I was fortunate to be able to complete both my undergraduate and masters degrees with relatively little financial difficulty. Cumulatively, I accrued less than $5,000 in student debt. I was able to cover the rest by working and the odd scholarship and bursary. With this history in mind, I entered my gap year between my MA and PhD with optimism. I even imagined being able to pay off my existing loans and starting my PhD with a clean slate. It was not to be.
I initially tried to find work in Toronto because I knew it was the most likely destination for my PhD , either continuing in Disability Studies at York University or pursuing Sociology at the University of Toronto (I have been accepted into the PhD program at York). I sent out dozens of job applications to no avail. I eventually ran out of money and had to return to Saskatchewan in the interim and stay with my mother.
I continued my job search from Saskatchewan while maxing out my credit card on PhD application fees. Here I had a little more luck in that I actually got responses to some of my seemingly unending applications. In one case a local government branch tantalized me with possible work if I could pass their proof of clerical ability tests. I passed all the tests but only gained a place in a database with the dozens of other successful test takers. The province had also instituted a hiring freeze so the jobs available to the database pool were beyond few. I didn’t get a call.
Then, I got an interview with another government agency, for a client services position. The kind that requires a thorough security clearance. The clearance portion of the interview process was to be completed first. I filled in and submitted the 48 page questionnaire and related permission forms and waited.
Several weeks later, I received confirmation that my clearance had gone through and invited me for an interview. The interview request was accompanied by another request asking that I confirm my willingness to submit to a typing speed test and affirm that I was confident in my ability to pass it.
I’m hemiplegic, I type one handed so typing at high speeds is well out of my skill set. I was however confident that the position I had applied for did not require high levels of typing as it was more face to face client oriented. Computer use would be part of it but extensive typing would not. I responded saying that I was available for the interview but that I would be unable to pass a typing test because of my mobility disability. The response was swift and pointed.
“This position is 100% data entry at high volumes. No accommodation can be made in this instance. I will keep your resume on file if something better suited to your skills becomes available, I will contact you”
“How dare you apply for a job that you are entirely unqualified for, you will never work for this organization”
I was floored. I went back to the original job listing to see if there was any way I could have misunderstood it. It had had responsibilities like; process client document requests (basically look up the form and print it out), research freedom of information requests, and provide relief for the central client relations desk. None of these tasks can be performed in conjunction with continuous data entry (I’ve done data entry, it’s all consuming). Nowhere in the job description were the words data entry or any task that so much as suggested extensive typing.
I responded to the employer e-mail expressing my confusion and including a link to the original job listing.
The response I got was full of over the top apologies and a claim that they had gotten confused about which position I had applied for. I was of course qualified for the position I had applied for and been offered an interview to and was welcome to interview.
At this point I knew I would never get this job, No HR rep wants to hire someone whose application is tinged with discrimination. I however wasn’t in a position to turn down an interview, so I went and was interviewed by the very same individual who had been involved in the e-mail exchange. It was the most awkward job interview of my life. I didn’t get the job.
The next job interview I was offered was cancelled two days later because the position funding fell through.
My final job interview that initially looked promising took a swift turn to the wildly inappropriate when one of the first questions I was asked by the middle aged male interviewer was “If we had to travel for work, would you be comfortable sharing a hotel room with me?”. I was shocked and very uncomfortable. We were alone. I stammered through an ” I guess so” (because I didn’t feel comfortable saying no in that context). Then he showed me where I would be working. It was a basement where we would be the only two people working.
I left the interview really uncomfortable and freaked out. I was offered that job but the little money I would have made was not worth the safety risk. I turned it down.
Now it is less than two months until I return to Toronto and finding a job is no longer a realistic goal. My Go Fund Me campaign has been active for 18 days and I have had no luck. I can’t rely on family for the money as they are not in the financial position to assist me.
I goal is to get as much as I would have made if I had been able to get a summer job. Just enough to handle moving costs and initial expenses like tuition and rent.
Please share my campaign.