of those recruiters. As my contact explained, many times he had a candidate he thought would be perfect for a role who didn’t meet the specific criteria. Back in the day he would advocate for them based on what he knew and trusting to his relationship with the employer. No longer. He can’t even put forward those candidates now for fear of screwing up the KPI’s and losing the business. It seems so stupid and counter-productive, and for me, very personal. I’m that person he speaks of. I’m a very talented generalist, but it’ll be a rare day when a job criteria is listed that I meet. And so, now, I miss out.

From my phone calls I went on to LinkedIn, then sent some emails. I went out for lunch, sitting in the bistro of the Mordialloc Hotel watching the wind bend the trees and the grey ocean tip with white breakers. It was a turbulent afternoon, pretty in its rugged way. I had a beer and talked and talked, about politics and my circumstances and notions of what I might do, feeling restless with it and helpless, plying word after word from habit, but feeling something die in me.

I never got a call back from the messages I left. They never call, except when they want something from you. My emails bar one went without response. LinkedIn was a total wash. And so I stood there in the dark wondering what I would do, and what I could do. I felt bleak, and as if destined for ruin once more.

The day comes and nothing is different except that I must go on. And I start again. Late in the day I got a response. Maybe there’s a job for me. Maybe, but I won’t hold my breath.


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