On Ways of Looking for Work

It’s a common sight: jobseekers walk up to the hostess’ stand at a restaurant and ask for an application. They then wait to be interviewed. There is, I think, something to be said for any job that does not first require the applicant to introduce himself electronically, especially when so many of these introductions go unanswered. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could apply to white collar jobs in the same manner as we applied for our first jobs, and so dispense with all the preliminary paperwork necessary to get them, such as cover letters and resumes? We might, in such a world, simply walk into Goldman Sachs’ offices and ask to speak to Lloyd Blankfein. HR people are, in any case, always encouraging us to be bold, and what could be bolder than demanding an audience with such a man without first scheduling it with his secretary.

White collar workers are, in general, probably not prepared to do this. The white collar worker is not used to looking for work, looking for work I mean like the blue collar worker, and this, I believe, accounts for much of his embarrassment. At a construction site, potential workers will line up for examination by the foreman (at least I understand this was how it was done in the old days). Some will be sent away, others accepted. The verdict is immediate and final. By contrast, the white collar worker is held in high suspense, wondering as to the progress of his candidacy. Indeed, he has no assurances that his potential employer is even aware of it; it might have got lost in electronic limbo.

The white collar worker begins his job search from behind a computer. Some never go beyond this stage. Others attend job fairs and networking events, making their unemployment known to other people, who might, they hope, be in a position to end it. Because white collar workers generally earn more than their blue collar counterparts, they can afford, at least for a while, to carry out their job searches in the privacy of their homes, with periodic appearances at events for the unemployed. Men in suits do not want to be identified with mobs clamoring for bread. But they are gaining more courage, or are becoming more desperate. It’s now no longer extraordinary to see recent MBA’s donning sandwich boards displaying their resume while walking the streets of New York hoping that every pedestrian is their next employer.