Jan 18, 2013

Diary of an unemployed alien

“Hello” I said into the phone of a pizza parlor. I had wandered here looking for jobs. The owner told me there was a vacancy for a receptionist cum teller. Since it was a pizza parlor, I would have to take orders on the phone.  He gave me all the required information, and asked me to “audition” by taking a call from a customer. Soon enough, his friend called as arranged.
“Hello” said the person at the other end of the phone. There were times when I, with a master’s degree from an American university, would never imagine myself at this end of the phone.
             “I would like to order a pizza please” said the caller. The owner was listening hard on the extension to make sure I got everything right.
“Sure sir, what kind?” I asked him. There was a point when I was only interested in the kinds of recruiters.  All my friends wanted to approach consultancies for recruitment, but I was sure I wouldn’t have to, I could get jobs on my own. That was before I emailed hundreds of companies, and received exactly three responses, all of which were rejections. There were very few job openings in my tiny university town, consisting of 5,000 residents and 15,000 students.  So I started applying to faraway places like New York, not realizing that they had no reason to call me when they had pools of local talent to choose from. Once they did call me for an interview, but I was so broke I couldn’t afford the plane ticket. I wanted to move to a bigger city for more opportunities, but this sudden leap was so scary. I would have to lug my entire collection of possessions crammed into two suitcases and a hand carry. How would I manage with all that stuff?  Where would I stay? How will I support myself until I find a job? Will I even be able to pay the rent?
“A pineapple pizza” the man was saying to me on the phone.
“What size?” I asked him again. After applying fruitlessly for months, I didn’t want to linger on the topic of fruits like pineapples. Realizing the importance of a local address, I had finally gathered enough courage to shift to New York. I started living with a friend and learning strategies. People told me to register in all employment sites, like LinkedIn, Craigslist and Monster. I did. People told me to increase my network. I did. People told me to tailor my cover letter and alter my past experiences to fit each requirement, and I did that too. E.g. if a job asked for HTML, I said all my experience was in HTML, though some of it was in Java. But all these strategies failed. Finally, after several more months of rejections, I finally decided to join a consultancy.
“Large size” said the man.
“Great, can I have your credit card number?“  One benefit of being with a consultancy is that I don’t have to worry about any credits and bills. Food and lodging is free until we get a job, because it is to the consultancy’s advantage as well that we get jobs. After all, when we are employed they get a cut from our salary, their share may be up to 40%. If we want to take the next step and apply for green card, then we make further contracts with them, which entitles them to percentages from our salary for many more months.
                “12345678” the man was reading out his credit card number in typical east European accent. European, Chinese, Korean, Middle eastern, Latino, or Indian, whatever accent it was, now I could tell them easily. They were so important in consultancies. Consultancies usually cater only to their ethnic communities. I mean, there is no such written rule, but that is how it generally works. Since there are no Nepali consultancies, I am with a foreign one recommended by my friends. I am the only Nepali here, and nobody lets me forget that. These consultancies usually specialize in hotshot degrees like computers or business, thank god I hadn’t studied anything silly like English or Sociology!
“You pizza will be there soon, bye bye!” I said cheerily into the phone. The owner gave me a thumbs up. I fought down the urge to laugh out wildly at this drama, we all knew nobody wanted a pizza. I so wanted to end it and get on with a real job. Sure, life isn’t so bad with a consultancy, but there’s very little to do. The consultancy forwards our resumes to companies, and we wait for their calls. Mostly we field calls from “vendors”, who are links in the chain of employment, and once in a blue moon we get calls from “clients”, the people at the end of the chain who actually need an employee. The rest of the time we talk to each other, play games, cook, eat, watch movies, and spend time online. I talk to my family twice a day, and to my friends once a day. My PR has never been so good, I have had heart to heart chats with each and every one of my facebook friends.
                “Where are you going to deliver it?” I hadn’t realized that he was still speaking, I thought I had said bye! Today I would be saying bye to my life of inertia too, I got so tired of doing nothing that I started manual job hunting. Go to a shop, restaurant, or any business, ask for the manager, and ask for vacancies. Most of the times I was turned down because I had no experience of coffee making, waitressing, henna art, manicure, or some other such sundry job. But today looks like my lucky day, no one needs expertise to answer phone calls! I might even learn to make pizza while I am at it!
“Sorry?” I was confused by this still speaking guy.
“The pizza, where are you going to deliver it? You did not ask for my address!” He sounded irritated.
“Umm, sorry sir, umm, where do you live, actually?” I tried to make amends. But too late, the restaurant owner had put the extension down, and was shaking his head at me. I noticed his thumb wasn’t up any more.
Pfft! There goes another job down the drain! I walked out of the shop completely dejected, and headed “home”. After all, I have so much to do: wait, watch movies listlessly, wait, listen to foreign jabbering, wait, try to convince clients, wait, go on a pedestrian job hunt like today if I am motivated, wait, chat with everyone in Nepal, wait, yawn, wait, wait, and then wait some more……..


Subodh Rana said...

Very well written piece on trials and tribulations in the land of the free. Bravo.

Anonymous said...

Awesome! I only hope it's not your own story...

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