Career Transit-ion

The closest thing I own that resembles a set of wheels to get from here to there. This is a Toronto Transit Commission keyring that holds tokens for bus fare. One is loadedI’ve been on countless interviews since January 2010, and I’ve heard nearly every reason why I was not chosen for the job position I applied for. Before my previous computer went belly up, I even had a running count that grouped the reasons into categories.

At the lowest end of the count — zero, and therefore not on the list  — was because I left the interviewer with a sense of unease. How do I know this? I asked! I always follow up with the interviewer to understand why I was not considered. It helps to know so I can improve my job search strategy.

At the top end of the count, which sadly I cannot remember the exact total, was that “little extra” the other applicant had that I did not. For example, I applied at a pharmaceutical company that used SAP, but did not get the job because I did not work in the pharmaceutical business. At another job offer, I remember I was up against someone who was a former accountant before she changed careers to information technology. Such considerations are up to the company offering the position.  I have no say in that.

In-between these two points on the scale are the other understandable reasons: employment equity quotas, changes in the job requirements after the application was sent, changes in management within the hiring company, the hiring company closing, the hiring company moving to another city, the hiring company downsizing, and so forth.

Then we get the silly reasons. I’ve been told I wasn’t considered for a dog dropping scoop job because I was overqualified (I’m still scratching my head over how being a system administrator of a SAP system would prevent me from picking up poop). I’ve been told I was under qualified for something that would not require a lot of skill or time to learn, like the cash register position I wrote about in a previous post.

The one that stands out as the most bizarre though, for three positions I applied for, was that I did not have a driver’s license.

I’m not talking about applying for a job that required me to have a driver’s license as a qualification, such as sales, transportation, or warehouse work. What I am talking about is the interviewer’s opinion, because I use public transit, I would not be able to get to work on time in case of extreme weather (such as a thunderstorm or snowstorm).

For each of these three positions I applied for, it is true it would take close to an hour to get to work by public transit (known as the TTC in Toronto). Having said that, I still disagree with the belief that using public transit is a barrier to employment for the following reasons:

  • In Toronto, we have an excellent subway line with a simple design that runs both east and west and north and south in equal parts — and underground. At the risk of sounding sarcastic, it’s pretty hard for snow and rain to get underground.
  • Any such weather pattern that disrupts transit would also disrupt commuting by car. Ever drive on the highway in a snowstorm or thunderstorm? You get the idea.
  • Not everyone can afford the cost of owning a car. For the low-income worker, public transit is the only choice.
  • Anyone can leave 30 minutes or even an hour earlier to compensate for any transit issues as a result of the weather.
  • Most understanding employers would accept lateness if the employee called ahead explaining the reason.

In the early 2000s, the last company I worked for moved to Vaughan Township. That’s the area around and north of Toronto. Because of the relocation, I commuted every day to work two hours up and two hours back — yes, a round trip of 4 hours — for nine of my 17 years at that company. It wasn’t easy, but having a newspaper, a Scottish/Irish heritage that granted me superhuman persistence and stubbornness, and an empty bladder made it doable. Here is my previous transit ride, for those of you who are curious.

The one thing that perhaps irks me the most about this being the reason why I did not get the job is that it makes a personal lifestyle choice a job requirement. It’s my choice not to drive and that, along with the other things I believe in, is really not relevant for the position. I’ve argued in the past that your work should not dictate the personal life you want, and conversely, your personal life should not get in the way of your job.

With the growing importance to promote a clean and healthy environment for our children, and the need to be more fiscally responsible these days, I would have thought using public transit would be a positive selling point about my character. Guess I was wrong. I’m still not going to invest the time and money to learn to drive, buy a car, and obtain insurance, even if the company offered to pay for all of that. There’s only so far I’m willing to go to get something before the requirements become unreasonable.

Thanks for reading!


P.S. This is not a swing at anyone who chooses to drive a car. I understand that using public transit would not work in some cases. Some cities or towns may not have a robust public transit system like Toronto has. Some of you may be parents and picking your children up from school using transit would be impractical. Some of you may have jobs that require the need of a car.

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