Mary Beth Meehan

Tracey – Providence, RI

Tracey – Providence, RI

Tracey tells everyone she meets that she’s looking for work. At church, going back and forth on the bus that she takes on North Main Street, bowling with her mother on Saturdays – she tells people that she needs to find a job and asks if anyone knows of anything.

Tracey grew up in Providence. Last fall, after years of living in Philadelphia, she moved back here to be near her mother. She says her specialty is customer service: “I like being approached. I like doing things and solving things for people.” Her last job, which she held for nine years, was at an optometry center, in a department for senior citizens  – “cataracts, glaucoma.” She says the seniors were so grateful for how she helped with their paperwork, figured out their insurance. They were different from the younger folks, who gave her attitude.

Since coming back to Providence, Tracey has applied for anything that seems like customer service: “Lifespan, all the hospitals in Rhode Island, Triple A, the school board. I sent away to almost every optometry business I can think of here, all the hotels – I pretty much covered every avenue that I could think of.” She went to a job fair in early February and passed out at least twenty résumés. She didn’t think it would be this hard. “At this point I’m like, Where else can I apply? I’m getting ready to be a welder down at Quonset Point. They’re looking for people.”

As a senior at Hope High School, in the seventies, Tracey took a class in job interviewing. Since then she’s been confident of her interviewing skills: “It’s always been eye contact – direct eye contact. And a blue suit, blue or black. (They don’t even teach that class anymore. That’s why these kids go to interviews looking like a mess.)”

This week, toward the end of February, she has an interview, but because she’s sent out so many résumés and applied to so many things online, she’s not sure at the moment where it is. But she’ll be ready for it. She’ll wear a blue pants suit with a white blouse and blue shoes. She’ll have her nails done: “neutral. You never go to an interview with wild bright colors – just light beige, very, very light.” And she’ll put on one simple ring and pearl earrings: “always wear pearls – you never wear big hoops or drop earrings. Wear something simple, small, little posts. No bracelets.

“I want the interviewers focused on me,” says Tracey. “I don’t want my bracelets clinging and clanging and making noise – nothing glittery or shiny catching their eye.

“I want them to focus directly on me. I want ’em to look at me.”