Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Definitive Guide to Submitting Your Resume in Sand Land

Are you new to Sand Land? Looking for a job? Well, before you unwittingly commit a job search faux pas, allow me to offer a word of caution: The etiquette for submitting your resume to a Sand Landian organization is quite different from the process you might have followed back home. But don't fret, Ms. Adventures is here to help! Today, I'll walk you through the whole process step-by-step. I've even included a real life example for future reference.

Ok, we've got alot to cover, so let's get going:

Step #1: Create a Resume that Gets Noticed:

In all likelihood, you'll need to toss out your existing resume and start anew - the end product will bear no semblance to the resume you used back home.

It is of vital importance that your CV begin with an "infodump" - a list of personal details such as:
  • marital status
  • spouse's name
  • parents' names
  • religion 
  • gender
  • passport number
Folks, I simply can't stress enough how important is it that I know you parents' names and your religious beliefs when I'm considering whether to hire you. But please note, it is not considered acceptable to include things like your telephone number and your email. If you must list some contact information, put someone else's...preferably that of a relative or acquaintance working elsewhere in the region. (More on the reasoning behind this later.)

 Next, you'll need to elaborate on your previous experience. Lengthy stream-of-conscious paragraphs are preferred. If you really want to stand out, make sure you use a few different fonts and font sizes. In Sand Land, this signifies to the an employer that you are a veritable expert in MS Word - sticking to one font is the hallmark of the novice who is ignorant of the fact that multiple fonts exist. Discerning use of the Comic Sans font is a sure fire way to get yourself noticed.

Above all, do not use concise bullet points to summarize your work experience. This is too sparse for the Sand Landian employer's aesthetic. Should you have any trouble at all coming up with verbose paragraphs detailing your experience, simply hop on the internet and use the old "control c/control v" trick. Nothing screams "I'm an honest, upstanding employee" like a sprinkle of plagiarism.

(Note: This "control c/control v" technique also proves extremely handy should you need to claim experience that you don't actually possess.)

If you find that there are hyperlinks embedded in the text you've lifted from Wikipedia, by all means, leave them in. The underlines will help draw the recruiter's attention to key words and phrases that are sure land you the coveted interview.

Ok, so next up are the all important hobbies - or as some Sand Landian job hunters say, "hobbs." Much like your religious beliefs and your parents' names, these are a critical piece of the puzzle for the Sand Landian employer. You may even want to consider placing them directly below the infodump and above your work experience. We prospective employers have unlimited time to pour over your resume and you definitely want us to waste use some of that time learning what you like do when you're not at work.

A final word of advice on creating a killer Sand Land-style resume: DO NOT proofread or spellcheck your creation. Little typos here and there lend an air of whimsy to your resume.

Step #2: Save Your Resume:

When saving your resume, be sure to label it something vague like "CV" or "resume" or "want job." Avoid including your name or any indication of the post to which you are applying. This sounds counter intuitive, but trust me - much like omitting your email and telephone number from the resume, there's a very good reason for this that I'll get to later.

Step #3: Print Your Resume:

When you find a job for which you want to apply, you might be tempted to simply email your resume to the point of contract listed in the classified ad. But, no, no, no, my friend. That's not the way we kick it here in Sand Land. You should print your resume and proceed directly to Step #4.

Step #4: Allow Your Printed Resume to Age Nicely, Like a Premium Cut of Beef or a Fine Wine:

As soon as you're done printing your resume, put it on your kitchen counter for a few days. If you spill tea or coffee on it, all the better! Your prospective employer is likely to be a caffeine junkie, too. The presence of a coffee or tea stain signals to them that not only are they getting a new employee, they're also gaining a coffee break buddy - who can resist a twofer? Not me.

Step #5: Fold Your Resume:

After aging your resume, fold it in two places, much like you would fold a letter that you intend to put in an envelope. But don't put your resume in an envelop or any other protective cover.

Step #6: The Hand Off:

Give your folded resume to your spouse (or parent, or friend or neighbor) and ask them to take it to work with them. Specify that you want them to put it in their back pocket or shirt pocket until lunchtime. This will give your resume a rumpled appearance that is much prized amongst Sand Landian employers.

Step #7: Lunchtime:

Instruct the person in possession of your resume to eat lunch over it. Fresh food stains will signify that you're a discerning foodie who is capable of making delectable contributions to the company potluck.

Step #8: Scanning and Upload:

After lunch, your resume's caretaker should proceed with scanning the document. It is best to do this one page at a time and to upload each page separately - do not combine the pages into a single file!! If this seems illogical to you, think back to your childhood. Did you want one present or *many* presents for your birthday/Christmas/whatever-holiday-you-celebrated? If you were like me (a greedy little shit) you wanted boatloads of presents. Garner some goodwill from your prospective employer by turning your resume into the gift that keeps on giving.

Tell the person that, when they save your resume, they should employ the same vague naming technique you used in Step #2. "CV1" "CV2" "CV3", etc.

