Placing Your Academic Choices and Job Searching in the Perspective of a Lifetime of Job Applications: One Man's Experience
--An Employment Retrospective
LETTER WRITING: 2 JOB APPLICATIONS A WEEK
FOR 50 YEARS---JOB HUNTING 1957-2007
The 3600 word statement which follows describes my transition from employment and the job-hunting process(1957-2007) to retirement and the pursuit of a leisure life devoted to writing(1999-2009). The years 1999 to 2007 marked the years of transition. The information and details in my resume, a resume I no longer need or use in any direct sense in the job-hunting world after fifty years of use, but which I occasionally post on the internet for a range of purposes should help anyone wanting to know something about my personal and professional background, my writing and my life. This resume is useful now, in many other contexts, as some residue, some leftover, but not to assess my suitability for some advertised or unadvertised employment position. This resume could be useful for some readers to assess the relevance of some statements I make on the internet, statements on a wide variety of topics at a wide variety of internet sites. If I feel there is a need for readers to have some idea of my background, my credentials and my experience; if I feel that it would be useful for them to have a personal context for my remarks at an internet site, I post that resume.
But I do not post that resume here. This post, this essay, for it is a sort of essay or article, is a statement, an overview of my job application life. This overview may be of value to those who have to run the gauntlet in the job-hunting world, for it is a gauntlet. Let there be no mistake about that.
I never apply for jobs anymore, although I have registered at several internet sites whose role is, among other things, to help people get jobs. Perhaps this act of registration at such sites on the world-wide-web is an act in which I engage with some sense of nostalgia, out of habit, out of an inability to stop applying for jobs after five decades of persistent and strenuous efforts. These decades of efforts were aimed at obtaining jobs, better jobs, jobs more suited to my talents, jobs that paid better, jobs that freed me from impossible situations that I had become involved with, some work-scene in which I was ensconced--along the road of life. I stopped applying for full-time jobs, as I say, in September 2007 and part-time ones in December 2003. I also disengaged myself from most volunteer or casual work four years ago in 2005 so that I could occupy myself as: an independent scholar, a writer, a poet, a journalist, a publisher, indeed, what some might call a man of leisure in the Greek tradition.
At the age of 65, then, and on two old-age pensions, one from Canada where I worked from 1961 to 1971 and an Australian pension, I am in one of the formal conditions, one of the many definitions, of old age. I am now in the middle years(65-75) of late adulthood(60-80), as one model that the human development theorists in the field of psychology use to define this period in the lifespan. I have become self-employed in the many roles I outlined above. None of these roles pay any money, although I did receive royalties for my books at one internet site. The royalties were for six years of the sale of one of my books at that site. I received a cheque for $1.49. Years ago, back in the 1970s if I recall correctly, I could have bought one of those chocolate frogs for, at the time and again if I recall correctly, 25 cents. But at 50 cents, their current price, this money, these royalties, only allow me to buy one frog every two years.
I have gradually come to this current, some would say, penurious role in the years after I left full-time employment in 1999, ten years ago. Not being occupied with earning a living and giving myself to 60 hours a week on average in a job as was the case in the three decades from 1969 to 1999; and not being occupied with giving many other hours to community activity, as I had been for so many years as was the case from at least 1969 to 1999, marked a turning point in my life. I became able to devote my time to a much more extensive involvement in writing and reading material of my own choice.
The ancient Greeks believed leisure was much more than free time. It was free time well used, free time with a moral mission. In the Politics, Aristotle makes this arresting assertion: The first principle of all action is leisure…. Leisure is better than occupation and is its end; and therefore the question must be asked, what ought we to do when at leisure? Clearly we ought not to be amusing ourselves, for then amusement would be the end of life. Aristotelians see human time divided into three major spheres: (1) working for a living, (2) recovering from working for a living, and (3) leisure time. Leisure is the highest use of time. It is the antithesis of "wasting time" or "killing time" with diversions and amusements. Nor is it rest and relaxation; the downtime we need to recover from work should really be considered an extension of work. After several years of retirement from the different kinds of work which involved me from 1957 to 2007--from FT, PT, casual and volunteer work--a period in which, in some ways, I am still recovering, I have begun to enter, sensibly and insensibly, by subtle and not-so-subtle degrees, Aristotle’s third major division of time into which life can be divided. After nearly fifty years of the first two kinds of work I am finally free to pursue leisure in the recreational, in the old, sense of the word, a sense that is indispensable to achieving our human potential.
