My husband’s young cousin is in town looking for a job. And although she is the one who faces the hiring squad, behind the scenes her family pulls a whole lot of strings to ensure that she is left relatively unscarred by the whole process.
So while my sister-in-law does the pick and drop duties, my brother-in-law fishes out his little black book to check if he has a contact or two within the organisation that he can tap.
Meanwhile, another sister-in-law insists on buying a brand new set of clothes specifically for interviews along with just the right shoes, in quite the Cinderella moment for any young girl. My husband, meanwhile, prints out resumes by the dozen.
Upon me — totally self-appointed — falls the duty of toughening up the timid jobseeker.
And I suspect it’s a role I fulfil with huge amounts of relish and glee. So as she sits in my kitchen fretting over why no calls are coming; or when they do come but she is unable to decipher who, what or where the call has come from — “I just couldn’t pick up their accent,” she wails; or once on location she is put through four rounds of interviews and professes herself quite literally fed up; the school matron in me rears up her stern head. And I hold forth, giving her more than a piece of my mind.
“Madam, [I don’t say that, but in retrospect I add it in] you are here to look for a job. You are not here for a vacation. You are not here to help me in my kitchen; or to babysit my son; or to go shopping, or to cut your hair [this was part of her Friday activities that included shopping and watching Gully Boy at Vox Cinemas]. So you cannot complain that you were made to sit for four rounds of interviews. That’s precisely why you are here. And even if they put you through 10 rounds, and it takes all day you must be ready for it.”
I stop for a breath or two and again launch forth. The words flow, much to my pleasure since I am not a very smooth speaker and prone to fumble, hesitate and repeat sentences.
However, after a point, I realise my words might also be flowing like water off a duck’s back as far as my young relative is concerned. Which is when I stop and we both go about our daily tasks.
But happily all is not lost. When the next call comes through and she comes trilling to me that she asked for all the relevant information, and in writing too, she adds, I am mollified.
However, there’s more work to be done. Such as using public transport. Armed with Google Maps and a Nol card, she bravely ventures forth.
Two hours later she returns with tales of how she caught the wrong bus, had to walk for kilometres and kilometres ... (there’s a figurative eyeroll from me) and battled the sandy winds that almost gusted her off. I say nothing and she sleeps off her ‘ordeal’. But the next day, I am back on her case, trying to shoo her out of the house into the broad sunlit streets of Satwa.
Then one day an offer comes through. It’s not so much an occasion to rejoice as to agonise over whether accepting this offer with its very modest pay packet is closing her off to better prospects just around the corner.
She plays for time. But the people on the other end are no fools. Their jaded eyes have probably seen every possible excuse from candidates and they know how to nip things in the bud. They give her just a day to make up her mind.
Well... she didn’t accept that offer. And so here we are back to square one! Do wish us the best.
Maria Elizabeth Kallukaren is a freelance journalist based in Dubai.