And if you really want to spice things up, make sure some pages are scanned in a different direction. It shows that you were one of those rebel kids who colored outside the lines (and who generally grow up to be kickass happy hour companions).

Step #9: Hitting Send:

Now it's time for your spouse/friend/neighbor to send your resume. Remind them not to include your contact information. From the employer's perspective it is preferable for this person to include either their own contact information or none at all. Allow me to elaborate:

Remember how I told you to avoid putting contact details in your resume? And how I warned you not to name your resume anything specific that might tell me who you are and what job you want? The dirty little secret is that we prospective employers have nothing to do besides sift through the resume slush pile. Until your friend sends me your resume,  I'm sitting around staring at the walls, twiddling my thumbs and generally bored off my ass.

But all that monotony dissipates when I get your resume! Finally I have something awesome to do: Put my amateur sleuth skills to the test and figure out who you are, what you're qualified to do and how I can get in touch with you. Suddenly, I'm the protagonist in a Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys novel. Sweet!

Always keep in mind that prospective employers love the thrill of the chase. It is called a job hunt, afterall...as in I'm hunting for you! Recruiters are like the male suitor in a relationship. Most of the fun is in the pursuit. Hard to get = Better! So be coy, be sly, and above all be unreachable.

Now, I know your head must be spinning after all these tips. But take heart, you can always refer to the example below in case you need to double check that you've gotten it right. Happy job hunting!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Punishment File Chronicles: You consumed "alcoholic drugs"

This installment of the "Punishment File Chronicles" features the exploits of "Chuckles," a former employee at my company. (For those of you who are new to my blog, please see this post for the backstory on the Punishment File.)

Chuckles was an affable fellow. He always had a grin on his face and was well liked by his colleagues. But Chuckles' downfall was booze. The man just couldn't resist the demon water's siren song...even when it called his name an hour before work. Throughout his tenure with us, Chuckles' battle with the bottle landed him in the Punishment File a couple of times. Here's a transcription of his first brush with Mr. By Order:

Dear Mr. Chuckles,

It had been observed by the management than you had took the alcoholic drug and came to duty and fallen down unconsciously which created a bad impression to our organization and staffs. Furth to the above matter above the Management herby has decided to suspend you for a period of 10 days starting from 15/8/20XX afternoon to 30/8/20XX morning.

This is first and final warn to you and if this naughty misbehavior is repeated you will be deported without any benefits and to the expense of yours only.

By Order,

The Adminitater

Adminitater? Now I'm picturing Mr. Potato Head penning these letters. Oh, Mr. By Order, whatever you lack in writing abilities, you surely compensate for it with your whiz bang counting skills...

Ok, I know what you're wondering: What pray tell are "alcoholic drugs" and where can I score some? Why am I dicking around with a nightly vodka on the rocks when I could be enjoying alcoholic drugs? Well, from what my sources tell me, Chuckles' beverage of choice was "toddy" a homemade firewater distilled from the sap of coconut trees. I'll keep my eyes peeled next time I'm cruising through the duty-free and let y'all know if I spot some. :)

Alright, so back to Chuckles' infraction. Chuckles staggered into the office one morning, his eyes bloodshot and his clothes reeking of alcohol. He stood still in the middle of the lobby for a couple minutes and looked around in complete confusion. Then he fell backwards, crashed into a potted plant and lay on the floor  unconscious.

But Chuckles took his 10 (or 15) day suspension in stride and came back to work. He was doing ok for a few months, but then the demon reared its ugly head again, as evidenced by yet another citation in the Punishment File:

Dear Mr. Chuckles,

The management had noted that you did again some disbehavior because of consuming the alcoholic drug. The management herby demands that you submit full explanation in the hand written from why you had gone to [a furniture store] and made intimindations to the browsers then done the vomting and sleeped off at that premises.

You did mischief that caused some shame to us colleagues that had to collect you and this shame is also on the company. Again you shall be under suspension on 10 days and this is last warning. The management warns you to put full stop to this mischief.

By Order,

The Administrator

Yeah, I know, this letter's not quite as crystal clear as the last one. I had to do some digging to get to the bottom of this one. Here goes:

After several weeks of sobriety, Chuckles fell off the wagon and failed to turn up at work one morning. Shortly before noon, Mr. By Order got a phone call from a furniture store across the street. Chuckles, it seems, had reported to work there. (Now, if you've ever seen my office, you would realize that in order for Chuckles to confuse our office with a furniture store, he would most definitely have had to be on alcoholic drugs with powerful hallucinogenic properties. Being plastered on conventional alcohol alone would not explain that sort of mix up. The tattered pea-green furniture we used to have in our lobby looked like some kid's microbiology science project.)

Anyway, Chuckles walked into the furniture store and sat down at one of the kitchen tables. He opened his brief case and started bantering to customers, whom he mistook for his co-workers. The store proprietor tried to shuffle him out, but Chuckles got belligerent. This was his place of business, dammit! He had a job to do!