Writing is for most of its votaries a solitary, hopefully stimulating, but not always pleasurable leisure-time, part-time or full-time pursuit. In my case, as I say, in these middle years(65-75) of late adulthood(60-80), writing and its companion activity research and reading has become full-time about 60 hours a week. This activity is for me, and for the most part, an enriching and enjoyable pursuit. I have replaced my former paid employment and extensive activity with people in community with a form of work which is also a form of leisure, namely, as I say: writing and reading—independent scholarship. Not all is easy-sailing on the western-front, though: health issues still abound; money is, at worst, an annoying tick and the inner battle of life, the only real one which we all face, still goes on.
Inevitably the style of one's writing and what one reads is a reflection of the person, their experience and, often, their philosophy. On occasion, I set out a summary of my writing, my employment experience, my resume, in an attachment to this brief essay, this introductory statement, this commentary on the job application process which occupied my life for five decades: 1957-2007. If as that famous, although not always highly regarded, psychologist Carl Jung writes: we are what we do, then some of what I was and am can be found in that attachment, that resume and its several appendices. That document may seem over-the-top as they say these days since it now occupies some 30 pages and many more pages if the appendices are also included.
Half a century of various forms of employment as well as community, leisure and volunteer activity in the professional and not-so-professional world, all this time in many towns, institutions and venues produced a great pile of stuff. It also produced what used to be called and still is by several different names: one’s curriculum vitae, one’s CV, one’s bio-data sheet, one’s resume, one’s life-narrative, life-story, storyline. This document is now, at least as I see it, more of the latter, more of a lifeline, a life-narrative, a memoir, an autobiography-of-sorts. As I say, I make the list of this stuff available to readers of this account, this essay, when appropriate, when requested and, occasionally, when not appropriate. I update those many pages to include recent writing projects I have completed, or am in the process of completing, during these first years of my retirement from full-time, part-time and most volunteer activity.
My resume has always been the piece of writing, the statement, the document, the entry ticket which has opened up the possibilities of another adventure, another bit of gadding about, another slice of a quasi-pioneering-travelling, a peripatetic existence, a moving from town to town, from one state or province to another, from one country to another, from one piece of God's, or gods', Earth to another piece of it. And so it was that I was able to come to work in another organization, gain entry to another portion of my life and enjoy or not enjoy a new world and a new landscape with a whole new set of people and experiences, some familiar and some not so.
The process, I often thought, was not unlike a modern form of a traditional rite-de-passage. To some extent I came to take on what often seemed like another personality, another me in the long road to discover if, indeed, there was a Real Me underneath all this coming and going. I'm sure this process will continue, will also be the case in all its many forms in these years of my late adulthood(60-80) and old age(80++), if I last that long and should, for some reason, movement to yet another place or, indeed, from place to place be necessary to continue for some reason I can not, as yet, anticipate. This continued movement, though, seems highly unlikely as I go through these years of late adulthood and head into the last stages of my life, from sunset and early evening to night’s first hours and then, finally, the last hours of night, the final syllables of my recorded time. This process, this rite de passage, expressed in the form of yet another job in another place seems, for the moment, to have come to an end. Time, of course, will tell.
The last five years(60-65) are, as I indicated above, the first ones of late adulthood. In this first decade of my retirement(1999 to 2009), I have been able to write to a much greater extent than I had ever been able to do in those years of my early(1965-1984) and middle(1984-1999) adulthood when job, family and the demands of various community projects kept my nose to the grindstone, as they say colloquially in many parts of the world. With the final unloading of much of the volunteer work as well which I took on when I first retired, in the years from 1999 to 2005; with the gradual cessation of virtually the entire apparatus and process of job-application by 2007; with my last child having left home in 2005; with a more settled home environment than I’ve ever had--by 2007 and with a new medication for the bipolar disorder that afflicted my life since my teens, also by 2007---the remaining years of my late adulthood beckon bright with promise.
