The PACE Test

By early 1980 I had become seriously dissatisfied with working at Channel.

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We had a new manager, and he and I did not see eye to eye, although it was probably more my fault than his. He admitted to me that when he learned he was being given the Harrisburg store, he was looking forward to working with me because he and I had previously worked together to set up the Fairless Hills store. But given my current mood, I was no longer performing the way I used to. I was probably just an average employee at this point. But I kinda think he overreacted.

So did Ron Massal, who by then was well into the managerial track and working in the front office. He interceded a few times to try to defuse a tense situation between the new manager and me.

But I knew Ron wouldn’t be there much longer, so I started seriously looking for another job.

There was only one problem: I really wasn’t qualified for much of anything except working in retail, which was something I definitely did not want to do.

I wanted to stay in Harrisburg as I was basically happy there, as I had a radio program on the local classical music station, and I didn’t want to give that up. But give it up I did—because I was afraid it might hold me back if by some fluke I found a job opportunity outside of the Harrisburg area.

When I went to an employment agency, the guy I spoke to took one look at my experience and just shook his head. I don’t think he even pretended he’d be calling me.

My job prospects looked bleak indeed. And then someone, I no longer recall who, suggested I try taking the PACE test.

The Professional and Administrative Career Examination was a multiple choice test administered by the federal government back in the late 1970s and early 80s. And if there was one thing I was good at, it was taking multiple choice tests. At least I used to be good at it. It had been awhile since the last time I had taken one.

So I signed up for it and took the test on a Saturday in April (I think), which required me to take a day off work, which just added to the friction between me and the manager. I no longer recall any details about taking the test, but I think it was a fairly long one, three or four hours perhaps, but I’m not sure.

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Defense Personnel Support Center (DPSC) as it was known in 1980Defense Personnel Support Center (DPSC) as it was known in 1980

Defense Personnel Support Center (DPSC) as it was known in 1980

The results came relatively quickly, and out of a possible 100, I received a score of 96. Which put me at the 98th percentile, I think.

Anyway, it was more than enough to get me an interview in June at a place called the Defense Personnel Support Center, whatever that was, in Philadelphia. Well, actually in addition to scoring high on the PACE test, I needed to have four years of college under my belt, but I only had completed three years of college. Happily there was an alternative. One could also qualify if one had three completed years of college and at least four years of job experience in a related field. I was going to be interviewing for an Inventory Management Specialist position, whatever that was, and I had had about six years of working in retail, so that had to count for something, right?

I had interviews in three different directorates at DPSC: Medical, Subsistence, and Clothing & Textiles. I no longer recall the Medical interview, but the one with Dave Snyder of Subsistence was a joke. Happily, I must have impressed Maggie Rees and Frank Kenny of the Clothing & Textiles Directorate because they offered me a job.

I began on August 4, 1980.

Shortly after that, the government discontinued the PACE test because it wasn’t fair to all demographic groups. Had I waited, I couldn’t have gotten that job. And now the government is requiring a four year college degree for new hirees, so someone like me couldn’t possibly be hired today. I guess that’s what they call progress.

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