Opinions of the Unemployed
If another person wishes me good luck on my job search, I’m going to lose it. Something about the phrase really grinds my gears. I want to be hired for my skills, not by luck, I think, I don’t need luck. Yet, my months of job searching keep steering me to the inevitable conclusion that so much of this game is luck. It’s not that I don’t need it; I don’t want to need it.
Like many (many, many, many) people, I just graduated from college this spring. Like many people, I relocated to the big city to chase a childhood dream of being sophisticated and cosmopolitan. Like many people, I am tragically unemployed and spending hours every day on every job listing website you can name. Like many people, I am collecting unemployment to make ends meet. At the end of the day, I am like many people.
“You’ll find something,” they say, “because you’re unique, and eventually an employer will see that.” Many people above a certain age cannot seem to wrap their heads around just how bad it is out there. Everyone, it seems, is a college graduate looking for a start to their career — or at least a start to next month’s rent — and it often feels like nobody in this economy is special. When I’m not selected for a part-time entry level customer service job, it has nothing to do with me, and everything to do with the fact that they received six hundred applications for five openings. With a pool like that one, of course Lady Luck has a hand, much as I want to be rid of her interference.
Sometimes it feels like I apply for jobs not for the chance to work them, but for the paper trail of work search activities required by the Department of Unemployment Assistance. Applying to jobs at least three days per week is my job, and it pays well enough to put food on the table. And there are some days when I really, really like my job. A simple email asking for a writing sample will send me on a tailspin of giddiness, leading to an afternoon of researching the company in great detail and daydreaming about my romantic and glamorous life working there. That’ll fade by Sunday, when a total lack of responses will bring me to Unemployment Insurance Online for Claimants once more.
I receive emails from jobs I applied to months ago. “Unfortunately, we’ve decided to move forward with other candidates,” these emails read. More often than not, I’d forgotten these jobs existed, or assumed they’d already “moved forward with other candidates.” I’m by no means surprised, as I feel tremendously underqualified for just about every position I demonstrate interest in, but it hurts nonetheless. It’s like being ghosted after a first date, only to hear three weeks later, “I’m actually seeing someone now.” Maybe I’m also seeing someone, but I didn’t feel the need to rub their nose in it! At a certain point, reaching out to say “no thanks” is just reopening a wound that’s nearly healed.
People my parents’ age (including my parents) feel the need to chime in about how I should be conducting my job search, despite the fact that they haven’t searched for a new job in twenty years. I’ll never understand why they see “How’s the job search going?” as an appropriate thing to ask, as though the desperation of my unemployment is a great topic for small talk. God forbid I tell anyone about any jobs I’ve applied to: they’ll ask about it a month later, and I have to relive those dreadful thirty seconds of reading the classic “moving forward with other candidates” email.
“You know, I’ve always thought you’d make a great lawyer,” my father not-so-subtly adds to my pile of anxieties. The GRE practice book I purchased when I still thought “school is cool” glares from the other side of my desk as I write this. I remember the professor I asked for a letter of recommendation two months ago, “because I’m considering some graduate programs in Europe.” The only alternative to a job, it seems, is more school on top of the eighteen years I’ve already dedicated to the concept. School is where I’m comfortable; it’s all I’ve known for most of my life, but I thought I was using it to prepare myself for the “real world.” Going back to it feels like…cheating.
More school is also a commitment I’m not ready for. I just got out of a long-term relationship with a university that was financially and mentally draining, and like any single person, I want to play the field a bit before settling down again. I deserve to see what’s out there before leaping into something serious. Then, there’s also the issue of FOMO: school will always be there, but my dream job might only be listed on Glassdoor for three days before someone else snatches the position up.
As pessimistic as I’ve been so far, there is some truth to what the employed people around me say, and all that’s left to do is keep at it. I will not get a job if I do not apply to it. Compare it to searching for your true love; if you don’t give them a chance, you’ll never know if you’re meant for each other. If you’re out there job hunting and feeling inadequate, rest assured: you’re not alone, and most of all, you’re not inadequate. You’re persevering and you’re putting yourself out there, and good things come to those who try.