As I indicated briefly above, though, all is not clear-sailing for rarely in life is everything clear sailing, at least in my own life—and I suspect this is the case in most if not all of our lives, if we are honest about our experience down life’s road. My resume reflects the shift in role, in my lifespan activity-base and lists the many writing projects I’ve been able to complete in this first decade of independent scholarship and full-time writing.
The process of frequent moves and frequent jobs which was my pattern for fifty years, 1949 to 1999, is not everyone's style, modus operandi or modus vivendi--to use two still commonly used Latin phrases. Many millions of people live and die in the same town, city or state and their life's adventure takes place within that physical region, the confines of a relatively small place, a domain, a bailiwick as politicians often call their electorate. Such people and other types as well often have very few jobs in their lifetime. Physical movement is not essential to psychological and spiritual growth, nor is a long list of jobs, although a great degree of inner change, extensive inner shifting, is inevitable from a person’s teens through to their late adulthood even if they sat all their lives on the head of a pin and never moved from the parental nest. That reference to the head of a pin was one of the theologico-philosophical metaphors associated with angels and often used in medieval times. This metaphor has interesting applications to the job-hunting process but I will leave that for another time.
This process of extensive change in people’s lives is even more true in the recent decades of our modern age at this climacteric of history in which change is about the only thing one can take as a constant--or so we are often led to believe because it is so often said in the electronic media. For many millions of people during the half century 1957 to 2007, my years of being jobbed and applying for jobs, the world was their oyster, not so much in the manner of a tourist, although there was plenty of that, but rather in terms of working lives which came to be seen increasingly in a global context.
This was true for me during those years when I was looking for amusement, education and experience, some stimulating vocation and avocation, some employment security and comfort, my adventurous years in a new form of travelling-pioneering, globe-trotting, pathfinding of sorts, as part of history’s long story, my applying-for-job days, some five decades from the 1950s to the first decade of the new millennium. My resume altered many times, of course, during those fifty years. It is now, for the most part and as I indicated above, not used in these years of my retirement and especially since 2007, except as an information and bio-data vehicle for interested readers, 99.9% of whom are on the internet at its plethora of sites.
This document, as I say above, a document that used to be called a curriculum vitae or a CV, until the 1970s, at least in the region where I lived and dwelled and had my being, is a useful backdrop for those examining my writing, especially my poetry. Some poets and writers, artists and creative people in many fields, though, regard their CV, resume, bio-data, lifeline, life-story, life-narrative, personal background as irrelevant, simply not necessary for people to know, in order for them to appreciate their artistic work. These people take the philosophical, indeed, somewhat religious position, that they are not what they do or, to put it a little differently and a little more succinctly, "they are not their jobs."
I frequently use this resume at various internet locations on the World Wide Web, again as I indicated above, when I want to provide some introductory background on myself. I could list many new uses after decades of a use which had a multifactorial motivational base: to help me get a job, to get a new job, to help me make more money, to enrich my experience and to add something refreshing to my life as it was becoming increasingly stale for so many reasons in the day-to-day grind, to help me get away from supervisors and from situations I could not handle or were a cause of great stress, to help me flee from settings where my health was preventing me from continuing successfully in my job, to help me engage in new forms of adventure, pioneering, amusement, indeed, to help me survive life’s tests in the myriad forms that afflict the embattled spirit, et cetera, et cetera, inter alia, inter alia, inter alter, inter alter.
The use of the resume always saved me from having to reinvent the wheel, so to speak. One could photocopy it and mail it out with the covering letter to anyone and everyone. The photocopier became a common feature of the commercial, business and government world in the 1960s just as I began to send out the first of the literally thousands of job applications that I would over the next forty years: 1967-2007. One didn’t have to write the application out each time; one did not have to “say it again Sam” in resume after resume to the point of utter tedium. The photocopier itself evolved as did the gestetner, one of the photocopier’s predecessors.
