There is a particular necessary evil that people don’t talk about. It’s the big pink, overly glittered elephant everyone has encountered but never warns others about. No, it’s not swimsuit season or getting through puberty. It’s the inevitable process of looking for a job.
It’s horribly uncomfortable this pinnacle of mind games and my current reality. It wasn’t at all what I was expecting because no one has ever talked to me about it. “Get a degree and you’ll get a job.” That’s been the mantra of my life and the frequent advice I’ve received from adults. After graduation, I thought I was set. How could I have known I had gotten it so wrong?
It doesn’t help that I’ve been given advice from people that job hunted over two decades ago, when the economy was peachy. Thanks to today’s global situation and lack of employment, that big pink elephant is now a gargantuan brontosaurus that wears everything Liberace wore throughout his life. It’s intimidating to say the least.
Another mistake was majoring in a subject that doesn’t have specific employment. It’s not like I studied medicine and subsequently would become a doctor. My career choice is quite unclear. Multiple paths could be taken with it –or none whatsoever- and companies despise that ambiguity. Be a Finance Major; Biology, Business, anything that is relevant to society. Don’t major in Arts or Humanities. They’ll regard you like you are some kind of dying breed.
After months of going through numerous websites, newspapers classifieds, reading all kinds of articles about landing your dream job, interviewing and interviewing again, I have come to a solid conclusion. Companies don’t really want to hire you. They say they do, they print out ads, they spread the word, but it’s not so you get a chance to grow as a person and accomplish something. It’s so they can entertain themselves by stringing you along the same way they once were. They have a terrible sense of humor.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking I’m trying to compensate my bruised ego and shattered self esteem by insulting everyone who hasn’t given me a job. Yeah, that’s possible. But after spending the better part of the year adjusting to all the rules, scenarios and appropriate behavior that is required just to be considered as a candidate for a position, I have made it my mission to compose a thorough analysis and inform you accurately as to why job hunting is absolute bullshit.
The first step towards your months of hell is Preparation. Case in point, an updated résumé- a piece of paper that’s supposed to summarize your entire professional life, or lack thereof, in a structure that makes no narrative sense.
I studied Literature so basically, I wrote my way through college. I wrote narrative, argumentative and research essays, thesis, biographies, and poems. I had to wade through the words of Frost, Borges, Foucault and find a concrete meaning behind their words. It was hardcore.
It was surprising and soul demolishing to realize all those years of education and writing techniques had not prepared me to accomplish the simple task of writing a résumé. You have to list the number of jobs you have, the skills you have acquired, which never seem to be enough, and your related interests; all of this without really writing a single real sentence, just phrases. Now, for a Literature major, this is the definition of torture. I felt handicapped.
I have come to the conclusion that résumés were made just to make you feel constantly bad about yourself. All it does is make you look back on your life and all the crap experiences you’ve had working at supermarkets and retail stores that have amounted to no relevant wisdom whatsoever. Not to mention it takes no more than a small paragraph’s worth of space in the whole page. Now you need to fill out the rest of it with your sublime education and quite impressive GPA that no one is going to pay attention to because they are too flabbergasted by your absolute lack of experience.
But you have no choice. You have to push through it, describe your expertise and talent with the least amount of adjectives possible (adjectives are too much information) whilst cringing every time you pause to read it. When you are finished, you will be left with this immense sense of pride, the same you’d feel if you’d just survived a war because you completed this piece of paper that you will probably need to edit for the next job you apply for and relive the torture yet again.
But for now, you’re done! All you have to do is print them out and send as many copies as you can to whoever is hiring. Because let’s face it, at this point, you’re willing to take almost anything so you can pay your cell phone bill and support your addiction to Cosmopolitan Magazine (insert your particular addiction here.)
Now that the Preparation stage is done somewhat fairly, you can move on to the Search stage that is just as shattering to your self esteem as the Preparation stage, but it comes with an undertone of amusement that is quite refreshing. It’s the amusement that’s intertwined with humanity’s incoherence.
There are many ways to search for a job these days but they all result in the same feeling of desperation and inadequacy. I used to think that when the time came for me to job hunt, I would see several options that would solicit all my abilities – a great writer, creative, good at team work- and I’d say “That’s the job for me.” And because I was everything they’d ask for, I’d have the job.
As Clint Eastwood would say, “Keep dreaming, shit ball.”
First of all, there is no such thing as an ad that asks for a writer. They’ll call it editorial assistant or some other kind of euphemism. Writers are not wanted. Second, there are no ads for editorial assistants or some other kind of euphemism. We’re like the kids in high school you will not remember in the class reunion.
