Nope, still no job

At the time I wrote my last no-job post, I was feeling really down. Now I’ve moved into a much more distanced and objective state of mind, and I truly wonder how it is that I haven’t even gotten an in-person interview.* The unemployment rate in my metro area is about 1% lower than the national average, and both are declining steadily. We all know a college degree doesn’t count for much anymore, but that’s okay: I have a PhD, which you’d think would at least qualify me for an entry-level position. And for every job I apply for, I know I could do the work. And yet no one is responding to my application materials — or even to recommendations from others, which is the thing that’s definitely supposed to get you in the door. I applied to one job a few weeks ago and had two contacts write to the higher-ups in the organization to recommend me. You’d think that would at least get me a phone screen, but I haven’t heard a word. And this is no giant corporation; it’s a modestly-sized nonprofit.

As I mentioned in my last post, the person we hired at our nonprofit doesn’t know her way around an Excel document, but she has a full-time job. What is it about me, or my resume, or my cover letter, or any combination of factors, that I can’t even get an interview?

I hate going to giant networking events that are held for the sole purpose of networking. Not only does it scrape against my introverted nature like a butter knife on a dinner plate, but out of all of these events I’ve only met one person who’s turned out to be a useful connection (and this was at an alumni event, where, I think, people are automatically more invested in each other). The only way anyone is going to want to help you out is if they know (and like) you, and you don’t get to know people at these events. My partner thinks it might be a better, less exhausting use of my time to find social meetups and make personal, rather than professional, acquaintances with people who might actually develop an interest in helping me. Does anyone have any experience to report on this?

It’s a strange situation: financially speaking, I don’t need a job. My partner makes enough to support us both right now. My undergraduate student loans, deferred for 6 years of grad school, are still deferred (though cheerfully collecting interest) while I’m unemployed. I’m getting a little something every two weeks from unemployment insurance, so my bank account isn’t empty. All I’ve had to pay was insurance (my partner loaned me the money), and that will last me until Obamacare kicks in and I can get insured for a lot less. I’m not in a position where I have to try for a barista job (which I also probably wouldn’t get because I don’t have any retail or restaurant experience, and I also don’t like coffee). This is wonderful because it means I don’t have to stress (too much) about money, and I don’t have an urgent need for a just-pay-the-bills job. It is also terrible, because it makes me feel like a housewife (something I’ve never wanted to be), and I have neither the children nor the inclination to cook to justify it to myself. I haven’t earned any money since March, and I feel like a massive resource drain. My volunteer work keeps me motivated, and there’s always something I could be working on, but then I step back and think about how it’s not earning me any money, which makes me feel like I should be doing something more directly job-search-related, but then I find I don’t have the motivation for that, because what’s the point of another resume when no one’s going to pay any attention to it, and then I “take a break” and binge watch police procedurals on Netflix.

Right now I’m reading Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (and you should, too; it’s very good and, incidentally, very appropriate for a post-academic audience). One passage hit extremely close to home, despite the fact that it describes a Nigerian immigrant to America who is looking for a part-time job while attending college:

Each time she went to a job interview, or made a phone call about a job, she told herself that this would, finally, be her day; this time, the waitress, hostess, babysitter position would be hers, but even as she wished herself well, there was already a gathering gloom in a far corner of her mind. “What am I doing wrong?” she asked Ginika, and Ginika told her to be patient, to have hope. She typed and retyped her resume, invented past waitressing experience in Lagos, wrote Ginika’s name as an employer whose children she had babysat, gave the name of Wambui’s landlady as a reference, and, at each interview, she smiled warmly and shook hands firmly, all the things that were suggested in a book she had read about interviewing for American jobs. Yet there was no job. Was it her foreign accent? Her lack of experience? But her African friends all had jobs, and college students got jobs all the time with no experience. […] She began to think more about her mother’s devil, to imagine how the devil might have a hand here. (pp. 146-47)

What I take away from this is that it is as hard (perhaps harder) for me to get a job as it is for someone on a student visa who can’t legally work in this country. And that sentence about the devil makes me think that if I were still going to church, I might not be in this position, because my church community would be invested in helping me find a job.

