It’s been a difficult week for me in both job searching and online dating. It’s not news to say they’re both frustrating, emotionally difficult, and isolating processes. But, damn, it doesn’t get better even after your resume gets longer and when you’ve built up strong self-worth and tolerance for heartbreak. I’ve been left with a question: am I wrong for expecting to be treated better?
When I was younger, I used to be really angry when I’d get 95% non-answers from job applications. Recently, I’ve stopped getting rejections even if I’ve done an interview or two. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety ghosted me after two interviews last month. In these times of automated email CMS with dynamic text insertion, you’d think employers could send at least that boilerplate rejection. If you make me upload my resume, then enter all of its contents separately into a form, you can’t pull some of those data for a DEAR CANDIDATE X letter?
I’m comparing online dating to job searching because the discovery functions of modern employment and romance have been shoved into these digital platforms where we lose the ability to empathize with the humans on the other end. I am simultaneously upset that several potential dates never responded to my message and feeling guilty for not sparking up and maintaining as lively a conversation as I should with women interested in me. Canceling a date, especially if it’s a Zoom date, is rarely frowned upon even if the stated reason is a lie told without the expectation it will be believed. But, what does one online dater owe to another? We’re avatars on a free app, with thousands of other faces to swipe through.
The phenomenal series The Good Place boiled down its exploration of moral philosophy
on how to be a good person as acting according to “what we owe each other
.” In a philosophy class from college I’ve mostly forgotten, I remember the maxim that individual rights convey also obligations onto you. You certainly have rights for things like self-care, but those rights mean you have obligations to not inhibit others’ self-care. As Chidi explains in that TV show you must watch, we have bonds with others that make being good worth it. Those connections are the why, define the what, and the to whom of our rationale for moral action.
I dislike the modern job search and dating via apps because they intermediate our interactions so much that our bonds with strangers are scarcely there or totally severed. For five, maybe ten years now, a majority of American couples met online. The workplace, church, and even mutual friends have cratered in ways we find love. This is the case even more with LGTBQ+ relationships. Bars and online accounts for 70%+ of heterosexual relationships in couples under 40 years old.
I don’t know the data on employment discovery, but I’m guessing totally online employee discovery is rising quickly. It’s probably different stories in different industries at different seniority levels. Connections still matter a great deal. But most of the time, someone else has a better connection than you. And, as someone applying to mid- senior-level positions now, silence as rejection and disregard for applicants doesn’t stop when you rise in rank.
I believe nothing is more powerful or important than love – as human bonds. We are in this together. We have to be, or it’s a miserable slog of self-preservation and hoarding of power, dignity, and agency. That makes the 2021 job and love search tools perfect augurs driving into my soul. They obscure our fellow feeling and convince us to expect less of each other. I believe we have to support each other and do our best to encourage strangers. It does hurt someone to disregard them and maybe that’s not as important as other things in the situation, but there’s real harm done.
A common response to this is to expect nothing from others: happiness is reality minus expectations
. Maybe that’s a healthier way to live, but I can’t live that way. It’s just not who I am. I’m the guy with enough stubbornness to believe in possibility. From the hundreds of people I’ve dealt with in this job search, a handful has gone above the minimum and been helpful or supportive. They keep me going. It’s the one good golf shot every nine holes to keep you teeing off.
On YouTube, a lot of self-help people preach that the universe is indifferent
. There’s no system out to get you, and you’re not a unique victim of an evil god. You’re not a casualty more than anyone else and it’s on you to be resilient. This is a helpful lesson to a point. The error of Republican up-by-their-bootstraps stories isn’t that upward mobility and resilience are impossible. The missing piece is that there are systems that are indeed harder on certain types of people than others. Self-discipline? Absolutely! But, not without admitting interdependence, promoting constant and open communication, and acting with allyship.
We have to remember the Don Drapers
, the Rick Sanchezes
of life are not good people. They’re Titanic assholes. They’re almost always dudes, but there’s a healthy amount of Lean In Girl Boss toxicity in the air. You shouldn’t believe yourself impotent to the fickle whims of unseen metaphysics. But, you’re not omnipotent. And, you can’t demand perfection from everyone else – nor are they dead weight. Other people aren’t objects of obstruction. They’re humans to respect even if they aren’t allies. It’s not helpful to abandon them in a nihilistic moral wager that it’s better to be surprised by goodness than saddened by others’ choices. We’re stuck with each other, and that’s damn good. This corporeal roller coaster doesn’t get less bumpy when you set the occupancy limit to one.
Circling all the way back to my leading point: I don’t know how to feel with these disappointing online dating and job search events. I don’t think I’m wrong to expect to be treated better by employers and potential dating matches. People should be less terrible to each other, and I have to do my best in trying to do better. As the Good Place illustrates, being better isn’t worth it because of a karmic scorecard – it’s worth it because we’re here together and it’s what we owe to each other.
It makes me sad to be overlooked in dating and I do my best to not treat others that way. The cold, caustic employers in the job search are harder to stomach. If you hire and fire without courtesy, you’re not a good organization. That includes especially how you treat people that don’t get the job. There’s a power imbalance and it’s an employer’s obligation to treat applicants better than what I’ve seen.
It really sucks to put some of my best writing ever in cover letters that most likely never get read. It’s frustrating that the valuable feedback I’ve gotten from an interview process is because some staffer sends me an unofficial email to let me know what their HR person will never tell me, even in form email format. “You’re not making it into the next round. But, keep going.”
At this point in the job search, my self-image as a professional bears little prediction value on what role employers think I’m “a fit” for or that my skills “are in alignment with.” Job descriptions that look like re-writes of my resume never earn an interview. The random flier job applications earn several rounds of consideration. At this point, my cover letters should just be short stories I write about Charlie the Cicada and his adventures seeking procreation while clumsily avoiding the neighborhood dogs.