Dream Job Finally Emerges

Today’s post comes from perennial sophomore Bubby Spamden of Wendell Willkie High School

Hey Mr. C.,

Just when I was starting to feel discouraged about finding work that matches the skills I’ve built up through years of ignoring my teachers and spending homework time playing video games, NASA has come up with a great idea that would suit me perfectly.

Here’s the job description:

You ride around in the International Space Station and use a laser cannon to shoot down space debris.  

Lots of little bits of rockets and satellite pieces and stuff are zipping around in low orbit at incredibly fast speeds,  posing a terrible danger to astronauts and other space missions.   Somebody with a sharp eye and quick reflexes has to go up there and save space for the explorers by knocking those harmful nuggets back into the atmosphere where they can burn up.

That could be a real job?  Are you kidding me?  Where do I sign up?  And please, please, please don’t say you have to be good at math to qualify for this.

That would be a horrible bummer if only the “smart” kids could qualify.   What do they know about shooting down space chunks?  They were busy studying their algebra while I was gaining useful eye-hand coordination experience playing asteroids.

Yes, I’ve been an aimless teenager that long!

Would you be a reference for me on my job application?  If anyone could testify that I’ve put in all the needed idle hours to be a good space debris field potshot specialist, it would be you!

And to tell the truth, everybody else I know is going to apply for this job, so the only one left to be a reference is you! Honest, I won’t forget it if you put in a good word for me.  Please?!

Your pal,

I told Bubby I would be happy to serve as a reference as long as he understands I would be honor bound to tell any prospective employer that he is certainly NOT a good student. But if the job requires this, I can testify that he is most definitely energetic and enthusiastic about using a space cannon.

Have you ever refused someone’s request to serve as a reference?

37 thoughts on “Dream Job Finally Emerges”

  1. I picked up a useful cop-out from one of my references. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to give me a good reference, she just didn’t have the time or desire to do this.

    She told me to write it and then she would endorse it.

    That’s right, make the midwestern Lutheran toot her own horn. So painful I almost gave up on getting that reference.

    I suppose I really ought to spend some quality time with my LinkedIn account, but I’m too busy working at the moment.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mig, the TV series, Mad Men, includes a similar incident. The series’ protagonist (Don Draper) gets drunk and has sex with his secretary. When she later concludes she has to get a new job, he cheerfully agrees to write a good recommendation for her. But, realizing he doesn’t really know the first thing about her, he invites the secretary to write her own review which he will sign. It is a telling moment. He thinks he is being accommodating and supportive when he is actually acting clueless and boorish. Again. Many Mad Men story lines were based on actual incidents from Madison Avenue in the 1960s. I’ve always suspected that little plot bit got in the show because it really happened.


  2. I was a reference, once–I was working part-time at the county library and at one of the big bookstores simultaneously, and a library coworker was applying at the bookstore. I guess I was a poor choice, because he didn’t get the job. The problem is that I can’t lie worth a tinker’s, and that my Scandienglish reserve doesn’t allow me to be either decisive or enthusiastic in praise. I probably said something like, “Yep, he’s a pretty good worker. Not so good with people, I guess,” which I realize sounds bad to a corporate mind, or anyone outside the culture, really. Might be part of the reason I’m still a temp, that and profound ambivalence.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. The handful of folks who have asked me to be a reference are generally folks that I would give a good referral to – though I have, in some cases, talked to skill sets that might need to be developed a bit more or management-y things that might make the candidate more successful (e.g., the former coworker who is quite introverted and who will do better if she isn’t placed in a position where she has to present to large groups).

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have been a reference for a few people. I am saved from doing it for people with whom I work as we now are not allowed to serve as references for our coworkers. Only supervisors can write references these days.

    I once served a a reference for a social worker who worked for our county. She jumped from job to job so often after she left our region and never contacted me once to let me know how she was doing, that after a while when prospective employers phoned I told them I couldn’t say anything about her. I never heard anything about her again.


  5. I should answer Dale’s question. Yes, once I was asked to write a reference when I was ambivalent about the person making the request. A guy named Tom worked as my editorial assistant for two years. In that time, although we worked together and took fishing trips, I never felt I understood him. Tom was a self-taught guy, quite smart, and a good writer. He had worked for some time in a Detroit auto plant, which is maybe why he had a view of society that echoed Karl Marx. Tom hated the bourgeoisie and captains of industry.

    Tom was a loner who didn’t trust anyone. He read a lot and kept his opinions to himself. He enjoyed women who had no expectations of affection or even friendship. He had many opinions about society, opinions that were deeply cynical. When I once mentioned a friend I admired who campaigned against militarism and got thrown in jail a lot, Tom was unimpressed. “Everyone needs a hobby,” he said.