There were many ways one could copy one's basic data. For a time, my mother used to type applications for me back in the late 1950s and early 1960s. I became entrenched in the job market in the 1960s. This entrenchment was so very much like trench-warfare back in that Great War of 1914 to 1918--when millions died, were simply mowed down on the European continent in a process whose meaning we have yet to fully plumb. But, however little or much we have come to understand the meaning and significance of WW1, we--my generation--have come to experience a new warfare. As Henry Miller, one of the first to get away with using the "F" word in his trilogy: Sexus, Nexus and Plexus, expressed back in 1941 the new warfare of my generation: "a war far more terrible than the destruction" of the first two wars, the first two phases, with fires that "will rage until the very foundations of this present world crumble." It is not my intention to document any of these three phases of the destructive calamity that visited humankind in the century I have just left, for this documentation has been done in intimate detail elsewhere, both visually, orally and in print. I do not document, but I frequently refer, to these three phases. I have different purposes here than mere historical documentation. My job application process was clearly, at least as I look back over half a century of the process, part of that third war.
Applying for jobs as extensively as I did in the days before the email and the internet came on board in the early 1990s, became an activity, for me, that sometimes resembling a dry-wretch. Four to five thousand job applications from 1957 to 2007 is a lot of applications! At least since the mid-1990s, a few clicks of one’s personal electronic-computer system and some aspect of life’s game could go on or could come to a quick end over a set of wires under the ground, the electronic world of cyberspace. During that half-century of job-hunting years I applied, as I say, for some four to five thousand jobs, an average of two a week for each of all those years! This is a guesstimation, of course, as accurate a guesstimation as I can calculate for this fifty year period. The great bulk, 99.9% of those thousands of letters involved in this vast, detailed and, from time to time, exhausting and frustrating process, I did not keep. I did keep a small handful of them, perhaps half a dozen of all those letters, in a file in my Letters: Section VII, Sub-Section X, a part of my autobiographical work which is now entitled Pioneering Over Four Epochs.
This autobiographical work Pioneering Over Four Epochs goes for 2600 pages in five volumes and, due to its length, will not likely be read while I occupy space on this mortal coil. Much of my autobiography, portions of it, are now found, though, on the internet at a multitude of sites where in nano-micro-seconds anyone can find portions of my writing in addition to my autobiography or my resume. I am known in a multitude of microcosms, microworlds, miniworlds, where neither name nor fame can reach me, and where all the problems that go with any degree of celebrity status in our fame-hungry world will pass me by into cyberspace, into an electronic ether.
Given the thousands of hours over so many years devoted to the job-hunting process; given the importance of this key to my venture across two continents, two marriages, with at least two personalities being the bipolar person that I am; given that this new style of pioneering, voyaging-via-employment, venture in our time has been at the core of my life with so much that has radiated around this core; given the amount of paper produced, the amount of energy expended and the amount of money earned and spent in this great exercise of survival; given the amount of writing done in the context of those various jobs, some of this employment-related correspondence seemed to warrant a corner in the written story of my life.
It seemed appropriate, at least it was my desire as I recently entered the years when I no longer applied for jobs, to write this short statement(“not short enough,” I can hear them say) fitting all those thousands of unkept resumes and job-applications into a larger context as well as all those letters, emails and internet posts written in connection with trying to make connections with others, into some larger framework of action and meaning. For those who would like to read more on this theme, I invite them to go to the internet site: Baha’i Library Online>Secondary Source Material>Personal Letters>The Letters of RonPrice: 1957-2007. If such readers prefer, they can simply google: Ron Price Letters and more of this story will become available with only a few clicks.
Updated on: 21/9/’09
I have been married for 44 years, a teacher for 35, a writer and editor for 13, and a Baha'i for 53(in 2012). I have lived in Australia since 1971 & am now retired and on a pension.