I haven’t made mention anything about my search for employment, primarily because there hasn’t been anything to talk about. We knew when we left Washington State and moved across the continent to Southeastern Pennsylvania that finding work for me would be a challenge.
In my search for a job I applied to well over 100 positions. I don’t know exactly what I applied for, as I quit keeping track of them after the 84th one. Some of these were positions where I met the minimum qualifications and really didn’t have high expectations for, but I figured I had nothing to lose by applying. Most positions, however, I was highly qualified for with a graduate degree and around 20 years experience.
Of all these I had only 3 interviews, all three with the state of Delaware. I believe all the interviews went very well, but in the end, I was not the one selected for the position.
The 37th application that I sent out was back on 28 March 2012. This was for a position with position as an Agriculture Specialist with US Customs and Border Protection, which is part of Homeland Security. This position was a very good fit with my education and work experience. I figured I had a pretty good shot at that one. Also, on 12 June 2012, I applied for a position with USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service as a meat and poultry inspector. Not as great a fit, but I did meet the minimum qualifications. Both of these positions were with federal agencies and were permanent positions and had full benefits.
On 29 June 2013, I got an email from Customs saying that my application scored an 80 and that 70 was passing. It didn’t give me any other reference as to what this meant, so I had no idea if this was good or bad or what my chances were. I ultimately figured it was good, as I wasn’t rejected from the process. Then on 13 October 2012 I got an email saying that I was a tentative selectee for the position and the pre-employment process of background check, drug test, health screening, so on and so forth, would begin. I also learned at that time that I was selected out of 2000 applicants! Oinga-boinga.
Also in mid November of 2012, I got a letter from USDA stating that I was being considered for a meat inspector position in southern New Jersey. However, they had changed the position from permanent with full benefits to a temporary hourly position with no benefits. When I first applied, the commute to New Jersey would have been just barely worth it if it included health care. Without health care, this position simply wasn’t worth leaving my current position as a stay at home dad, so I turned it down.
Days, weeks and months clicked past. Just when I’d get to the point that the Custom’s position was slipping away, I’d get a message from them with a question about this or that or that they were moving on to the next step in the process. In what seemed like measurements on the geologic time scale, I passed the qualification verification, drug test, background check, etc. By the first of March I was left with only the health screening.
Let me tell you, when you are over 50, there is nothing but questions about your health. In short, I made over four trips to the doctor for this, that, and the other. Questions arose about injuries that I sustained over 30 years ago when I was a young gymnast. As aggravating as this was for me to deal with, it was probably more so for my doctor who had to address and document all these questions.
Finally at long last, on 22 July 2013, a checkmark appeared by the medical review part of the pre-employment process. Everything was completed! I got a letter stating such and that I was now being referred to the “scheduling unit.” What this really meant was that I was entering into another period of uncertainty because I know I would not be scheduled for anything unless there was a funded vacancy available for me to fill. Knowing that our legislators currently have no interest in making our government function smoothly a funded vacancy could occur tomorrow or a year from now.
Another big unknown would be if I got a final job offer where would the Duty Station be? I applied for the position because it said there was a position available in Philadelphia, assumedly at the airport. This would be a very reasonable commute from West Chester. However, applications for the position are to a region, in my case, to the Mid Atlantic, which stretches from JKF in New York to Richmond Virginia and west to Charleston, West Virginia. If a job offer was for Richmond Virginia, then all of this could be a wasted effort. I had not option other than to sit back and wait. Something I have become very good at.
In the meantime, on 3 June 2013, I got an email from USDA saying that I was being considered for another position as a meat inspector, this one in a kosher poultry processing plant in Birdsboro, PA. Shortly thereafter I had a telephone interview with the supervisor of the position. On 18 June, I got a letter offering me the position. Like the other position, this one was temporary and had no benefits. However, with Mary at home for the summer to keep the kids and the uncertainty of the Customs position, I accepted this one as something to do while I wait. Plus, I think it somewhat ironic that I got my graduate degree in ornithology and all those years studying and watching birds, that it would all culminate with a job as a chicken checker in Birdsboro, PA. What were the chances of such a thing?
Like the Customs position, this one had a pre-employment process. I assumed it would be somewhat less rigorous since national security is not involved, however, like the Customs position, this one had a health screening. And as before, it involved the body of a 50 year old male. Ergo, the process began to stretch out. Again, my poor doctor had to respond to what seemed to be an endless number of questions. Finally, yesterday at noon, my doctor emailed me and said that the final set of health forms were being faxed to USDA.
With that, I was back to waiting. Waiting for everything. We happen to be on vacation at Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. With nothing left to worry about I set out for a bike ride down the Delaware coastline. I stopped along the way to look at grasses and sedges and other interesting plants grow in coastal saline environments. At 2:00 PM, as I was standing in ankle deep mud with a handful of interesting sedges, I got a phone call.
I am happy to say that on Monday, 19 August, one year, four months, and 22 days after I applied, I start work at the Philadelphia Airport. It looks like my chance at chicken checkin’ in Birdsboro is behind me.
In the end, this was the one position that I felt was a great fit for me and only one that I really had hoped I would get as it is a great continuation of my career that I began in Washington State. The pay is good and there is great opportunity for advancement. I look forward getting started!