In May 2020, I joined the thousands and thousands of people across the country who lost their jobs due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Losing a job is tough to begin with, but under these circumstances, a bad situation has been made more complicated. First, with businesses closing left and right, who is hiring? Second, what are the logistics of starting a job, what with the majority of the workforce who have managed to keep their jobs working from home. Am I really comfortable going into an office environment at this time? Add that to the fact that I am approaching my 60th year among folks charged with doing the hiring that weren't yet born when I took my first job. Well, let's just say that the stars aren't exactly aligning in my favor.
I have many, many years of experience in all aspects of graphic design, marketing, publishing and a few other fields whose technical description would just bore those unfamiliar. The problem is the process for finding a job has changed drastically since I was knocking on doors and passing around my then-sparse resume. Everything is done through the cold, faceless, impersonal internet. You upload your resume. You fill out a brief, identifying form and then you wait. And wait. And wait. Hoping that one of these offers will contact you for an interview. I have had a handful of interviews since May — some via Zoom and others on the good old-fashioned telephone. I have sent my resume to literally hundreds of posted job offers with only a few replies.
Just a few weeks ago, I saw an ad for a graphic designer at a local printing company. The abbreviated description of the position was very similar to positions I had held in the past. I sent my resume and, surprisingly, I got a response the next day. Via email, we arranged for and confirmed a time to speak on the phone. The agreed-upon time came and went. No call.
I emailed this "prospective employer." In my most polite manner, I sheepishly apologized (as though I was my fault) for not being able to speak and asked if there was time that was more convenient to his schedule. This is his reply:
Please excuse me if I was difficult to get hold of. I've been swamped with applications, while at the same time needing to keep up with my customers and preparing for a changeover with my outgoing, very capable associate.Have I viewed your portfolio? Do you have a website or a social media site which I can refer to? Have you visited our website? If you want to write me a short story as to what type of position you're looking for, and your present status, that would be one way for us to keep in touch.Any chance that we could talk this evening, around 6:30?
Of course I was agreeable, despite 6:30 on his suggested evening was right smack in the middle of my wife and I attending to "guests" getting their curbside pickup at the pandemic version of our annual "Night Before Thanksgiving" dessert party. But, securing a job takes priority in my book, so I planned to sneak away for a bit, while Mrs. Pincus attended to our guests. I sent this "prospective employer" a link to my online design portfolio (as is done in these times) and told him I was anxious to speak at 6:30 that evening. He replied with this somewhat odd email:
Checked out your website. Interesting. Can I trouble you to please call me at 630 - 215.725.XXXX. I'm relaxing at that time after dinner, and I don't usually think about business matters. I might just forget. But on the other hand, I'll be happy to chat with you when you call.Please take a look at our website beforehand, so you'll see what we do.
I visited his website. It appeared that he had merely filled in a supplied template with information pertaining to his specific business. It was minimally informative, but, honestly, nothing special. While I perused his website, he sent me another email. In this one, he noted the high school from which I graduated and asked if I grew up in Northeast Philadelphia. I found that to an odd inquiry, but I replied that I did, but I now reside in a suburb just outside of the city limits.
At 6:30 that evening, I slipped away to the quiet second floor of my house and dialed this "prospective employer" at the number he supplied. After a few electronic rings, he answered. I introduced myself. He asked if I went to his website and I replied that I did. "So, whaja think?," he spat out, with a tinge of indignancy in his tone. I explained that he appeared to be a commercial printer and I have dealt with and worked for commercial printers over the past thirty years of my career. He interrupted me with a gruff correction. "We are a print broker." (A print broker is sort-of a "middle man." He does not own or operate an actual printing company. Rather, he uses actual printers to supply his orders, selling them to his own customers at a price marked up from the wholesale price he receives from the printer. A print broker is a glorified salesperson.) I happily expounded on my understanding of the "print broker" concept as well as my experience in design and project management. He interrupted me again. This time, he pressed the previously undisclosed "sales" aspect of the position. I flatly told him that I was not a sales person and that I would not be comfortable in a sales position.
He was quiet for a moment. Then he spoke.
"The real reason I wanted to speak to you, " he began, "was I when saw your last name, I figured you were Jewish. I am getting up in years and was hoping to sell my business. Jews are very entrepreneurial. Maybe you'd be interested in buying my business?"
I looked down to see that my jaw had fallen and was now laying of the floor between my feet. I was speechless. Speechless. Thoughts scrambled in my head.
"I am not interested in buying a business at this time." I managed to get those eleven words out of my mouth.
"Okay." he laughed. "I have been swamped with applications. I wonder why so many artists are out of work and can't keep a job?" I surmised that this was a rhetorical question. He ended with "I'll be in touch. Send me some references." I said goodbye and he said goodbye.
I haven't heard from him and he hasn't heard from me, either.