Today is Simcoe Day in Ontario, and while others are no doubt enjoying the long weekend, for me it’s another day of job searching. While most businesses are closed this holiday Monday, a manager of a store that had a vacancy for a cashier position used his Blackberry to tell me my application was turned down. After over two years of job searching, you get used to the “sorry, you were not considered” responses….when they at least have the courtesy to respond, that is. This particular turndown, however, rubbed me the wrong way.
As with every application where I do not get the job, I ask the hiring manager in question the reason why I was not considered. Not in an accusing or snarky way, mind you. More like, “can you explain the reason why I was not considered so I may learn from this experience for future job applications?”. I was told, as quoted below, in the reply below:
“you — have no experience behind a regitser (sic) and I have no time to train”
It is true I haven’t recently worked behind a cash register, since I worked at a movie theatre in the 80s. The machine I worked with was similar to the image supplied in this post. The drawer would jam sometimes, and when it did pop out, it’s best to stand back a bit so you didn’t get a surprise whack. One time the key snapped in the lock when I turned it, so we had to phone for help to get the fragment out.
But enough with the walk down Memory Lane. The point I’m trying to make is that employers used to have the time to train people for entry-level positions like this. At that theatre I worked for, I had the manager standing next to me telling me what to do, such as how to count the change back to the customer after they paid for their popcorn and soda. Oh, and to always remember to say “Enjoy the show!” Even though I made mistakes, and the theatre was pretty busy at times, I learned how to use the cash register.
Because I applied in-person at the store that was advertising the cashier position, I know what the cash register (POS terminal) looks like. It’s basically a computer with it’s own operating system and a bar code reader. You don’t even enter the price of the product, you scan the reader over the product’s bar-code and it displays everything on screen. It even computes the change for you so you don’t have to work it out yourself.
Look, no offense to anyone reading this who has worked with these terminals — and please feel free to write to tear a strip out of me if I’m oversimplifying things —- but I was once responsible for hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of hardware and software. If I can apply a kernel patch to a SAP instance, learn a new programming language (Winbatch) on my own time, and compile a new device description using PCL to get a Canon Imagerunner 5570 to print properly, I’m sure I can learn, in time and with patience, how to operate a POS. What rankled me was that I wasn’t even given a chance to try.
I’m not saying “to hell with experience” and let any Tom, Dick, Or Harry (or Tammy, Donna, Or Helen!) come in and take jobs without ensuring these people know what they are doing. Some high-level professions in science, engineering, and finance require knowledge and experience that would take far too long to learn on-the-job, and any beginner’s mistake could be disastrous. What I am saying is that not all job positions are like that, despite the overinflated opinion of some hiring managers that don’t understand the position they are trying to fill. Some job positions can be understood through employment mentorships or other forms of on-the-job training. I briefly touched on this in a previous post.
We must make it easier for job-seekers to get work experience for entry-level positions like this. Otherwise, young people and those trying to change careers will continue to face the Catch-22 that keeps them unemployed. How can anyone build work experience if managers won’t hire them because the applicant has no work experience?
I’d like to close by saying that being a good employee is not just knowing the job inside and out. It’s about being fearless. It’s about the willingness to try and to think outside the box. It’s about having a good work attitude. I remember one time, at one company I worked for, a young man who was brilliant with computer technology. He really knew his trade. The problem was he also loved to party late into the early hours and would often stagger in late for work looking like Keith Richards. The information technology manager went above and beyond his duties to try to set the employee straight, but in the end he had to let him go because he couldn’t straighten up and fly right. In the end, he didn’t lose his job because of experience. He lost his job for the other important things that were required for the position.
It’s these other important things that hiring managers sometimes forget to factor in when trying to find that experienced employee to fill a vacancy.
Thanks for reading!
UPDATE: 08/16/2012 – Eleanor Gordon, a secondary level languages teacher looking for a change in career, has written an excellent article about her own frustration at hitting the experience wall, despite having so many amazing skills.