Success, and unicorns

Success: Noun: An accomplishment of aim or purpose.

Commonly described as “What your boss achieves through your hard work”.

This time, just maybe, it’s what “I” actually achieved by MY hard work.

A few weeks ago, I applied for a job locally. Really out of my swim lane as far as title, but the things I’d learned at my current job really put me in the opinion of ‘hey, I know how to do that now’. I answered honestly on the multi page questionnaire, and pushed the send button. Yeah, how stupid of me.

In the current market, I figured a few thousand applicants, all of them a lot more qualified and actually within the job series the employer is looking for. Pretty specialized fields, getting out of one and into another usually nets some pretty fierce competition from those who actually DO that for a living. If you don’t, you don’t. At least according to your average HR person. Most of my ‘problems’ so far have been from overzealous HR folks looking at a job title and not at what you’re qualified to do. Switching from an XXxX and trying to get into a XXzX position, God herself has a hard time even getting that arrow to even stick in the target, let alone hit the 10 ring. But I pushed it anyway. Silly me. Trying to get into the unicorn club.

Anyhoo, once you push the “Apply to this position” button, it’s out of your hands. I’ve pushed that button more times in the past year than I have my entire life.  So far in my life, except for 2 button pushes, the result is ‘bzzzzt…thanks for playing, please try again loser’.  I’ve pushed that button over a dozen times in the past dozen months. Yeah, loser really doesn’t do it justice.

After a while, you push the button to see how fast you’ll get the rejection letter. (Army Corps of Engineers….less than 48hrs from job announcement close; a record so impressive Guiness actually got involved. The beer company, not the world record folks)

The email notices “you’ve applied” is immediate. Kinda like dropping a few bucks in a vending machine…you know what to expect. Usually.

Some you never get a notice at all (Army Corps of Engineers (1 going on a year) Department of the Navy,  going on 3yrs now), US Agency for Broadcast Media (VoA…now in its 5th month). None with a peep as to their intentions.

Eventually you just push the button knowing you don’t have a snowflakes chance in the Iraqi desert (been there/seen that/they do NOT last very long)  and it becomes kinda fun watching those bastards melt. The HR folks can deal with the extra workload…melt, you bastards.

After a few days/weeks/months, if you’ve spelled your name and email correctly, you get a “your application has been forwarded to the selection board”, quickly followed by “you’re most qualified, but not selected”. Those are usually called “PPP” positions. Person Previously Picked. Means you never stood a chance, that someone was filling a spot the boss wanted to make official, but had to look like they were going through the HR motions. They’re easily identifiable by their short suspense dates or “open to current agency employees only” in the ‘who can apply’ block. Probably shouldn’t waste your time, but remember those overworked HR bastards melting…and you push the button.

Rarer still is the, “your application has been forwarded to the selection board”…and nothing happens for a few weeks…then you get the rejection letter if you get a letter at all. Usually you have to sign in to the jobs site to read it. Melt, melt, melt.

On a very, very rare occasion, you’ll see a job description that reads like your life’s work history, nearly verbatim to include old outdated equipment and ‘must have tattoo of scorpion on left forearm’. These are mirages…and do not fall for them. They’re not real, and only serve to make you look like a fool when you tell your colleagues about them. These do NOT exist except in dreams and some porn flicks. Don’t fall for them. They’re deeply embarrassing when folks find out about them when your internet browser history shows up on FakeBook, or you talk in your sleep.

Even rarer still…the one that results in the mystical and extremely unnerving…

…ringing phone.

I’d heard of it happening to others, but never expected to hear it.

Then it rings. MY PHONE rings. It’s the local unicorn agency doing the hiring, calling you to “set up an interview”. Not unheard of, but rare. Unicorn rare.

“OK, sure, Thursday is fine. 11AM, sure, I should be sober enough by then. First to interview you say? Great. At least I’ll set the standard for others to live up to.” The unicorn laughs on the other side of the phone, and they hang up.

You pinch yourself, kick yourself in the nuts for dreaming about unicorns. Then, still bent over from the nut kick, you rush from office to office, cube to cube telling anyone that listens that…


…you just talked to a unicorn.

