Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Microstory 1303: Housewife

TDS Management Representative: Hello, and welcome to TDS Management. I’ll be your TDS Rep today. Go ahead and have a seat. Did you happen to bring in an updated résumé?
Housewife: Yes, I have it right here.
TDS Rep: Oh, okay. [...] Are you missing a page?
Housewife: No, that’s all of it. I’ve been out of the game for awhile.
TDS Rep: I should say so. Could you explain this twenty-year gap in your employment history?
Housewife: Well, it was about a year before the turn of the millennium when I found out I was pregnant. I spoke with my then-employer about taking maternity leave, and they were amenable to that. Then when I tried to return to work three weeks after giving birth—
TDS Rep: You only took three weeks!
Housewife: Uh, yes. That’s all they would give me. Remember, this was 1999; it was a different time. Anyway, they let me come back to work, but I noticed our department had an extra person. They seemed to have let the temp who had filled in for me stick around. That lasted about a month before they let me go, which my attorney explained was enough time for them to reasonably argue that it had nothing to do with the time I took off. My co-worker claimed he heard them talking once, though, and that they were worried I would keep getting pregnant just to take time off. Unfortunately, he couldn’t prove he had heard it—and I wouldn’t have wanted him to risk his own position by rocking the boat—so I just had to let it go, and leave.
TDS Rep: That sounds terrible.
Housewife: It wasn’t great. But of course, that doesn’t explain why I’ve been out of work for the last two decades. My husband is really superstitious, and he took it as a sign that I should stay home to raise our daughter. Our second daughter was born sixteen months later, and I’ve been at home with them until she went off to college last year.
TDS Rep: That is a horrible story. I’m sorry that happened to you. Hopefully we can find you a good fit, though. How long have you been looking?
Housewife: Eight months. Yeah, I know it’s a lot. Employers just aren’t looking for experience when that experience was so long ago.
TDS Rep: Well, we may just have to reframe the narrative for potential employers. They hire kids who are just out of college all the time. They have almost no experience, and their education is often not all that relevant anyway. Employers may be worried that you’re out of touch with modern standards, or they may be ageists who don’t believe you have anything to offer. I’m not gonna lie. The story you told isn’t unheard of. It’s seldom reported, because that kind of thing is usually impossible to prove, but employers can get away with all sorts of discrimination as long as they don’t leave a paper trail, and they can count on each other’s loyalty.
Housewife: But you think you can help me find something?
TDS Rep: I’m not sure what you remember being paid when you were working, but you may have to lower your expectations. It’s 2020; people are looking for work on job boards online. The people who come to me aren’t exactly in the running for executive management. I’m not saying your only option is a fast food joint, but you may have to start at the bottom, and work your way up.
Housewife: I don’t have very high expectations anymore.
TDS Rep: It saddens me to hear that, but neither of us is in control of the market. Being fit for a job isn’t enough. You have to convince a lot of people who would sooner let a wizard give them a purple pony who poops gold than spend money on an employee. That’s just the world we’re living in. I can’t guarantee you’ll love what you do, but I can promise you we’ll find something good enough for now. Let’s start with a base cover letter for you. This is your chance to explain to employers who you are. It’s important for everyone, but especially for you, since your résumé alone doesn’t tell the whole story.
Housewife: Okay, great.

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