Last Call: Help Wanted in the New Normal

Drinking an Irish Coffee during my late-night job application process, it becomes clear that not even coffee and whiskey can lift my optimism. Shrouded under a thick layer of cream, the bitter taste suddenly kicks under my tongue.  I take a break to gulp down the caffeine as I stop to view a commercial break on television. Working in advertising has made these pauses even more annoying for the moments of critical analysis. Overly optimistic flight attendants rush to the airport with their masks tightly fitted as a dance montage from a tech company tries to convince us of the togetherness of team online meetings sung in unison with the tag line of a ‘new normal’. 

But as I’m faced with preparing for the following days interview, my pessimism can’t help but think this ‘new normal’ has made the connected experience of job searching just about as theatrically obscure. Even as we are faced with mass unemployment, we hop on the screen like some advertisement with a chipper disposition and scripted response to potential employers. While the convenience of wearing a smart shirt with concealed pyjama trousers under the desk appeals to me not wanting to travel to some far-reaching office space, I wonder about the nature of this new interviewing process being some sickly-sweet experience shielded under the premiss of ‘connectedness.’ Not only are we set to meet online with our interviews, but the landscape of human interaction and the process of gaining employment has changed exponentially to the point where we share videos, presentations, letters of motivation and shameless self-promotion like the montage of a 50’s swing dancing advertisement peppered with a nauseating flash mob.  

You need not search far when it comes to the barrage of obscurity. These newly professionally outfitted social media platforms are dressed up to be a space to network and connect. Simply hop online to LinkedIn, where emotive videos overlayed with pianos show surprises illustrated in handwritten notes on white boards directed towards the camera about one’s ‘struggle’ and ‘hope’. Alternatively, you could simply look at your DM’s where a stranger with a completely unrelated career sends you a ‘heyyy” with three ‘Y’s.’ Not only is the process of applying hidden below a thick cream of bullshit inspirational videos and unsolicited dating opportunities, but the detail of each job spec specifically with long winded explanations themselves, conceal the sobering realities of each position under a creamy thick layer of ‘how I’ll fuck you over’. Upon closer inspection however, each ‘roles responsibility’ conceals a manipulative ‘new normal’ that also happens to leave a bitterness likened to the Irish coffee I swallow down. 

Most applications seem to be getting more complex too. With so many hoops and stairs of challenges presented to you, you can’t help but think you’re on one of those game shows ready to be slammed by a swinging battle axe. If anything is certain, there should be a law that stipulates the salary of any job from the outset. ‘Competitive’ should surely be decided at the applicant’s discretion, because invariably it means, ‘at least we’re willing to pay you the bare minimum.’ Entry level positions suddenly require 15 years’ experience, together with a PHD and a gap year that’s contributed to the reformation of the economy of a small, impoverished nation. ‘Hit the ground running’, is code for ‘figure everything out while I watch you fail’ While ‘amazing potential’ and pay scales which are ‘to be discussed’ really mean they’ll ‘fight to give you the least amount of money possible.’ For some reason this is signed off with an ‘offer’ that should somehow offset the manipulation with the privilege of having an onsite gym. Because as long as you’re fit enough to run on some mouse wheel in this rat race between lunch and meetings, you should be delighted to be fit enough for them to fuck you over. So, limber up dear candidate, because this application means you should be ready to be shafted.  But nothing beats the audacious scraping of the barrel of benefits when it comes to ‘getting leave on your birthday,’ because at the end of the day, the opinion is, you should be grateful to be celebrating anything other than your job. 

And so, as I prepare my 10-year plan in line with a 45 minute presentation, coupled with an essay on the nature of ‘how to kiss ass in an essay question,’ I think about my sense of self respect in line with lifting the weight of my boss’s ego. I think about the bitterness in my mouth hidden below the queasiness of a group meet up. I think about compromise, I think about desperation. I think about my Irish coffee, hidden below the sickly sweetness of cream mirroring the veil of a jobs’ ‘great opportunity.’ And as I watch the advertisement sprawled in front of me. I think about the nature of bullshit. I think about deceit. I think about the newly fragranced plastic surgery celebrity culturally appropriating a nations tradition as she dances on the soil of indigenous bloodshed. And as I watch her smile, if anything is certain, I know this connected farce of ‘new normal is nothing more than a poorly written concept buried below the reality of greed. 

Recipe for sobering interviews

  • Take the bitter taste of reality
  • Mix with your low expectations
  • Whip your hopes to soft peaks
  • Pour over your desperation
  • Be sure to swallow your pride

Amy-Jean Muller is an artist, writer and poet from South Africa who lives and works in London. She explores topics such as culture, memory, identity, and sexuality. She aims to create a snapshot of experience and narrative with a non-traditional approach. She also likes whiskey, afternoon naps and nihilistic musings.

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