At some point in the altercation with the store's floor staff, Chuckles stood up and vomited all over a nearby couch. Fortunately for them (and for us since we got stuck with the cleaning bill) it was leather. He then fell over and passed out in a reprise of his previous infraction. At this point, the store manager fished out Chuckles' wallet and tracked down his employer. Mr. By Order and his posse were dispatched to collect Chuckles.

You might think that Mr. By Order would have driven Chuckles straight to the airport and sent him home. However, Mr. By Order's ominous letters were but empty threats. While Chuckles was under his second suspension, his brother contacted Mr. By Order. The brother had recently moved to Sand Land and suggested that Chuckles vacate his "bachelor accommodation" and move in with the brother and his family. The brother vowed to keep Chuckles on the straight and narrow by taking him to nightly Bible studies and prayer meetings at his Pentecostal church. Yeah, I know. Poor Chuckles, no one deserves punishment like that...

A few years went by and Chuckles managed to keep it together. He performed his job well and remained popular with his co-workers. But things fell apart when his brother moved away from Sand Land. No longer in the clutches of the Pentecostals, Chuckles once again gave in to the toddy's siren song. His eyes became blood shot, he answered every question with a giggle and disappeared from work for several days.

When he returned to the office after his multi-day bender, he had the misfortune of riding the elevator with me. I smelled the fumes and looked at his pink eyes. "Dude! Chuckles, are you drunk?" I demanded.

"He he he. Ha ha!" he responded.

I took him to my office, shut the door and sat down. "Look, Chuckles, you're completely intoxicated and I'm going to have to let you go," I said.

Chuckles snorted and smiled broadly.

"Chuckles, do you understand what I'm saying? I'm terminating you and I'm going to send you back home."

"Ha Ha Haaaaaaaaa" Chuckles said as he shook his head and slapped his knee.

"Well, at least I've made someone happy. Can't say that most days," I sighed as I dialed up the HR guy to get the termination process started.

Later that day a "Save Chuckles" petition materialized on my desk. I called the supplicants into my office and explained that we couldn't employ people with substance abuse problems under any circumstances.

In a show of solidarity, the employees then launched a "Chuckles Aid 2010" drive to collect money to send him to rehab. It was a touching gesture but seeing as they handed the cash over to him, I'm willing to bet it's now sitting in the cash box of the toddy stand nearest the airport.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Stop calling me "Madam," I'm not running a Texas whorehouse!

The offices of Sand Land are hierarchical places. But it's a very different type of hierarchy than I've encountered elsewhere. Sand Landian hierarchy isn't heavy on organization charts, clearly defined responsibilities or well-delineated chains of command. But what it lacks in organization, it makes up for in subservient groveling and courtly posturing.

I’m accustomed to a work environment where you address your superiors by their first name rather than calling them “sir” or “madam”, you don’t jump to your feet and stand at attention when your boss enters the room and you don’t fetch his/her coffee. Despite the lack of formality, it’s still understood that your boss calls the shots. When they ask you to do something, you do it to the best of your abilities, assuming their instructions aren’t illegal or completely insane.

But the Sand Landian work environment is the antithesis of what I’ve described above – at least in my company. From my first day in the office, everyone has addressed me as “Madam.” In those early days, each time someone called me this, I’d say “Please call me [my first name].” The person’s smile would instantly change to a look of horrific discomfort, as if I’d demanded that they punch me in the face as hard as they could. They’d look up at me with Bambi-eyes as they shook their head and whispered “No, Madam.”

The salutations in emails were even more bizarre. Everyone started emails by saying something like:

“Dear Respected Madam”
“Your Most Esteemed Madam”
“Most cherished Madam”
“Gracious and kind Madam” (a raise-seeker, natch)

And it didn’t stop with the salutation; the bodies of the emails were just as ridiculous:

“I most humbly request to meet with your Esteemed person”
“Your excellent self will be please to know…”

Ok, folks. Enough with the “madam” shtick. I’m not running a Texas whorehouse. The term “Madam” makes me feel skeevy and gross – like I should be smoking opium in a red velvet-upholstered boudoir and cutting deals with johns.

A typical day at the office

Weeks of telling people over and over again not to call me madam got me nowhere. So I sent around an email saying something to the effect of “we’re all co-workers and I’d really appreciate if you’d address me by my first name. There’s no need for formalities. I'll be really, really, really happy if you call me [my first name].”

Ten minutes after I sent the email, my phone rang. I answered and the caller said “Hello, Madam. You ask me to call you?”

“Uh, no. I don’t remember doing that,” I replied.

“Oh, Madam, I just got an email from you saying you’d be really happy if I called you.”

I hung up the phone and banged my head against the desk. Mission "A Madam No More" Not Accomplished.

After a few months of continuously telling people how much I hate the term “Madam” only two people in the whole office are addressing me by my first name. A few of the others have started calling me “Ma’am” - which makes me feel 87,000 years old. I’m no spring chicken, but I like to flatter myself by thinking I'm too young to be a “ma’am.”

