For Some People, Getting A Job Is Easy

We keep telling people — honestly — that in these tough economic times, getting a job is no easy task. But some folks just don’t want to believe that.

There’s a reason: for them, getting work is simple. And even if they comprehend why, they can’t understand their own hypocrisy in judging others who can’t.

Let me tell you a story.

I was out late last week, wandering around the city, playing Pokemon GO. I was tailing after a pair who were flipping gyms to my team, and I eventually caught up with them. Two pleasant young fellows, who invited me to tag along.

Now, let me set my part of the scene for you. I was in full boymode; it was late, and I was making no particular effort to look pretty. So I had on jeans and a wide-shouldered sports coat. I’m also about 5'8 — that’s going to come into play later.

We’re walking about, flipping a significant percentage of the city’s gyms, having a good time. Finally, one decides it’s time to go home, leaving me with the other fellow as we mop up a few more. Somehow, the conversation gets on to the difficulty of finding work.

“There are plenty of jobs available if you’re willing to work,” he tells me. “People are just lazy.”

Let me describe this guy to you. He’s somewhere over six feet, visibly strong and weathered, tattoos, close-cropped hair, so on. He’s also, I found out at one point, 26; a fairly typical tough young white dude in 2017. He’s a student, and he works part-time.

I don’t know this stock model guy, but you get the idea. [Image by ramzi hashisho/freeimages.com]

“I have job offers coming out my ass,” he confides. “I have to turn some of them down, I just don’t have enough time to work them all. But you have to be willing to do hard work. They’re hard labour.” He pauses, and gives me a significant look.

“You’d quit in two days.”

Now, this guy has just watched me walk 10 km without complaint. He has no idea what I look like under my jacket. He also doesn’t know anything about my medical issues — only that I’ve told him that I’m supposed to get at least two hours of exercise every day.

And he definitely knew how far we’d walked — not to mention that I’m a higher level than him, and he knows that, too.

I’ve worked as a security guard, where I had to spend twelve hours on my feet (can’t have the client see you being lazy and sitting down for five minutes.) I’ve worked in restaurants and factories where I was expected to work 10–12 hour shifts, lifting half my body weight all the while. I’ve done hard labour.

But I’d quit in two days.

Here’s what I told this kid. That snap judgment that he just made? Those same construction hiring managers who are falling all over themselves to hire him make the same judgment that he did when they see me — and no hiring manager is going to hire someone they think is simply going to walk out. I’ve seen this in action many times; the most memorable was when I applied for a salesperson job at a furniture store. I got an interview, got all nicely turned-out as you’d expect a salesperson to be. I walk in the door, the owner takes one look at me, snorts, and says: “You can’t move furniture. Get out.”

And that was that.

For all that, for all the times I’ve faced that in job searches, for all the dudes like our strapping young man, I’ve always faced that looking male. I only came out relatively recently, when I was already employed as a writer, and I’m never not going to be 5'8 plus shoes.

It’s tough enough for me; plenty of people are convinced that I can’t do anything physical at a glance. It’s even harder for women, for the visibly-queer and trans and genders-non-conforming. Remember that to most of these guys, being gay is enough to disqualify you from heavy lifting, being effeminate comes with some sort of inability to pick up a box.

So, yeah, for our tough young man, getting a job is easy. And I’m sure that he doesn’t see many folks of my size and under around his construction sites, which surely only serves to reinforce his views that we won’t do the work.

And, hey, the reality is that some of us genuinely can’t, and that shouldn’t consign us to unemployment and worse. But those of us who can are rarely, if ever, given the chance to prove it.

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