Looking For A Job

From Nowy Dziennik, (Polish Daily News)

February 7, 2002

By Magda Gieorgica

The job market in New York City has shrunk after September 11. But the owners of employment agencies warn that that the real crisis is just about to begin. There are still many job offers. But do they meet our expectations?

"People without experience, those who just arrived, come here most frequently," said Roman who works in one of the employment agencies in Greenpoint. "We usually have many offers for them. Poles are good employees - they are determined and hardworking - and American employers are usually willing to hire them. Also, Polish people have lower expectations than other nationalities in the New York. When they find a job they treasure it and take pride in it. After all they work in America, and that in itself mobilizes them."

"Poles come to America with certain stereotypes," said Basia, a secretary in one of the employment agencies. "They believe in the myth that if you just work hard you will soon make a fortune. Young women who have seen "Pretty Woman" dream of a romance with millionaires. So when they come to us, they want to work in a house of a rich and handsome man, who would perhaps be willing to marry them."

Hardly any Pole who visits an employment agency is aware of the criteria he or she must meet in order to find a well paying job.

"The most important factor is to know the language well enough to be able to communicate," said Roman. " They don’t need to have the perfect grammar, as long as they are not afraid to speak."

Usually the better the language skills, the greater the possibility of negotiating the pay. Most employers pay workers who don’t have Social Security between $300 to $550 a week. Besides English it’s also important to have employment authorization and a driver’s license. Owning a car and work tools can increase the chances of finding the job of one’s dreams as well.

References are another important factor in the process of job hunting in New York. It’s much more difficult to find a job if one doesn’t have a piece of paper with praises and comments on how wonderful he or she is. In that case it would be wise to ask a friend to actually write one. After all, a recommendation from a friend is better than nothing.

"And of course we should not forget about the vigor and cleverness, but Poles rarely lack them," said Roman.

Employment agencies offer many jobs that require physical strength. It’s not difficult to obtain them, as long as a person is willing to work and makes a good first impression on the employer. For men, the first impression is a matter of exposing one’s muscles. Women, on the other hand, should smile and be willing to talk.

"Construction – that’s the kind of job most men are interested in," said Kasia, who works at another agency. "Winter is a difficult time to look for a job, but once summer comes everything should be back to normal."

Electricians, plumbers and carpenters rarely have problems with finding employment. Also, college students who come here for the summer can easily find a job. It’s interesting that working with "muscles" is humiliating in Poland; here students boast about it.

"Women most often look for a job as live-in housekeepers," said Kasia. "They think that if they find such a job, they will have a lot of time to sleep, read newspapers and still get ‘room and board’ for free. "There is nothing further from the truth. Everything depends on who do they work for. It’s true, sometimes a woman might work for an older lady who likes to do everything by herself, and what she needs is a companion rather than a helper. But we had cases, when women came to us complaining about the excessive workload which is inadequate to their pay."

Babysitters, hairdressers, waitresses, and masseurs are some of the other offers available to women - but such positions require skills. Therefore, it’s important to receive some kind of training in those fields prior to applying for the job.

Many Poles, however, believe that employment agencies are a waste of time and a waste of money.

"For me job agencies are the last option," said Roman who found a job as a construction worker two years ago. "It’s better to count on yourself or on your friends."

Often times the jobs agencies are offering are not as great as they appear.

"Besides cleaning, for example, a person may also be required to cook, do laundry, take care of the pets and sometimes even sleep with the employer. My wife had such an experience and she had to quit.

Americans know that Poles are very determined in looking for a job. That’s why they sometimes set criteria which people of other nationalities cannot meet. Also, agencies take provisions for finding a job. It’s usually a week’s pay, but sometimes they ask for a month’s paycheck. Who can afford that?! It’s better to look for a job on your own," said Roman.

Many Poles believe that it’s most difficult to find a job when a person already works somewhere else.

"I am so tired after I come from work that I don’t have the strength to call people up and look for another job. I rather spend some time with my husband and my little daughter," said Malgosia, who has worked for a Jewish family in Queens for five years. "I am aware that washing someone’s socks it’s not the fulfillment of dreams of a person who has Master’s degree in Polish. But I have no choice, if I want to stay here and raise my child to be a good and educated person. It’s difficult but at least they pay me well. But I heard that many people have lost their hope for finding a better job. A friend of mine always jokes that if he doesn’t ‘sell his face’ to any employer, the Image Bank will surely accept it."

Translated from Polish by Joanna Sufin.

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