The vast majority of my co-workers are still calling me “madam” and groveling about me like I’m the Golden Calf.  It makes me wonder what their former supervisors have done to them. A couple of the people in the office are so nervous and fidgety whenever I speak with them that I’m always scared they’re going to pee in their pants, even though I’ve never said an unkind word to them.

But the groveling shouldn’t be taken as a sign of sincere devotion to oneself or the company. From my experience, you could regress a variable entitled “Likelihood to steal petty cash/Propensity to download MP3’s all day/Inclination to misappropriate office supplies” against another variable entitled “Prolific usage of Madam and superfluous supporting adjectives” and you’d come up with a statistically significant relationship.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I've been looking and looking for a white lady!

Since moving to Sand Land, I've learned the hard way that sarcasm and facetious remarks will get you no where. Actually, that's not correct. Sarcasm, sass and snark will get you somewhere - they'll land you in all kinds of misunderstandings and will lead most of Sand Land's residents to believe that you are a danger to yourself and/or the public at large. I'm a snarky smart-ass by nature, so depriving myself of these forms of artistic expression is pretty much equivalent to Monet chucking out his water colors.

But the sarcasm's got to go. At first, the misunderstandings seemed harmless enough. For example, my grandmotherly administrative assistant asked to speak to me in private one day.

"I'm concerned that you're not adjusting well to this place," she whispered.

"Oh, really? Why is that?" I asked, bracing myself for some constructive criticism.

"Well, I just want you to know that nothing, nothing should ever make you want to stab your eyes out with a pen," she explained, referring to a remark I'd made when she showed me the proposed rent increase for one of our employee's accommodation.

I looked at her in stunned silence, trying not to laugh.

"Even if for some reason, you would get some small, small satisfaction from stabbing your eyes - don't you think you'd regret it later?"

I attempted to explain that it was a figure of speech, not something to be taken literally. But I'm pretty sure she left the room convinced I wasn't playing with a full deck...and perhaps she's right.

While these little "lost in translation" moments might be par for the course in Sand Land, I did not expect to pick up a stalker as a result of my sarcastic quips. Nor did I anticipate explaining to my boss that I'm not a pimp.

You see, our office has a small clinic staffed with a GP doctor. A few of the companies near us send their employees for minor ailments and to get sick leave. Sand Land's sick leave policies are fairly strict. Unlike the U.S., you're not allotted a certain number of sick days per year to use as you see fit. If you fall sick here, you've got to go to the doctor and get a permission slip which states that you're to be excused from work for a certain number of days.

At the beginning of the month, this guy from a neighboring company burst into my office in a rage. He'd sprained his wrist and our doctor had given him sick leave for three days. But this was no good, he wanted 10 days of sick leave. The following week, he was supposed to report for duty to a camp in the interior. I failed to understand why this was a problem, so he enlightened me:

"Look," he said, scowling at me as if I was dense. "Eid holidays will fall the week after next and if I get 10 days sick leave, then I can have three weeks of vacation here and not go to the interior."

"Our doctor can't give you 10 days of sick leave if you don't truly need them. Your company may get angry if we're giving people unnecessary sick leave."

"Well, what am I to do then?" he demanded as he picked up one of my business cards.

"Um, go back to work like you're supposed to - or see the doctor again if your wrist is still bothering you after three days?"

He rolled his eyes and stood up without saying another word. When he was halfway to the door, he spun around, a saccharine sweet smile plastered across his face. "Would you like to uhhh....you know, go have coffee with me tonight?"

"I'm sorry, but no." I said as he sat back down.

"Why not?" his face clouding.

"Because I'm married."

"Oh," he chuckled. "That's no problem - wait, do you have kids?"


"Ok, then. So no problem."

"I think it would be a problem for my husband," I said, starting to sound annoyed.

He clicked his tongue and ran a hand through his hair. Then he looked me in the eye and leveled with me: "I have been looking and looking for some British lady or Russian lady to...you know, have coffee with."

"Well, I'm not going to solve your problem because I'm neither British nor Russian."

"You know what I mean. I'm looking for a white lady. Can you help me?"

"You want me to help you find some white lady to go out with?" I asked, starting to laugh.


"And any white lady do?" I asked snidely.


"Oh. Well then, I'm totally on the case. One white lady coming up," I said, my voice dripping with a mix of sarcasm and contempt. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to get back to work."

He gave me a big smile and shuffled out of my office.

"Jackass," I muttered under my breath after he left.

I didn't give the exchange anymore thought...till I started receiving a steady stream of  text messages from my buddy asking for a status update on the white lady he'd ordered from me. I did the passive aggressive thing and ignored them. But then he started calling 6 - 7 times a day. Thankfully, I'd labeled him as "Creepy Bastard" in my mobile and ignored those, too.

After a couple days, there was silence. But then one day, as I was heading out to a meeting with the company's founder, Creepy Bastard accosted me in the parking lot. What progress had I made in finding him a white lady? When could he expect to get coffee with her? Had I found many ladies for him or only one?

