A New Insight on Charlie Brown

Remember every fall? Charlie Brown would once again join the fray and attempt, in the spirit of fall sports, to kick the football. He would give himself a real "One for the Gipper" type of pep talk. The mantra was much like the famous story of "The Little Engine that Could", and Good Ole Charlie Brown would work himself up into a fine, right state. And as always, Lucy was there to insure that he fell flat as she swooped the ball away, at the last possible moment, as she did every single other time.

But, give Charlie Brown credit, as he never completely gave up, and he never lost faith in humanity, not even Lucy. Time and again, he would accept her assurances that this was the time, and everything was going to go perfectly-no deceptions, no lies, no dirty tricks. I am finding as this job search process wears on, that I am understanding and identifying pretty heavily with Charlie Brown, while at the same time wishing for Linus' blanket.

I am beginning to view the HR people, when you finally actually get to meet one face to face, as being my "Lucy". (There to swoop the job right out from under me after assuring me over and over again how qualified I am, how anxious they are to meet me in person.)

And just as there was no real explanation for why Lucy wanted to foil Charlie Brown's efforts each and every time, so too, am I left baffled as to what exactly went wrong with this process.

Having overcome all the layers, from online applications, resume submissions, through multiple phone interviews (sometimes followed by personality and skills assessments), to finally being invited for the face to face, "let's get down to the nuts and bolts of this job", meetings, and then to have the rejection email in my inbox before I have time to drive home.

And yet, just as Charlie Brown, you cannot give up. You have to give yourself the pep talk. You have to restore your faith in humanity at large, and you have to try again, and again, and again. I must admit that it is becoming quite hard to maintain that positive attitude (other than being positive that you are getting the rejection email, if you hear anything further at all.)

Why does Charlie Brown persist? There is a saying that being insane means continually trying the same tactics over and over again, expecting different outcomes. I mean, really, why doesn't Charlie Brown take up bowling or something that doesn't necessarily rely on somebody else?

I have had many conversations with other unemployed folks, many of whom have become so disgusted and discouraged that they no longer have any interest in the game whatsoever. Some have come to the conclusion that the only way that they will ever have a job is if they create one for themselves, outside the organized league as it were.

They are definitely opting out on ever successfully kicking that football. And what I find most significant about Charlie Brown is that he doesn't have a particular goal in mind other than the chance to kick the football. It isn't as if there is a game, where somebody will receive his kick and move it down the field to score.

He just wants to kick the football, to have the satisfaction of completing that simple, personal challenge. He isn't going to become a hero, or even win a game. The satisfaction must come from simply completing the task. Given that, I am finding unemployment to be an eerily similar set of circumstances. The goal, at this point, is to have a job, something to do, something that allows you to pay bills and pursue the other things in life that have meaning.

Perhaps Charlie kicking that football would open the door to other things in his life that had significant' meaning. Kicking the ball is only a means to an end, rather than being the end in itself.

If the overall economy weren't so poor, and if there weren't so many people hurting, and many with greater problems than mine, I might give consideration to "taking up bowling" and trying to create my own employment.

The United States was built on entrepreneurial spirit, but the general climate of our economy, and the mood of present government doesn't seem to aid or welcome that spirit. It would appear that the story of Tucker and his car, rather than being a scandal or indictment of power abused, has become the norm.

It used to be that your education meant more than specific certificates which qualified you to do specific tasks. Being educated meant that you were capable of critical thinking, of analyzing a problem, drawing upon experience, recombining information, and being able to apply everything you had learned to address new situations and provide new solutions.

And if you could combine education with documented experiential success.......well, you were highly sought after in the workplace. For some reason, those values seem to have been swept aside in favor of being Pavlov's dogs, or extremely trainable apes.

All these layers of process to screen job applicants have little to do with finding the most able person, but the most trainable. There doesn't seem to be any place for the Renaissance Man any longer. People, like DaVinci, would not be considered "good candidates". It wouldn't matter that he could draw his ideas in great detail, and he could even create perfect scale models for demonstration.

Michaelangelo would not have been commissioned to decorate the Cistine Chapel, as he couldn't deliver a power point presentation of his ideas complete with Auto Cad and 3-D graphics programs. At some point in time, the tools became more important than the operators. Everything is binary based. Everything has one single answer, one single accepted methodology-even though others will achieve the same results.

I have been baffled by many of the assessment tests. Given a scenario, and a list of suggested responses, you are to select the "best response". Education and experience combined, on more than one occasion, have resulted in my feeling that all the responses are poor choices, and I am able to generate more than one possible solution that improves on any of the suggested choices.

At no point in this testing process are you ever asked to actually think, to define why you are doing or saying a certain thing, to clarify how you saw the interaction, to justify your choices, and to explore what you think the outcomes would be from the responses considered.

So, am I to understand that what employers really want is for me to drool when the bell rings, even though the bell has no direct connection to whether or not I receive food? "Thinking outside the box" has become a buzz word in the business world, yet my recent experiences lead me to believe that you aren't supposed to think at all, let alone outside the box. It is not your place to envision a more positive outcome, merely to achieve the result indicated.

