The Shoe Store

I couldn’t get a job after the summer of 2010. Eager to put my new Master’s degree to use, I applied to all the places that were fitting of a Journalism graduate student. And I got nothin’.

Sure, I went on alot of interviews that made me feel both good and bad–good because people did want me, but bad because they wouldn’t actually hire me. Problematic? Teeny bit.

After nearly four months of searching, I started applying to random stores just so I could afford rent. And you know what I found out? Wal-Mart, Target and the local small businesses? Didn’t want to hire someone like me because I was over-qualified. Hell, over-qualified, under-qualified, too expensive…. maybe I wasn’t meant to work. At this point, I’d heard all the excuses.

After a particularly gruesome fight between me and my then-fiance about my worth and the need for money, I told him to drop me off downtown and I’d start grabbing applications from all the retail stores with signs in the window. I was desperate. He looked at me apologetically, asked if I was sure, and I remember growling at him that this wasn’t what I wanted–but something that I had to do.

So it began. I was dropped off on the corner of Church and Orrington, and just started going door to door. Each application went straight into my purse to be filled out at a later time.

I finally stumbled upon a shoe store smack in the middle of town that had a permanent “Help Wanted” sign glued in the front window. I stopped in–the store was dead–and asked for the manager. A short, thin, lanky man with a black polyester vest and glasses came out. His name was Mike.

He essentially sized me up, asked my availability and, upon hearing that I could work 40 hours a week Monday through Friday, demanded that I work for at least the next 6 months because “training would be a hassle just to have me leave after.”

I couldn’t guarantee the 6 months, but, obviously desperate for some cash, I agreed to work as much as I could. I had a job.

And it wasn’t that bad. I got a standard hourly rate of $13/hr, and then on top of that was given comission. I’d get 10% of my sales for the week. My paychecks? Rocked. I often got $18-$20/hr. and knew the ins-and-outs of the store like the back of my hand. The managers rubbed me the wrong way (one was stuck in his ways, the other was a creeper–I always felt like he was eyeing me up or saying inappropriate things).

But money was money.

In October of that year (it was July when I manned up and got this job), I finally got a bite on a professional job using my degree. I gave the store 2 weeks notice, and told them I’d be available to work on a as-needed basis. They could contact me as a last resort, for weekends only, and I’d try to make it work for them.

They weren’t happy, but they agreed.

More than two years later, I’m still filling in on weekends. Last year I think I made around $1,300 at the shoe store. This year is probably much less… but it gives me a little extra money each time I work… and the girls who work at the store are wonderful (for the most part. There’s a few that I love something fierce). Mostly they’re Northwestern Students who just need extra cash. Every once in a while, a person who had the same background and predicament as me is hired. I feel for the person…

The hardest part, now, of working there, is answering the questions from shoppers.

“Are you a Northwestern student?”
“Oh…so you already have a degree? And you’re working here?”
“Can I speak to a manager about what this pairs well with? You wouldn’t have the right experience.”
“You poor thing. Is the other job just not paying enough?”

I just can’t take it personally…and have to just grin and bear it. People won’t ever understand, but I think back to how desperate I was to find a job…and think of the shoe store as sort of saving me from a really rough time. In many ways, I suppose I owe them…

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~ by shespeakstruth on October 28, 2012.