I stared at my bewildered, socially conservative boss and wished I could sink through the pavement and die. So there you have it, an episode of epic fuckwittery from yours truly. I'd seen the writing on the wall. I knew that snide, sarcastic remarks are usually taken at literal, face value over here. But did I do the smart thing and mend my ways? Nope!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Punishment File Chronicles: No "hot drinks" for you!

As I've previously mentioned, we're in the middle of a hiring blitz for our new branch. The other day, I asked the HR manager to clear out some of the old file cabinets so we could organize all the applications we've received over the last few days. Before tossing the old files, he brought them to my office so I could make sure we weren't throwing out anything important.

Buried in the pile of old papers was a tattered manila folder ominously labeled "PUNISHMENT." I rubbed my palms together and cackled devilishly. Then I grabbed a fresh cup of coffee and locked my door so I could savor the contents undisturbed.

The Punishment File has proved to be a veritable treasure trove of stories about bad employees gone worse, recreational drug use gone awry and workplace assault. Discovering the Punishment File has badly hampered my productivity over the last few days. You see, the Punishment File is a tease. Her contents coyly hint at stories of epic misbehavior, but the letters of reprimand (penned by a former administrator) are so badly written that you can't quite make out what the hell happened from reading them alone - but there's usually enough detail to jog the old timers' memories.

Today's installment of the Punishment Chronicles features the story of "Skylar." Here's a verbatim transcription of the administrator's investigation of Skylar's infraction:

Dear Skylar,

The management herby needs a full detailed explanation for the misbehavior which you had done at the annual staff meet on 9/1/20XX at the owner's Residence. You had done this misbehavior because the best accounts staff award was not awarded to your brother. You had made bulling, ranged telephone and shouted at the conductors with the local bad words and hitting some employees of our organization.

We need your explanation within 30 minutes in the hand written.

By Order,

The Administrator

Ok, got that? Yeah, me neither. So, here's the straight dope on Skylar in plainer English:

Skylar worked as an administrative assistant, while his brother was a junior accountant. During the annual holiday party at the company owner's house, awards were conferred on high performing employees from various departments. This awards ceremony took place late in the evening, by which time Skylar was shit faced off of screwdrivers [which at our company parties are made of Tang and vodka]. Skylar was confident that his brother would win the best accountant award, but his hopes were dashed when it was given to a more senior member of the department.

Skylar and his (equally drunk) lady friend decided there was a conspiracy against his brother because the brother was away on annual leave. As the best accountant winner accepted his award, Skylar rushed the podium and slapped the award out of his hands. He then grabbed the microphone Kanye-style and launched into a profanity laced diatribe about how his brother had been hosed. As he was shit-faced, this diatribe was given in his mother tongue - which left the majority of party goers baffled as to what was going on.

Upon finishing his speech, Skylar threw his Tang screwdriver in the winner's face and got on his mobile to tell his brother about the perceived slight. The facility manager stepped in and attempted to escort him out of the party. Skylar removed a ball point pen from his pocket and stabbed the man's thigh before escaping to the owner's back garden where he proceeded to rip up petunias and marigolds from the flower bed in retaliation for his brother's slighting.

Eventually, Skylar was overpowered by several men from the office - but not before he'd given out a few black eyes and busted lips.

So, let's get to the punishment. Now what do you think would be an appropriate punishment for such actions? Maybe you'd fire Skylar? Bar him from coming to the office with immediate effect so as to not expose your employees to an unstable lunatic? See to it that he's deported so that you, the sponsor, aren't liable for any bar brawls or assaults he might commit?

Well, if you agreed with any of that, you'd be wrong. Straight from the punishment file, here is the official verdict of the ever articulate administrator:

Dear Skylar,

As a disciplinary action taken by the management you are under suspension from 10/1/20XX (Saturday) to 24/1/20XX (Saturday) a total number of 15 days. During these period you should be in work and salary will not be paid to you for these 15 days.

Also this memo states that you should not drink any hot drinks* in any of our party or in company premises.

If found in any of the occassions stated above or any misbehavior or breech the rules of the company you will be handed over to the police and deported within 24 hours time without excuse.

By Order,

The Administrator

*Hot drinks = A south Asian term for "alcoholic beverages"....not coffee and tea.

Tales from my inbox: You better consider my application favourably

20 / 11 / 2010.
The CEO / The Director,

Eid Mubarak.......

Dear sir,
I reminding to you which I submitted an application for your established Institution. Do you not remember I applied for any suitable post like Administrative assistant or Business development manager, or accounts man?  

I am a man with qualities. I think you better consider my application favourably. Awaiting your positive reply.

Thanks and regards,

Tony Soprano
e mail : XXXXXXXXX

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Grinch who stole Eid

The workers of Sand Land are furious! FUR-I-OUS! Ever since Eid #1 back in September, there's been intense speculation that the government would declare 10 to 14 days of holidays for Eid #2, which falls this week. Even though the Sand Landian workforce normally gets 5 or 6 days for Eid #2, this Eid was supposed to be different...it's gonna be Eid-zilla, the mother lode of all holidays! YESSS!!!!

