How to get a good job in the recession: start any job, then keep looking

(continued from Job hunting during recession)

Halfway through my 10 days, I got a phone call through a recruitment agency for another position. After a brief phone-interview, the consultant said she would arrange for me to interview with the company. Their main business was tyres, and I was going to interview for the Supply department.

The tyres company had a better-looking office, but a worse location – on the outskirts of town. “I’m fine with location as long as there’s no overtime,” I thought. The more I had considered different scenarios for my job, the more I had come to realize that my #1 priority was REGULAR HOURS. I wanted a job where everything – breaks, vacation days, sick leave and so on – was NORMAL. By the law. No illegal stuff like unpaid overtime or money under the table. I wanted to know that come 5:30, I can go home to my man. I wanted to know that when we have a baby, I’d be able to go on maternity leave with full benefits. Was that too much to ask? (Apparently – yes.)

My interview was with the company owner, and some female worker was present. The owner was very proud of his company, especially compared to other firms in the region. He even kinda bragged a little.

We went through the standard questions like previous place of employment, why did I think myself suitable for this position and did I speak English well? Luckily, they didn’t use “advanced” HR questions – you know, like which color describes you best or what animal you’d like to be.

Finally, we came to my favorite question: money.

“Well,” I said, “before we get into that, I’d like to say that right now, money is not the most important factor for me when I weigh job offers. Instead, I need to be certain that there are regular working hours because I don’t have the option to stay after hours. I don’t mean that I’ll never stay late or that I’ll always shut down the computer at 5:30 and not care about anything… I understand that sometimes it’s necessary to stay in late, and that’s no problem, as long as it does not become routine.”

The female worker didn’t say anything while I said that, but she lowered her head and started looking at her hands. That was a bad sign. “Hmm,” I thought, “I guess that’s not the case here.” Her body language was pretty clear on that.

“I often visit the office on Saturdays,” the owner said, “and I usually find staff here. It’s not that I make them come, but they still choose to do so. Anyway, you still haven’t given us a number yet about the pay.”

I specified a pay range. They said they’ll let me know.

Several days later, the HR agency called me and said the company had decided to “continue with another applicant.” I had lost to a thirty-something woman with more experience, and more job-relevant experience. “There wasn’t anything specific that they didn’t like about your application,” the consultant said almost apologetically. “They just decided to go with a more experienced professional.”

More experienced? That job wasn’t rocket science. My hunch was that the other lady probably wasn’t as “demanding” as I was about regular working hours. Also, she probably had kids already, meaning she wasn’t likely to go on maternity leave.

* * *

I reluctantly polished my shoes and ironed my clothes in preparation for my first day at the overtime job.

Now my 10 days were almost up. No one else had called me. I was particularly grieving over this one company that I had really, really hoped for. It was a big company with the reputation of a great employer – they offered regular hours, no cheap tricks like overtime or money under the table, and they also covered food and transportation costs.

I had done two interviews with them already, which I thought went really well. I was excited for a short while after that, thinking I might actually get the job, but they had fallen silent since my second interview two weeks ago.

“It’s just not fair,” I whined to my fiancée. “They are the one company I’d really love to work at! How come I get calls from crappy little firms but not from them? Not fair!”
“There’s still time, they might still call” – he soothed.
“Oh really?”, I hissed. “It’s been two weeks!”
“They like to take their time,” he said. “They’ll call.”

* * *

And then they did. They really did! I was in for a third interview.

Meanwhile, I had already started the overtime job. “But how am I gonna make it?”, I asked my future husband. “I only have a one-hour lunch break. The interview will take at least thirty minutes, and then there’s travel time?”

“Why are you even worried about that? If it goes well, you’ll quit this job anyway, so what do you care?”
“But if it doesn’t, I’ll be stuck at this job, and I’ll also be frowned upon for being late and using work hours for personal stuff.”
“It will go well, I know it; and if anyone says anything about you being late, you can play dumb since you’re new and…”
“…and it will be a first-time offense,” I finished up.

* * *

The interview did go well, and now I could reasonably expect a job offer. Only I couldn’t know for sure. Even if they offered me the job eventually, it could be another month for all I knew. Or two months. These people liked to take things slow.

