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