Eid-zilla was the primary topic of water cooler conversations and smoke breaks for the past two months: Dude, maybe we'll have more days off in November than working days! Book your two week sexcapade to Thailand now while the prices are low - Eid-zilla's a totally sure bet, my cousin's friend's brother works in the Ministry and he says it's in the bag.

But, alas, it was not to be. A few days ago, when the new moon was sighted, the government proclaimed a measly holiday of 3 to 4 days, depending on which sector you work in.

As they straggled into work on Saturday and Sunday before the start of our 4 day holiday, the employees at my company looked more crestfallen than the Whos in Whoville after the Grinch stole Christmas. They were jipped - JIPPED!

Throughout the day, one mournful soul after another walked into my office asking me to grant them a longer holiday (with pay, of course) since they'd fallen victim to those vicious rumors about Eid-zilla and booked a 10 day vacation to Bali/Singapore/Kenya/Thailand. My suggestion that they cover the remainder of their vacation with some of their annual leave (which ranges from 30 - 45 working days per year) was just salt in the wounds.

By 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, a continuous stream of sick leave requests was landing on my desk. Everyone, it seemed, suddenly had the flu/a headache/diarrhea and would have to be out for the remainder of our two-day work week. The few workers who soldiered on bucked one another up by discussing the possibility that more holidays would be declared later in November....Eid-zilla would come to fruition, there would just be a Part 1 and a Part 2. Yeah, that's right. That makes total sense.

Hope, if not reason, remains alive...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

My husband's business is failing, give me a raise.

Have you ever decided to ask your boss for a pay raise? What exactly made you feel that an increase was in order? Perhaps you acquired new skills that provided value to your employer? Maybe you became more proficient at your job and took on added responsibilities? Perhaps you were a long-serving employee whose compensation had fallen behind market rates for similarly qualified people?

You probably thought long and hard about whether you truly deserved a raise. You probably worked extra hard to prove your worth. After deciding that you would in fact ask for a raise, you probably spent some of your free time coming up with a rational justification and/or an enticing value proposition for your employer.

To which the workers of Sand Land say: Suckaaaaaah!

Why in the hell would you put forth any more than the minimum effort at work when you could be smoking in the lobby or texting your friends using the company's mobile phone? Why in god's name would you waste your precious free time coming up with  logical talking points about why you should get a raise when you could be watching old episodes of My Super Sweet Sixteen on MTV Arabia?

Live and learn, fools. Next time your paycheck ain't cuttin' it, email (or hand write) one of these handy dandy, oh-so-compelling entreaties:

1. I kindly request a raise because my husband's business is failing. And it is difficult for me to come to work on Thursday, so you please also give me Thursdays off.


3. I humbly ask you, Dear Respected Madam, to give me a raise because my wedding expenses are becoming too much. My fiance's family had asked my parents to book a new marriage hall so they can invite more relatives. I require your help to meet the expenses.

4. I moved to an apartment far away and now my transport expenses have increased, so I will be needing additional pay to cover this burden.

5. I am getting married, so you need to increase my basic salary and give me more housing allowance.

6. My wife is expecting our sixth child so I will be needing a salary increment.

7. I need to do my shopping for Eid holiday. I hereby request that you pay me double my salary for November. Government employees are getting two salaries for November, so please give this to me as well because I am a good worker. I also need you to give me all of my November pay by 9 November so I have time to do my shopping.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Please don't make us wear seatbelts, we hate them

Before I moved to Sand Land, I traveled and studied in many developing countries. I've gotten around Southeast Asia on motorbikes with no helmet. I've taken bus trips in the Himalayas where we were in perpetual danger of plunging down the side of a mountain. Many a time in India, I've dodged cows and elephants and cars driving on the wrong side of the road. But nothing scares me quite like taking to the roads of Sand Land.

In the U.S., we'll hook ourselves up to ventilators and live out our last days in nursing homes - all to stay alive even when our quality of life is abysmal. But the residents of Sand Land are different. Much like the Viking warrior who sought death on the battlefield knowing he'd be welcomed to Valhalla or the kamikaze pilot plunging into the side of an aircraft carrier in hopes of eternal glory, the Sand Landian aspires to go out in a blaze of glory...and by blaze of glory I mean at the helm of their SUV while simultaneously talking on their mobile, balancing an infant on their lap and eating KFC.

This phenomenon is by no means confined to native Sand Landians. Once the expat has passed the road test, they will adapt to their new environment by tail-gating, driving without their headlights, overtaking cars on a hairpin turn and generally using the horn in place of the brakes. It's quite the opposite of what you'd expect because Sand Land's road test is a real bitch. From my informal and non-scientific polls, it seems to take people an average of 8 attempts at the road test before they get a pass.