I wondered if I should tell the overtime people that I quit. My fiancée said yes. But what if I didn’t get that job offer? I’d be jobless again, flat on my ass.

The overtime people spent quite a few days training me, doing paperwork for my contract, and showing me around. They engaged staff to set up my email account, access chip and training protocol. Did I feel bad about secretly interviewing with other companies? Sure. And about having secretly planned to quit since interview day? Yup. Continuing to job-hunt wasn’t the best conduct on my part.

Then again, making you work overtime and paying you under the table wasn’t the best conduct on their part, either. They had to take care of their best interest, and I had to take care of mine. I kept my mouth shut.

* * *

I had spent one week (and half a Saturday) working for the overtime people when the big company finally moved with their offer. I was glad to accept it. Money was a bit lower, but with transport and food costs generously covered, things evened out.

Actually, things more than evened out. While the overtime job paid slightly better, there was a lot of overtime. I calculated that when you factor in all the overtime hours (1 hour a day) plus the Saturday (5 hours) plus that half an hour on Monday mornings, it adds up to about 10 extra hours a week or 40 extra hours a month. 40 extra hours a month! That’s one whole workweek you do on top of the regular hours, only you don’t get extra pay.

Now that I had a job offer, I had to tell my current employer that I quit, effective immediately.“But what’s wrong with our company?,” the owner asked me. “Didn’t you like it here? Didn’t you like the job?”

I told him I liked the job and the team and everything. I said nothing about the long hours and the money under the table. I just couldn’t be bothered. No matter what I told him, he would continue to believe that he was providing a great work environment and that those extra hours were not a big deal since the pay was – in his own opinion – great. I had no intention to argue with him, because nothing I could say would make a difference.

I wondered why his team put up with the long hours. They actually didn’t seem to mind. Maybe it was because they were all pretty young, early twenties or fresh out of college. Many were still living with their parents, which meant they didn’t have to spend time grocery shopping, cooking, maintaining a home, a car, or taking the dog out. It seemed like they didn’t have anything too special to do in their free time. Maybe by putting in long hours, they felt more… adult? I don’t know.

But all that is behind me now. Now, I have a job I love with great conditions of employment. There are other changes going on, so I don’t know if I could get back to my old rylthm of posting, but I’ll do my best.

Stay tuned for more news soon :)

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7 thoughts on “How to get a good job in the recession: start any job, then keep looking”

  1. Really?? You didn’t thing to ask what occasional overtime was? If that little amount of OT is such a big deal I would have asked during my interview at the mention of OT. Also you mention you are not that fast yet. Do you not want to learn and become better? I would think once you got the hang of things you might get it all done within 40 hours on a consistent basis. I don’t think by their statement they meant you will work 10 hours a week OT. I think they are just trying to say that deadlines need to be met and you will have to work OT to make them if you can’t make it during your regular workweek. Seems like that would be incentive for me to get it done within 40 hours as much as possible. Also why would you take a job not knowing what your agreeing too?

  2. Hi Dorian,

    Actually I’m plenty fast and I have no problem meeting deadlines. But when working hours are set from 8:30 till 18:30 EVERY DAY, plus 5 hours on Sunday… do the math.

    And this was not counted as overtime. It was just consider regular business hours.

  3. When I first started I was on £5.02 an hour but that has since risen to £5.18. You don’t get a pay rise until you’re 19 unfortunately. I work mainly Saturdays, 4 hours a week. I am on a 4 hour contract and as my availability is quite restricted, they don’t tend to give me more than that – an 8 hour shift it something of a rarity! However, most of the people I work with have more time to be at work and generally if you ask for extra hours, you’ll get given them.

  4. I guess if you work for minimum wage and are desperate for money, overtime could be a good thing. Especially if it’s VOLUNTARY, and not obligatory.

  5. The representation of a good job as it appears in this blogs has provided a new wind of fresh air in the matter. I just want to say how much I enjoy this information. Great job Rya.

  6. Thanks :) I guess what a good job is depends on what each of us is looking for. Some want money, others want creative freedom, and people like me just want regular working hours.

  7. “There will be times when employees will need to work over 40 hours a week so (the Company) can successfully meet the needs of our customers. (The Company) reserves the right to determine when employees must work overtime and to schedule mandatory overtime when necessary.

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