    I was the only boss Tom had worked for, so he asked me for a recommendation. I found that awkward. I had never liked or even trusted him much, although I respected his writing. I think I offered to write a recommendation that would be positive but possibly a bit tepid. Tom was angry, but then he was angry about many things.


  6. YES! I had a horrible job with a horrible boss once. After I’d been forced out, I got a call a some months later from an attorney. My horrible boss had been fired and she was suing the employer for discrimination. The attorney wanted me to testify as a character witness for him. I suggested to the attorney that I would not be an advantage for his client’s case.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. When our assistant director retired a few years ago, our center director read aloud some of the letters of reference that Dana had used to get the job way back in the early 1970’s. One was from the Sheriff of the county he grew up in, located in south central ND. The sheriff was obviously German Russian and wrote just the way he spoke. Some of his comments in the letter include (imagine it said in a heavy German accent) “Dana is a good boy. He never gets into trouble. He will be a good worker.”

    Liked by 2 people

  8. The whole reference thing just makes precious little sense to me anymore.

    Back in the day when I was on the hiring end, I would get glowing recommendations from the professors of youngsters just out of college. I would read these and smile knowing that it was in the profs best interest that their students get jobs.

    Then I would scan the resume to see if they had been someplace I had a connection to and make a phone call which would tell me what I really needed to know. Youngsters thought this was so not fair!

    In these litigeous days, about all you can hope to get from a previous employer is confirmation that someone worked there from dates x-y. If you call someone you know, they can letvyou know what you need to know by what they DON’T say.

    Hope Bubby realizes that his application first has to get through the computer filter before anyone even glances at your recommendation.


    1. Alas, job applicants often hear horror stories about the ways potential employers screen applications. This leads to cynicism about the process, and that fosters cheating. A highly ambitious woman I know doesn’t see anything wrong with lying if it might get her to an interview.


      1. Potential employers don’t necessarily screen your application. The first screen is a computer looking for keywords. You want to get through that sieve? You spit back the listed job posting.

        Best way to make sure your application is even seen is to kmow someone inside who will make sure it gets seen.


    2. No one but an idiot would write a bad recommendation anymore, which everyone knows, so why are they even done?


  9. I agree with mig, most references these days don’t tell you much unless you know how to read between the lines. Unless you’re writing a reference for someone who is truly a superstar, your reference will reveal more about the candidate by what it’s NOT saying. I have written numerous references for former employees over the years without ever saying anything negative. It’s the future employers responsibility to read a reference carefully, and to ferret out useful information during the interviewing process. Skills and personal attributes that are important to one employer may not be to another.


  10. I have written hundreds, maybe thousands at student request and senior English teachers are often asked to do them by colleges. Only rarely did I not want to but I always did in either guise. I never said anything but good things and hoped the reader would read the silences, as you are supposed to do when reading Hemingway.

    I moved back to teach in my hometown in 1970, in a more relaxed day about recommendations and the like. Kids would apply for a job with a local small business, usually by saying, “Hey, can I have a job?” So the business owner would call me up and ask about the student, call me because they knew me and could judge what I would say, but putting a lot of trust in my word. I would answer every time but a half-dozen or so times, making it clear that I did not know the student well. Once the father of my HS girlfriend called and he pressed me. He had helped me out a few times with my car when I was taking care of the farm with my father working in Michigan. So I told him the full truth. She would have been a bad employee.
    Then I guess in the mid to late 70’s the law and attitude about such things changed, which was good. Now you only gave a recommendation when a student submitted a release or request. But it took the local businesses three years or so to catch on. They would call; I would explain that I could not. They would assume I was refusing because of the person and not the law. I would explain over and over.
    One colleague gave a poor phone recommendation in those years. for a student who did not deserve one. He got in some trouble.
    Few poor students applied for these sorts of jobs. So it was almost always easy to be positive. I wrote college recommendations for my students, who were taking the more challenging classes. It was easy to be positive for those kids, the top half of the class.
    About six of us wrote most of the college recommendations. Kids know who to ask.
    Got a call in 1984 for a student applying to the FBI about a security clearance. Man called me at home in the summer to ask questions. I said without a release I could not. He said federal law required I answer. I said release or subpeona. He got hostile. Release came in the mail; I signed and sent it back. Another man called. It was easy to be very positive about him. Loved that kid.
    Writing recommendations taught me that I really did like and enjoy most of my students.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. The introvert I mentioned recently used me as a reference again – I am always clear to callers that I was not her boss, I did not direct her work. This is a personal reference for a former co-worker, which was fine with this potential employer. Goodness me was that a long call – and asking off-beat questions, not the usual “how does this person handle X situation” or “tell me about a time when…” I wish I could remember how the questions were phrased, but it was clear that the caller was more interested in if this person could learn, adapt, and would be a good cultural fit for the team over her technical skills. There were some things that got asked about that I knew were not “in her wheelhouse” as the saying goes and said so – the caller then followed up with questions about how I might, if I had been her boss, asked her about doing some of those things or worked with her to get her more comfortable with things she might be good at but maybe hadn’t tried yet or was too timid to try – like I said, the conversation was more about “was this the right person for the team” not “was this the right person for this particular set of job requirements.” It was a curious reference call. And yes, my co-worker did get the job.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I wrote an unusual recommendation once. My daughter fell in love with a college and would not apply anywhere else. But her grades were significantly lower than that school usually got. I wrote a letter recommending her. I did, after all, know her better than the folks who usually write such letters.