*Unless you count the brief in-person screening at the one staffing agency out of eight that responded to my application, and which hasn’t followed up with me since then. I also had two phone interviews, one of which came to nothing, and the other seems to have fizzled out — they may get back into hiring mode eventually, but it’s nothing I can plan on. Back to top

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4 thoughts on “Nope, still no job

  1. Academish: I’m a longtime lurker but I’m going through a similar process albeit I left before my comps rather than continuing through my PhD program being miserable. In my case, I’ve had much more success by building meaningful relationships with people rather than going to every single networking event that pops up on my radar. Networking and job searching doesn’t happen overnight. Doing a bit each day so that it doesn’t consume my existence helps quite a bit and helps me focus on making stellar applications when the hours call for it. Relationships are meant to be built upon over time through trust and frequent communication. I knew a former colleague who decided to leave academia after getting her Ph.D in Cognitive Science and it took her over 6 months to find a position in U/X design. It can take 2 months. It can take a year. It is sometimes a weird mixture of serendipity, being at the right place at the right time, and setting up your network for success that can lead to landing jobs these days. Do you have an undergraduate alumni chapter nearby? I would suggest getting involved in any professional organizations/honor societies you had collegiate affliations with prior to graduate training (Phi Beta Kappa holds local metro chapter events in major cities!) in addition to a local college alumni group. I’m getting involved in two of my sororities’ alumni chapters which 1) gets me to meet lots of new people, 2) I get to do non-job hunting activities for a few hours a week, and 3) some of them just happen to be involved in fields related to what I want to do which opens me up to new resources and contacts.

    Based on your background it seems that you’re not religious, but I believe that finding a community with no strings attached about you needing them for jobs jobs jobs is what really will help you through good and bad times. I’m joining a few meet ups for purely social reasons when I relocate to DC in a week. Then again, I’m an extrovert that loves being around people 24/7 and being in graduate school was absolute isolationist torture for me.

    I am 200% in support of joining social meetups or intramurals. You never know who you’re going to meet or when, but it will build you up in ways that academia probably lacked. Good luck!

  2. Ooft. I’m so sorry. I’m a new reader, but I’m pre-post-academic myself, and your experience is one I often worry about. I don’t know if you’ve already addressed this issue, but is it possible that your high credentials need some explanation in your resume / cover letter? It may be that if you’re credentialed well above the requirement of these jobs, the hiring manager might assume that you’re not really serious about the job, or will worry that you’ll cost too much? If you haven’t already (and if this is old news, my apologies for rubbing salt on a wound), perhaps explaining why your PhD won’t get in the way would be helpful.

    Anyhow, all other things aside, I sympathize and really hope the best for you.

    • Thanks for the suggestion! I’ve actually tried all sorts of things, including explaining in my cover letter, de-emphasizing it on my resume, etc. It’s not a scientific experiment so I can’t really say if one thing works better or not. I haven’t ever left it off completely, but have seriously considered it. Maybe that’s next.

  3. escapist28 says:

    I found my job through a temp agency. I got EXTREMELY lucky in that I was placed in a company (and in a particular department) that was experiencing a few growing pains. Somebody retired, everyone moved up, and suddenly there was a spot open. The dept. manager knew me (and how hard I was willing to work), and knew that I was half trained for the job already. I was a sure thing.

    That being said, I had plenty of dark moments when I thought I would never be hired. I went through 7 months thinking I would be balancing on a razors edge for the rest of my life, stuck in a temp position. Then, it suddenly all worked out. Don’t spread yourself too thin.

    Relationships are important, but so is your approach. I used the internet to apply to countless jobs, and never got a nibble. Out of desperation, I started doing research and found Ask the Headhunter (featured on the PBS blog) and got some great advice. My favorite (and I absolutely found this to be true) is that internet job boards are a waste of time: http://corcodilos.com/blog/6547/linkedin-payola-selling-out-employers-and-job-hunters, His main example is Linkedin, but it applies pretty well to all of them. Keep at it. Keep pounding away. Pick two or three companies and just keep on top of them. Eventually you’ll get someone’s attention.

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