Thursday, April 12, 2012

Bollocks to the Bureaucracy

One of the phases I went through in my early twenties involved a desire to go into the Peace Corps. There are two reasons I never ended up applying: the climates of the countries I wanted to serve in are too hot; and the length and intensity of the application materials made my neighboring stack of law school applications look like a one-way, first-class ticket to Tahiti.  

In the past year alone, I’ve filled out a battery of formal applications for various opportunities. I’m in the process of filling out another one this month. Some have exhausted or appalled me to the point of aborting the entire effort by the time I reach page 6. So many dates and details they’re asking for, in addition to inquiring about information that can be found elsewhere within my submitted online paperwork. You’d think I was applying to adopt a child or work for the CIA or enter a Ph.D. program. But I’m not – far from it. There’s a certain level of organized inefficiency that amazes me.

What prompted me to apply? What qualities do I bring to the table? Well, I spent a fair amount of time finalizing that professional references list you wanted. I hardly ever see or talk to the professionals in that line-up anymore, and had to troll around my e-mail archives and the Internet to find their most recent contact information. Then I had to e-mail them a heads-up about possibly getting grilled about me in the near future. So howzabout we put them to work? Ask them what qualities I bring to the table. Or, better yet, see if they’d be game for hazarding a guess as to what they think prompts me to do anything.

If I ever run my own little local enterprise one day, it’s remarkable how different things will be. I can already see how to whittle these initial application forms down to 2 pages. And I won’t need any candidate-crafted references list. If I’ve got reservations about someone after reading his or her 2-page application, resume, and writing sample, and after an in-person meeting, I know how to go about independently finding and contacting people from his or her past to get the bigger-picture story - that’s one of my signature qualities right there. 

4 comments:

  1. I hate applying for anything. It's such a schlep and most of the time, the entire process makes me re-think whatever it is I wanted to apply for. Anyway, I hope you get whatever it is you want :)

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  2. So true about the references. The last job I applied for was 5 years ago and I came across a list of my references when I moved. I don't even remember who one of them is!

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  3. I love hearing Peace Corps application stories. Most of the people I knew in the 1960s applied. It was quite the thing at the time--the whole Kennedy era, you know, lots of idealism. I got as far as sitting down to take the written test--I made it halfway through the first page and then gave up. You pretty much had to have spent your life on a farm to take that test. The particular question that felled me was, "How would you go about determining where to dig for a well for the village, and then how would you go about constructing the well?"
    I mentioned this question to a friend a year ago, and he said, "Oh, that's easy. Just ask the local people." I was stunned at the simplicity, correctness, and brilliance of his reply.
    As you can tell, I never even GOT to the point of filling out the application. References? For my well-building ability?
    Years later my then-24-year-old daughter looked into the Peace Corps. She told me that she didn't pursue the application because it was completely against her philosophy of life. The whole idea of a 24-year-old American kid going out into the world and telling villages of people in other cultures what to do was really offensive to her. Again, genius at work in this reaction.

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  4. When I filled out my bar applications, I had to provide all addresses for the past 10 years. I was a student for heaven's sake! I moved all the time. How was I supposed to remember all those addresses! It is ridiculous.

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