A result which is largely based on metrics of one sort or another. In other words, we are to remain firmly inside the box at all times,("Keep your hands and feet inside the car. at all times, during the ride."), and not even acknowledge that something exists, without any value judgements whatsoever, outside the box.

We have completely stinted the creative process that feeds entrepreneurial ventures. Nobody even cares to build the better mousetrap any longer, just the most cost effective according to the metrics. Business has abandoned the whole notion of kicking the football.

Those of us who actually think are a threat to the equilibrium of "business as usual." We are still trying to kick the football, to find a way to be successful. And if we succeed, then the mediocrity is exposed. The status quo is no longer good enough. Everyone is challenged to think, instead of picking the best response of the pre-approved choices. Charlie Brown cannot be accused of being a "sheeple".

He continues to pursue his goals, continues to motivate himself in spite of previous failures. He even tries to work with those who have thwarted him in the past. Charlie Brown doesn't waste time and energy getting even with Lucy. When he undertakes a fresh start for himself, he allows that same clean slate for Lucy.

He truly believes that it will ultimately work out in his favor, that Lucy will eventually cooperate in his endeavor. So, I guess that in order to survive unemployment, we can't give up or give in. We have to continually believe in the positive outcome, despite past disappointments.

We have to be Charlie Brown, and not get bogged down worrying about the Lucys of the world. We need to focus on the football, not the person holding it.

Filed under: Musings

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  • Thank you for this great metaphor of what so many of us are going through. I have been looking for employment for the last 2 years and have had many a Lucy pull the football at various times as I approach the kick. Looking at my situation with your post in mind will give me just a little more energy to keep trying to get the kick done. I hope I can be as persistent (and forgiving) as is Charlie Brown.

  • In reply to Dick Hostetler:

    It is so easy to become discouraged, and also to really doubt your abilities; however, I have determined that what is going on out there has nothing to do with ability, or experience, or education....As I said in one of my earlier posts.....it's kind of like being in 4th grade, lined up on the back wall of the gym, waiting to be picked for kickball. There is about as much rhyme or reason to the job candidate process as 4th grade kick ball related to Olympic accomplishments. Don't know if you are following the new TV show about "what if all the power goes down, everywhere?" Guess what, we are going to be the ones who have a clue how to survive it, and also the ability to do without. Hope that helps and you have a superior weekend before starting afresh on the job hunt. We have to keep encouraging each other, just like Linus and Schroeder.

  • There are essentially two problems, both starting in about the late 90s, but exasperated in the past 5 years--too many people looking for work, so the HR people have to BS them, and companies not really wanting employees, as opposed to contract or temporary workers to whom they owe no loyalty (and certainly no benefits).

    The BS is typified by someone I know, who asks, usually where she has no hope, if there are any jobs, and is always told "fill out an application." I am convinced that the only reason the managers do that is to have a record for the EEOC that they screened the required number of short [sorry, she says the correct word is "petite"] white women over the age of 40, not that they are interested in calling her back.

    As far as employment coaches, the one in "Get Employed" convinced me that most of them are frauds (she saying that everyone is worse off, but claiming that somehow her clients are exempt).

    So, in a way you do need a new game, but it looks like it is not employment, but the two methods I suggested. Fortunately for me, where I used to be employed knew me well enough to send me contract work, but they have pretty much contracted out their primary function. I don't know if you are in a similar situation.

  • In reply to jack:

    You are right on about the equal employment statistic thing, but it has been compounded by the fact that none of the EOE information, which was usually collected at the time of an interview, is truly optional any longer. Most of the online applications will not let you submit without the age, sex, race, ethnic background types of info. Also, there is a new wrinkle that has cropped up in the past month or two......a whole new section based upon the federal government trying, in an election year, to convince us how serious they are about the unemployment situation. There are now bounties or perks paid to employers for selecting people who fit these new profiles which put the rest of us even further down the list in terms of consideration. The added questions include if you are on some sort of work release program due to trouble with the law, do you, or have you received housing assistance, food stamps, aid for families, cash assistance (this was a new one on me), energy assistance. These categories do not only include those who are currently receiving aid, but also within the last 18 months to two years. It would appear that the only assistance, that our government is wanting to give, comes only when you have been absolutely stripped of everything. Then, and only then, do they want to move you off the assistance programs to convince the voters, who are still working and paying taxes to support all these programs, that they are actually doing something for the unemployed. The more they mess with it, the worse it gets.

  • In reply to jack:

    The insanity seems to be more entrenched in Illinois than elsewhere......after all, they re-elected Rod....and now Quinn....and a host of others that have had their hands in the cookie jars on more than one documented occasion. It would seem that perhaps by sending our Senator to Washington as the President, the very thing that has made Illinois the butt of jokes nationwide-double dealing, dirty politicians, may very well be an infection spreading to national proportions. Kind of makes you long for Mr Deeds.

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