[Luckily, American drivers are exempted from taking the road test. All I had to do to get my license was  read an eye chart while the attending police officer texted on his mobile. Had I been required to take the road test, I have no doubt I'd be on my 13th or 14th attempt considering that when I took my driver's test in the U.S. I couldn't parallel park and I almost ran over a trick-or-treater]

Recently, I was driving to a meeting with a few co-workers and I noticed that none of them put a seat belt on. I said, "Guys, what the hell is wrong with you? Buckle up!" They laughed at my eccentricity and reluctantly snapped their seat beats into place. As we drove to the meeting, we were tail-gated the whole way despite driving 10 km over the speed limit and we passed car after car filled with children jumping around in the back seat, people driving while listening to their iPods and people merging into lanes without looking or indicating...in other words, a typical day on Sand Land's roads.

When I got back to the office, I issued a memo advising everyone to wear a seatbeat at all times while traveling in company transport. Later that day at a staff meeting, I reminded the attendees that I was serious about people buckling up. People looked around in horrified bafflement as if I'd told them all to get naked and slather themselves with peanut butter.

As I got up to leave, one of the ladies raised her hand. "Excuse me, Ms. Adventures," she said pleadingly, her eyes a tad misty. "Please don't make us wear seatbelts. We hate them."

Despite their apparent disgust for seatbelts, neither she nor anyone else present could articulate what exactly was the problem. I guess it just runs counter to the suicidally brave, badass ethos that embodies the drivers of Sand Land.

And below, for your viewing pleasure, are a couple of videos that aptly capture the "here today, gone tomorrow" spirit of the Sand Landian driver:

We hate seatbelts: Exhibit #1

We hate seatbelts: Exhibit #2

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Tales from the Resume Slush Pile: I will exploit myself for you

The company I work for is opening a new branch soon and, in preparation, we've put out the cattle call for several dozen vacancies. Today is Day 4 of our 7 day classified ad extravaganza and the resumes, CVs and "biodatas" continue to roll in by the truckload.

One interesting trend I've noticed is that the vast majority of applicants here don't include a cover letter (or any text at all) when emailing their resume. Virtually everyone simply forwards you an email they sent to all the other companies that they've applied to in the course of their career. That people in Sand Land spend much of their work day trolling for new jobs is evidenced by the fact that these emails are longer than the chain letters you'd receive back in 1997 claiming Bill Gates would give everyone on the email string $10,000.

I can hardly blame them. I remember how much I hated customizing and proofreading cover letters when I was hunting for jobs. But as much as tailoring cover letters sucks, I can safely say that, after shifting through the slush pile these last few days, enclosing a decent cover letter is perhaps the most important thing you can do to up your chances of being noticed - especially when you're responding to an ad.

In honor of the 10% of applicants who did bother to produce a cover letter, I give you the following highlights...or lowlights, really. They still deserve a shout out, because at least they had the pride to try. So, I give you excerpts from the cover letters of the few, the proud, the misguided and/or pervy:

  • If you give me a position in your organization, I will exploit myself for you.

  • Hi, I would like to teleport my job again to your filed and i believe this must be a good chance for me as i have noticed your add in the newspaper.

  • I am a much qualified technition and I will work 4 ur esteemed company if u give me gud job.

  • To rap up my viewpoint, my vision is to empower your imagination so that the impossible becomes nothing - that is to say, the magic of big thinking.

  • I am an expert in "DELIGHT MANAGEMENT" - this Result's in your customers service experience being enhanced PLUS your employee's focus on servicing your customers will be renewed with passion and zeal.

  • I believe I am well suited to the position. Kindly do the needful and let me know when I can be cumming for an interivew.

  • I think you are require any H.R. man or Assistant or  Business Development Manager. Suppose these veccancies are still veccant, then pleace consider my application for the same post.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I didn't steal the money, I took it

When Sand Land's expat workers leave the salt mines and get together for drinks, it generally takes less than 14 seconds for the conversation to turn to the weird and wacky happenings in our places of business. Besides finding most of these stories genuinely hilarious, I also find them comforting because they confirm that Sand Land is a deeply weird place to work and you're not alone, insane or completely incompetent...

The following comes courtesy of the Managing Director at a local hospital:

I got a call from the night-shift administrator at 6:00 a.m. this morning. He was in a complete panic because the cash collection was $675.00 less than the automated report generated by our billing software. "Bobby", our night cashier had left at some point during his shift without clocking out and without turning over his collection for verification.

So we called Bobby. Silly me, I thought I'd hear some vehement denial, but he was quite up front.

"I didn't steal the money, sir," Bobby explained patiently over the phone. "I took it."

"Well, Bobby. I don't see how it isn't theft - you walked out of the hospital with $675.00 that didn't belong to you," the Managing Director countered.

"Look, sir. I am a mullah and I am trying to collect enough money to build a house for my family. I cannot take a loan from the bank because it is haram*."

"I understand you want to build a house, Bobby. But you can't steal money from your employer to do it."

"Stop saying I stole it. I just took it. Since you have asked for it, I'll bring the money back to you tomorrow."

"Please do, Bobby," said the Managing Director. "And please understand that you can't "take" money from us anymore. If you do, we'll have to call the police and file a complaint."