So where does that leave you? Searching for anything that’s related to the Communications field that will pay you minimum wage. Now that the list has narrowed significantly, you can go through it carefully. You may get excited halfway through a job description, envisioning yourself in a hip environment with awesome people, doing something you’ll enjoy even if they don’t pay you too much. Your fingers are already twitching to click the “Apply for Job” button on the screen. Until you get to the Requirements, which I can only describe as the emotional equivalent of thinking you were about to get the girl before she sends you all sorts of mixed messages you know you’ll never be able to figure out.
As you start reading the requirements, you see yourself being kicked off of the competition. Seriously, imagine a giant boot that kicks you into oblivion.
- Background in Journalism, Communications
Does Literature count?
- Must have work three years of experience in the field.
Your résumé is laughing at you now.
- Must have been published in various Magazines/Newspapers.
Basically, you need to have extensive experience and well seasoned writing skills in order to get a job as -not an editor or columnist- as an unpaid intern. Have you lost all hope yet and are sitting in a corner diving head deep into a gallon of ice cream? I am.
So by now, you’re considering any other job with no requirements whatsoever. Apparently, there are a lot of requests for a female masseuse with no experience necessary. That seems like a good career alternative, maybe.
After extensive search through papers, websites (all except Craigslist), and temp agencies, you manage to send out ten out of the fifty copies of your résumé. The third step is the one that will make you lose your mind if you haven’t already: the Waiting step. Sending out a résumé is like throwing a message in a bottle to the ocean and waiting for it to reply. The months can pass by and nothing. You have emotionally moved on from the job you were hoping to hear from when suddenly you get a call. You’re confused at first and then you’re mildly excited. But then you wonder, “Why are you calling me now? I gave up on you a long time ago.” It’s the same tug-of-war feeling you get when a guy calls you after three months, expecting you’re still excited for him to ask you out again. It just doesn’t work. But since you have nothing else to fall back on, you become enthusiastic again. Now you have acceded to an Interview.
Holy crap! Actual human contact will happen now! For sure you’ll do great. How hard can it be? In this glimpse of a moment you regain a smidgen of the self esteem you’ve lost through the whole process that you will undoubtedly lose yet again after the interview is done.
If you ever thought the first date is nerve wracking, you have not been to a job interview. It’s unnerving to have someone watch every move you make, your posture, the way you speak, what you are wearing. Of course, all of this is nothing compared to how they will judge you for the answers you give to their mind boggling questions. I’m telling you, the Sphinx trained these people. They’ll throw at you the most ambiguous, trick questions you will ever hear.
So, why did you apply for this job?
Umm... I need the money?
What is it about our company that interests you?
Well, you were hiring so…
How much are you looking to get paid? (WARNING: Trick question)
Fuck it… I’ll never get this one right.
Do you work well under pressure?
I’m already shaking in my boots. What does that tell you?
Would you be willing to work on Sundays?
If I say no, you won’t hire me.
How would you define sexual harassment?
Are you about to teach me?
What is your biggest weakness? (TRICK QUESTION: they want you response with weakness/strength like “I’m a workaholic”. But you don’t know this)
Kryptonite. No, no wait! I was kidding!
If you see a colleague stealing, what would you do?
What kind of question is this?!
Why should I hire you?
Have you forgotten you took ALL of my self esteem?
By this point, you most certainly don’t have the job. Even if you were optimistic and answered the best way you could, it’s not the answer they were looking for because even they don’t know what answer they want to hear. Keep in mind they resemble a woman who is a complete tease and has no idea what she wants until she sees it. And you are not it.
However, hanging on to your last shred of hope, you believe them when they tell you they will call soon enough to let you know their answer and we jump back to the Waiting step. It could be endless. Years can go by and you’re still going to be waiting for that call and every time you think about it, it chips off a tiny bit more of your self-respect. We hate this step.
Finally, the last step is divided in two. Depending how the Interview goes, you move on to You-got-the-job step or Deal-with-it step. We already know the latter is more likely to take place.
By now, you are an unrecognizable version of what you used to be- insecure, desperate and bitter. Seriously, this is how depression starts.
There’s no silver lining to the five steps. They equally suck and are as inescapable as death, taxes and cellulite. There’s just no going around it.
The only and questionable bright side is that you will go on so many horrible, embarrassing job interviews that eventually, you’ll do well enough and land a job that doesn’t make you contemplate applying for the no experience masseuse position. It sounds too good to be true.