How We Looked For Work Years Ago


It really hasn’t been all that long that we’ve had home computers. In the big picture, it’s been a rapid evolution for both applicants and employers, considering we’re at the stage where we now apply online. Computers too have gone from costing several thousands of dollars to a couple of hundred, and they are everywhere now instead of only being available in a few public locations.

Have we come so far however, and are they so prevalent that we have forgotten or don’t even recall whatsoever what it meant to look for a job without an electronic device? A time before you could create an alert, send an email, tweet your interest, follow a company, network with people around the world? That period of time is not so long ago as one might imagine, although I’ll grant that if you are in your twenties or younger, you’ve never known what it means to live a life without having access to the world-wide web etc.

It used to be that you’d first sit down at your desk and write a resume in pen or pencil. All your revisions were with a pink eraser, and then you sat down at a typewriter. It was fairly slow going, and you prayed you never hit a key in error, or you’d have to get out the liquid paper, and type over your error. If this didn’t work out, you’d start from scratch with a new sheet. And every so often, you’d have to replace the black and red ribbon in the typewriter if things were too faint. Remember that?

And copies? Well if you wanted a few copies of the resume, off you went to the library, where you’d pay a few cents for each copy, and the photocopiers were close to being the size of a small space shuttle. It was easy to use though, because it only photocopied. It didn’t scan, email, sort, print in colour, staple or collate; it just printed, and you had to get permission in some cases from an exasperated Librarian to use it as she watched you carefully so you didn’t jam things up apparently just to annoy her.

In some occupations, you got away with looking for work with no resume whatsoever. A construction worker would grab his personal gear and head on over to a work site and ask for the Foreman. He’d ask if the guy was hiring, and in no time at all might be working on the site proving his worth. It was handshakes and writing your name down for the Foreman on the flap of a cigarette box.

Many people looking for work years ago made use of employment agencies, where you’d go down, give them your Social Insurance Card, wait to speak with some official and they’d meet with you one-on-one to fill in a form, and then you’d stand and scan job boards. When you saw a post for a job you’d be interested in, you had to again stand in line and give the number attached to it to some employee there who would give you further details. It was a long process that most people can do themselves today in minutes.

And where today you can write, edit and email a cover letter and resume in an extremely short time, in the past you had to have envelopes, stamps, paper etc. and nothing got sent anywhere until you left the house, went to a mailbox on the corner, opened it up and popped in your application. It would be three to five days before it arrived at the employers.

At your end, there were no answering machines, no call display, no call waiting. You literally sat by the phone as much as you could, praying you wouldn’t miss the call either because you were out, in the washroom, or someone else in the house was on the phone. “Are you on the phone down there? Well get off! I’m expecting an important call!” Who does that anymore? Everybody in the house might have their own phone these days, or call waiting….

And after an interview, you could pretty much count on the company sending you a letter to inform you that the job was offered to someone else if that was the case. Sometimes they even phoned you to give you the news. That much is something I do lament because we’ve lost this courtesy. If you’re interested enough to offer your services to a company, I think it only polite that they let you know one way or the other. But I understand for some companies that would be paying someone only to notify applicants due to the high volume of applicants they get.

While older people today who remember all too well these times, and who are not at ease with computers and technology in general lament the old days, we’ve made great progress in some areas we can all appreciate I hope. There are more employers hiring people with diverse backgrounds and cultures, accommodations being made to hire those who require them, and buildings and work areas are more accessible.

Longing for a return to the old days is another matter though. These times they are a changin’ as the song goes. Best to accept that instead of fighting it. As hard as it may be to accurately do so, imagine how looking for a job in 10 – 15 years will be different yet again!

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One thought on “How We Looked For Work Years Ago

  1. With the way things are going I wonder if there will be any jobs 10 to 15 years from now. Those jobs that aren’t shipped overseas to save money are being automated at an alarming rate. There will be some new jobs to replace them but it seems the number of jobs lost will be far greater.

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