Hired for a writing job (or so I thought)

Some years back, at a point when I was putting effort into getting paid work as a writer/editor/proofreader – and had a little success although nothing major – I answered an ad posted by the local university for a full-time contract job that featured writing, among other duties. I was excited. It sounded good. It was a while before I received a response to my submission, but I was interviewed and got the job.

Once on the job, I couldn’t help but notice I wasn’t doing any writing. Still, I tried to tell myself that occasionally reading documents written by people for whom English wasn’t a first language, must be what they meant by proofreading. Right? Right? How far we stretch sometimes to make situations conform to the ideas in our heads.

The work I was actually doing was generally monotonous and involved their database. The department head who hired me was fairly absentee and I was mostly dealing with another member of the staff. This person was initially helpful and knew I was smart; however I’d get my work done fast and come looking for more and I think that may have started to perturb him a bit, as his face and body language suggested less than thrill at the sight of me at his door. So why was I there? I eventually said something about writing, and the staffer “admitted” that this wasn’t that job. Turns out another department had posted the writing job ad and hired someone. THEN, the department I was apparently now in, lazily [editorial comment] asked for the stack of leftover resumes to find someone for an entirely different position in their department. They’d screwed me basically. Misrepresented the job. I don’t think they ever planned to tell me (let’s all say sucker). Now I understood at least why there’d been such a lag between when I applied and when I heard back.

Should I just have been happy to have a job? To have been the one they chose? A job that wasn’t working on an oil rig or cleaning streets? To a point, I can see that. But only to a point. I loathe being lied to, cannot stand it when situations are deliberately misrepresented. Do that to me, and you’ll never get my trust back. So what, right? Everyone is all busted up about that, yes? They’re crying rivers, surely [insert irony face]. Doesn’t matter though, because I know the person, job, or situation that loses my trust and subsequently the benefits of all that I can bring to the table, is missing out. Don’t think this is sour-grapes-“I’ll-show-all-you-stupidheads”-whining (even though they ARE stupidheads). There’s actually something to it. It’s been proven out numerous times by how many people and jobs still want to, and think they can, keep me around after they’ve screwed me over, and not in the pleasing way.

Nearing the end of the contract, there was squat for me to do, so I was given fake work and left alone in a big room to wile away the looonnnng hours. (My mantra? If I am going to sit around and do nothing, I want to do it from the comfort of home. Where my refrigerator lives.) I hate it so much, that the money, whatever it is, seems not anywhere near enough. In a case like this, where I’m not a permanent employee, I couldn’t pass time hanging out with co-workers, chatting or otherwise fooling around. I had to look busy. (Why bother? I hoped a) for a good reference and b) that I might find future writing work, which I learned existed, in the larger structure.)

I’ve learned over the years, the hard way, in permanent positions and not, that offices won’t necessarily let you go when there is nothing for you to do, because they need to justify how much funding they get from higher-ups. Nobody says, “Make the cuts on our division. We don’t need all these employees and you can chop our budget in half while you’re at it.” Some people don’t mind being the supposed beneficiaries of office politics like these. I do mind. I don’t want to be somewhere I’m not needed, minimally. That’s not going to be a joyful environment to work in, not for somebody who invests in whatever they do.

Remember what I said above jobs/people still wanting me after they play me sleazy? The head of the department, having heard or possibly seen good things about my work, remembered I existed long enough to offer me another, better-paying job following this one. It was the first time the department head had a conversation with me since I’d been there, and it was largely a time-consuming monologue, featuring more personal tales about them than job description, let alone anything about me or what I wanted. From as much as I could discern, the job would have been a miserable fit, still in that department, and still not a writing job. These people had played their hand. I did not take the job.

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4 thoughts on “Hired for a writing job (or so I thought)

  1. Jim Link

    Colette, I have heard from more than one person that Bowie State University ran a similar scam for years in the 80’s and 90’s and perhaps still does. It consists of hiring new teachers as assistant professors at a stated salary of ,say, $35K. The new hires are instructed to sign their contracts, which haven’t been drawn up yet, when they return at at the beginning of the school year.

    Then….they are presented with contracts assigning them the rank of instructor at a salary of,say, $28K! After pointing out the “error”, the new hires are told to take it or leave it. With bills to pay, families to support, perhaps having just moved to the area, most of them would cave in, quite incensed at the ambush.

    It’s a very sour introduction for an idealistic educator to be slapped with as she begins to shape the minds and hearts of intellectually hungry youth!

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  2. battlewagon13

    The one thing I tell my kids, no matter how horrible the job or how rotten the boss is – don’t burn your bridges. Don’t go off on someone in the exit interview, don’t bad mouth anybody at the company. That philosophy has saved me several times.

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