It was talking back to you.

Weird looks. Embarrassing ‘well, yeah, sure you did’ comments as they whisper to their friends ‘Jimmy’s lost his shit again and thinks he talked to a unicorn…maybe he kicked the wrong brain?’.

Then you take off Thursday to go to the interview. You’re nervous, expecting to see the unicorn in person. Then you realize you’ve talked with unicorns before, no one believed you then, and since no one is going to believe you this time either…there’s no need to be nervous because NO ONE INTERVIEWS WITH UNICORNS.

So you interview with the unicorns. 4 of them. All at one time. They ask you questions. QUESTIONS YOU KNOW THE ANSWERS TO! Experiences you can describe first hand because for the last 11 painful years you’ve done that Sisyphus shit day in/day out and you’ve gotten very good at it. They’re not asking questions as much as you’re telling them about the daily life you live when you’re not not talking to unicorns.

After an hour of discussing your life with the unicorns, they tell you that you did very well. They tell you that, out of the 100 people that applied, out of the 69 that could spell their names correctly, they are only interviewing 7 people.

Wow. 93% of the applicants weren’t qualified. WowWow…I actually made top 7, and there weren’t just 6 candidates this time. WowWowWow…that you interviewed without being nervous, without fluttering or releasing your bowels or squealing like someone was chasing you with sharp sticks.

I thanked the unicorns for their time, their candor, their lack of sharp sticks and headed to the door.

Then, 2 work days later the head unicorn call your bosses, cause unicorns take these things called “weekends”. Yeah, no clue but I aim to find out.  Then they call your ‘references’. (references: folks who want to see you gone, and will lie out their asses to make sure you do leave cause you have incriminating evidence against them)  Then your bosses tell you they talked to unicorns, (yeah, fat chance at that) that they’re concerned that they may be losing their ‘coughcoughbullshitmosttrustedemployeebullshitcoughcough’.

Then the following Thursday the head unicorn call YOU. Again. Rarer that rare. Lightning strikes have happened to me more times than I can count rare. (actually things in my life are starting to make sense now…oh, never mind, different subject)  They call to get more references to ask about your personal hygiene habits, more people you have dirt on who want to get rid of you….and to also congratulate you on being the first unicorn to be…never mind. I’ll keep that private, since us unicorns have some secrets we just can’t let you in on.

Yeah, I got the job. ‘Significant’ pay increase is the easiest way to describe it. It will more than make up for the additional excruciating 15 minutes I’ll have to add to my commute. The boredom of having to look through windows at scenic vistas during the day. The pain of several miles of scenic walking trails. The pain of an on-campus ‘pub’ that opens at 5PM daily that serves local brewed beer. The pain of knowing that I don’t have to scratch and claw my way through the next 32 months to make retirement without killing myself or another person clawing their way to that same golden ring. The pain of knowing that 32 months is no longer a critical goal to be reached by self-mutilating myself daily if necessary, but just another date on a calendar of possible future events. Oh, sorry….where was I? Oh, yeah…I got the job.

Yeah…to quote a friend of mine, that I had ‘shit and fell back in it’. I may have, but I earned every stinking second of that shit. I might not even wash it off. It’s mine, and I deserved that shit.

So, while we wait for our security clearance investigation to be completed, our ‘official’ offer of employment to be issued, and the impending ‘in the rear view mirror seeing the middle finger to my life of the last 11 years’, I’m just going to dream of being a unicorn. Since us unicorns can dream of such things.

Oh, yeah, set your calendars for the 12th of October. We’re doing that apple/cider/cabbage/kraut thing again. Sunny and warm is the current forecast, with apples and cabbage and screaming kids…and…and…more hard cider to help with the rest of the evening. If you can make it, thank you. If you can’t, we’ll try to do it again next year.

(and no, there’s no middle finger in the rear view mirror directed at the previous employer. This new job would not have been possible had it not been for the headaches, heartaches and near year of OT and comp time over that 11yr period. It’s an opportunity that I’ll never be able to repay, regardless of the astronomical cost to my bosses ;-). Thank you, VAMC Martinsburg, for the opportunity to be a part of what you are. )


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