"Here is what I suggest, sir. I will only take money if I need it for something important - like my house. But if you ask me to return the money, I will bring it back the following day, inshallah**."

* haram = verboten! according to the rules of Islam.

** inshallah = "if God wills it" In the work place, inshallah is commonly used as wiggle room when someone doesn't have any intention in hell of doing something. For example: "I know the deadline for these reports is tomorrow, and I'll have them done on-time, inshallah."

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I Study About Hoomin Resource, Not HR!

Like most countries in the region, Sand Land requires private sector companies to hire a certain number of nationals. Cultivating a skilled, productive citizenry is a laudable goal. Let's face it, the oil isn't going to last forever and people here have grown accustomed to a cushy lifestyle.

The "Sand Landization" policy dictates that: (1) your company's payroll consist of a certain percentage of Sand Landians, and (2) you can hire only Sand Landians for certain positions (like receptionists, drivers and cashiers). Over the past few years, many of the academically suspect for-profit "universities" have started offering "diplomas" in fields like HR, marketing and accounting.

As you might expect, these operations are out to make a buck and don't want to develop a reputation for failing poor students - if the kids think you're hard, they might plunk down their tuition money at one of your competitors. But these institutions also need to demonstrate to would-be customers students that professional glory and riches await at the end of a course of study that, in reality, makes Sally Struthers' home study course on TV/VCR repair look like a neurologically taxing endeavor.  Enter the immigration department - which is now making it harder to hire foreign workers with backgrounds in HR, marketing and accounting.

When my long-serving HR manager moved back to India a few months ago, the immigration authorities predictably refused to re-issue her visa so I could hire another expat. Not to worry, I was told, there are many, many well qualified Sand Landians in need of gainful employment.

So I called the leading local institution of higher learning and asked them about recruiting alumni and before long, I found myself interviewing "Jim", who had graduated near the top of his class. The following is a faithful transcription of our interview:

Me: So Jim, congratulations on completing your HR degree.

Jim (furrowing brows, jerking head back indignantly): I study about hoomin resource, not this HR!

Me (looking from side to side): Um, aren't HR and human resources the same thing...you know, "H" for human, "R" for -

Jim (shaking head vehemently): No! Hoomin resource and HR are different. I study hoomin resource, not this HR. (flicks hand dismissively)

Me: Okaaay, I see. So tell me, what is human resources to you?

Jim: It's working in an office, typing in the computer, talking on the phone.

Me: I suppose you're right. Most HR people I've known have done those sorts of things in the course of a normal day. So Jim, what made you want to work in human resources."

Jim (suavely raising one eye brow and shrugging shoulders): To make the kesh.

Me (hoping my phone will ring): Yup, human resources is without a doubt one of the higher paying corporate disciplines.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Tales from the Resume Slush Pile: Insanely Ambitious Objective Statement = Craptastic Candidate

In preparation for the opening of a new branch, we recently put out the cattle call for a host of new employees. Today was Day #1 of a 7-day classified ad extravaganza in the local newspapers. By 8:00 a.m. my inbox was awash with a veritable tsunami of badly formatted, grammatically unintelligible single page upload .jpg attachments. (To give you an idea of just how shallow the talent pool can be, I get hopeful when I see that someone's attached a resume in MS Word or PDF format.) 

As I culled through the deluge of resumes, I started feeling rather inadequate as I read one ballsy, shooting-for-the-moon objective statement after the other. I consider myself an ambitious, Type A kinda gal. But never was I so daring as to claim that my career objective was to "alleviate suffering humanity" or "make myself useful to mankind." 

Now, if I'd just arrived in Sand Land, I might be starry eyed enough to think that behind every hard charging objective statement there was an equally impressive candidate....but I'm older now and a bit jaded. I now know that it's pretty much guaranteed these candidates are the inverse of their objective statement. So without further ado, here are today's awesomely bad objective statements....drumroll please...(grammar/punctuation/random capitalization's are the candidates' own):

1. "I want to work in an Extreme company"

Dude, are you sure you wanna settle for basic, garden variety "Extreme" when you could go for a MAXXXTREME company?

2. "To get an appropriate, responsible position in a professional & growing organization which offer’s mettlesome and challenging assignments supplementing a prolific work environment for achieving greater heights of glory for personal and professional."

wooooo.... you want mettlesome assignments and greater heights of glory...all I want is my first cup of coffee

3. "To dedicate my sincere service to suffering humanity and to update my knowledge level for better."

4. "capable of adapting to any given environment of the latest technologies in the professional area"

5. "Targeting towards remarkable achievements in the field of XXXXXXX, using my Strengths, Interpersonal Skills, & Team Effort."

6. "To achieve a senior position in the field of XXXXXXX and to do research and ensure my usefulness of to mankind."

After reading these, you might be under the impression that I'm working at "Superheroes, Inc." or "Kick Ass n' Take Names Secret Agents, LLC"...alas, you'd be wrong.