As I may have mentioned in passing, I am currently in the process of looking for a job. The jobs I am applying for are mostly pool jobs: jobs where I am placed in a pool of eligible workers, and where if I am needed to work, I am awarded a contract, term by term. Even to enter the pool involves filling out an application that covers my complete educational and employment history, as well as references, along with a cover letter and in some cases a criminal background check. I then wait some months to be told if I am accepted into the pool (theoretically, if I get that far), and sometime during this period I also have to pass a series of phone interviews.

No one ever said getting a job was easy. I've accepted that.

Like many of you who have not managed to go to prison or gone bankrupt, I get an average of three preapproved credit card offers a week. For a long time, I have simply sent these to the shredder as quickly as possible. But I started thinking that it wouldn't hurt me to have a few credit card in case of emergencies. I already have one, but perhaps another one would be helpful. So I filled out one of the applications. It asked about my employment, and I said I was self-employed: not a total lie, since I do do some yardwork for a neighbor. It asked me for my annual income, and I put a very optimistic figure that would reflect many more hours of casual labor than I do, as well as including all the gifts my family might give me. Other than that, all they wanted to know was my name, address, e-Mail, telephone and social security number. I mailed it off. Three days later, I got an e-Mail saying my application was being reviewed. The next day, I got an e-Mail saying that I was approved. I don't know what my credit limit will be, but I have a new credit card.

So, to review:

Applying for a part time job: complete record of my employment and educational history, references, criminal background check, detailed explanation of my philosophy of life, after which I wait three to six months to get a reply.

Applying for a credit card: basic contact information and whatever information I care to guess at about my financial situation, followed by less than a week's wait, followed by an approval.

Of course these things are not the same. A job is different than a credit card. But while I don't yet have the background information to write about the growth of the formal job hiring process in American culture, I can write a little about my personal experiences. While it is true that people of my generation are probably less likely to have to do physically demanding or dangerous labor, we do have to deal with a formal employment system that is unprecedented. And though I can't make too many statements about the entire course of the American customs of employment and credit based on my anecdotal experience, I can say that what I have gone through, and what I have heard from friends, does make me somewhat wary of the idea that the process of finding employment has to be quite so slow, detailed and confusing, if the process of obtaining credit can be done so non-nonchalantly.