    My letter made six specific predictions about how she’d handle college if accepted, including my guess that she’d get off to a wobbly start. The last of the six predictions was that she would become a student the college would be proud to have as a representation of their school.

    One evening in her senior year Molly was working on a program with the head of the college alumni association. He mentioned the letter, adding that he kept it in his desk and occasionally took it out to read it. Molly had not known I had written in support of her application. “Six predictions,” the alumni director said, “and all six came true.” That might have been the most important letter I ever wrote.

    Liked by 5 people

  13. No, I have not. Anybody I know I would gladly recommend for a job. That being said, there are a lot of things about the hiring process that are outmoded. When I do manage to read some articles on LinkedIn, there’s these sensational headlines about “the Resume is Dead” or “Questions Not To Ask a Candidate in an Interview” — but the same dumb things are needed every time. Send a resume into the blackhole called HR, write a good cover letter, never hear back a single thing. They still ask the same dumb questions, “where do you see yourself in 5 years” or the ridiculous “so, tell me about yourself”. I’ve been looking for decent work way too long …

    Liked by 1 person

  14. A woman whose lack of skills and inability to learn (or make notes for herself) was the reason I went into computer programming. She drove me so crazy with her mistakes and repetitious questions that I went to Brown Institute to get the heck out of there. She asked me for a reference and I think by sheer procrastination I never ended up doing so. I had no idea what to say.
    I guess I have her to thank for my having work I enjoy (most of the time) and that provides a decent income.
    Hmmm, I never thought of it before. So here is her updated reference: “Lily is excellent at helping her fellow employees to be the best that they can be.”

    Liked by 5 people

  15. I’ve written recs for a couple of friends of mine who have started up several different businesses in their lives. “She is always able to come up with fresh, new ideas.” could translate to “Gets bored with status quo easily, won’t be around for long.”


  16. I don’t recall very many times I’ve been asked. I’m quite sure I’ve never refused, though. For the most part I’ve gotten on well with the people I’ve worked with.

    The whole hiring process in corporate America is sort of pointless. People have their resumés written for them, request references only from people they’re sure will say nice things, and study up on their interview skills so that they can tell the interviewer the exact answers they’re looking for. Just a big game, You find out about the person after they’re hired.


  17. I haven’t been ask to write references very often. As far as I can remember the people who asked were people who I knew to be good workers and i had no trouble giving them good references.

    I applied for many different jobs during my working years and asked many people for references. Usually i didn’t see the letters they wrote. I did see some of them. It is not always true that every one who is asked to write a references will avoid saying negative things. I have seen some written for me that included negative things that weren’t really true. Some individuals don’t seem to be able to use good judgement when writing references letters when you thing they should be able to do this.


  18. I once wrote a glowing recommendation for a young woman who wanted to join the service. In it, I talked about how she’d spectacularly overcame a painful childhood. Little did I know that the word “therapy” and “service” were 100% incompatible. She was turned down on the basis of having ever have had therapy. She was utterly furious with me.


  19. i write good so people ask me to lie for them regularly. i lie real good for friends. not so good for aquaintances.

    i used to sell to dealers and set up credit references for them to be able to buy 5000 dollars worth of stuff. i would ask them for the names of 3 businesses that would say nice things about them. when our credit manager heard that was how i phrased it he was furious. i told him i couldnt imagine another way to phrase it. lord knows what he thought people were giving him.

    i have never refused but i let some people know i would not be a good choice. i can stretch , carefully phrase, mainpulate the truth but i cant lie to a potential employer that a hire on my recommendation would be good if i knew they wouldnt. i can think of 5 or 6 times this has come up.none recently

    Liked by 1 person

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