Let me start by saying that I've been seriously underemployed for the last five or six months; as a freelance production assistant, I live by the amount of work that I actually find. So far this year, I've only found a handful of jobs in the entertainment industry, and one as a laborer. NONE of the temp agencies I am registered with have found any assignments for me, though they had in the past. I have to wonder if someone has a hex on me, but I think if that were the case I wouldn't be standing at this point. All spiritualism aside, I am a qualified office worker and laborer, and I can't find work. My roommate and I have subsisted by combining her temp income with my unemployment and infrequent gigs, but then she was laid off two weeks ago, and now we find ourselves in dire straits.
That said, I've been calling around to friends and colleagues, networking with professionals and scanning job boards on the internet. I've been doing everything I legally can to find work and earn a living wage. I would certainly have moved to another part of the country by now for work, but I can't afford to move (no money left to pay for a new place to live and all, that kinda sucks, huh?) and the few places I could actually get help from in terms of family or friends are suffering as well. If I'm just managing to get by right now, why would I move someplace where I'd be a burden on someone else?
So it's with this that I scan various websites and job boards for work. While on Craigslist (a waste of time, which I will get into soon), I found one ad that stood out mainly because of it's call for immediate action:
JobsDate: 2009-05-18, 9:19PM
Come down to our Job Fair Tuesday, May 19th thru Friday the 22th, we will be open all week right thru from 10am to 4pm. We have all types of Jobs and bring your resumes and all documents to (address, phone and web address redacted)
Medical Office Assistants
Data Entry Clerk
Front Desk Receptionist
Mortage Banker Assistant
Internet Sales Managers
Law Office Secretary
Home Office Assistants
Word Processing Supervisor
Medical Billing Assistant
Real Estate Assistants
Looking for a Office Worker for your home or small or large firms?
We have all kinds of Employees for your office Needs
If you need a office worker please contact us at (phone redacted)
For fast Placements
* Location: No Fee to Employers !!!
* Compensation: 60,000 yearly min.
* Telecommuting is ok.
* This is a part-time job.
* This is a contract job.
* This is at a non-profit organization.
* This is an internship job
* OK to highlight this job opening for persons with disabilities
* OK for recruiters to contact this job poster.
* Phone calls about this job are ok.
* Please do not contact job poster about other services, products or commercial interests.
I was basically responding to the fact that 1.) they had a "where", 2.) they had a "when" and 3.) they had a contact. These three factors are important when you are looking for a job, and the manner in which it's presented is simple, yet a little beyond the usual scam posts that are too generalized to be taken seriously. So my roommate and I decided to act on this one.
We drove from the top of the Bronx to the middle of Brooklyn; Bushwick to be precise. This should have tipped me off from the get-go, as Bushwick is a lower-to-middle class neighborhood that is suffering directly from the economic downturn and the creeping gentrification that is tossing mostly minority families from their homes to parts unknown. Undaunted, we proceeded to the block on which the agency, as they called themselves, resided. We saw nothing but brick row houses on this block, but on the next block we could see a large building; a school or a church perhaps. We proceeded toward this building, but before we reached it, we arrived to our actual address:
On the sign, literally in blue scribble, we could make out the words, "Express Emergency Domestic Help Agency". There was a man standing on the sidewalk in front, beside an open moving van. It appeared to me as though he were either the lookout or the security. "Do you know anything about this agency?" I asked, to which he shook his head and mumbled, "no, I don't know what's up there." We ascended the stairs, but before we could even knock or ring the doorbell, a pretty young black woman, corporately attired, opened the door and ushered us in. Another woman, older and dressed slightly more casual, quickly brought out folding chairs into the narrow foyer before we could proceed further (which I did, catching a glimpse of the spare furnishings in the living room/"office") She was pleasant and smiling, but nervous; she spoke directly to my roommate, but only glanced nervously at me. She remarked on my roommate's attire ("You look very nice!" she whispered), but kept giving me furtive glances as we both were given forms to fill out. As we began, she stated, "Now, there is a registration fee of $40..."
Really, I chirped. "Have you ever been with an agency, she asked. In fact I have; I'm registered with several temp agencies, and none of them charge, or are supposed to charge. "That's temp," she says with a hint of smug satisfaction, "we have permanent jobs and place people for permanent work." Oh well, I replied, handing her back the blank form, and both my roommate and I left. The exchange couldn't have taken place in more than ten seconds; we left as soon as we got there.
As we walked back to the car,, we laughed at the absurdity of the situation: an "agency" in a lower middle-class residential neighborhood, with the name of the agency scribbled on white poster board, taped to the side of the house. A man standing lookout in front of the entrance, justifiably in case someone in or out of the neighborhood decides to try to rob them. A run-down home that's converted for the occasion into a sparse office (as though it could have been a no-budget film's temporary holding location) and a forty dollar registration fee up front. On top of all that, trying to justify the whole operation by saying that it's a placement service for permanent jobs. I'm not making this up, but I will make a short film out of this, I promise.
As for Craigslist, they now have serious problems. They have been overrun with scam artists, to the point that they have lost serious credibility with the legitimate public. Yet, they refuse to police their web site, probably because that would involve a lot of capital they either don't have, or are unwilling to spend. Then there's the fiduciary and legal obligation to their investors, versus their responsibility to the public. Why else would Craigslist sue the South Carolina AG unless they felt that they need not be responsible for the people who frequent their site?
I don't get mad at things like this anymore, because this whole job search process has been one of the most absurd things I've ever experienced in my life. There are not enough jobs for people here, and yet employers invite as many people as they can to apply for work, then complain about the amount of applications they receive. What's worse, there are probably an equal number of scammers who pose as employers in order to obtain your information and either steal your identity or try to force you to pay for or buy garbage you neither need nor want. All I can do is point out the phonies and help people avoid falling into their traps. In the meantime, I will keep my head up, keep building my director reel and keep looking for legit work. >;)