job hunting

Thursday Three: Outlooks

These last few weeks have been filled with lots of high and lows. I’ve had interviews and rejections, leads and false starts. It’s not easy realizing you’re pretty unqualified for most jobs, especially when you know you could pull them off. It’s been a tough sprint, but I’m trying to remain optimistic.

1. Homemade brunch with friends is wonderful. Yesterday I had the pleasure of entertaining my old college roommate, Erica, for brunch. We made chocolate chip pancakes and scrambled eggs, mimosas, and coffee, and tea from Ricky’s gaiwan. And we talked. I love spending time with Ricky, because we’ve grown into socially aware individuals on pretty separate paths. But when we sit down to chat we fill the silence with stories and shared passions. We discuss the nuances of growing in our communities and our families. It is always a blessing to be in her company.

2. Rejections come in bundles. Today I got turned down for a job that I interviewed for (that makes four rejections this week alone). But I also had a freelance blog post accepted, and was invited to interview for another job I applied to ages ago. I’ve thought a lot about perspective today, and wondered if the negative at all clouds the positive. After a 3.7 mile run today, I’m going to say that the perspective is in my control. Failures don’t negate achievements. (Now ask me again when my rent check is due…)

3. Having something to look forward too will save you. Lots of things are coming up this season, and most of them come faster than you expect (I’m looking at you, Christmas). With the impending terror of the holidays, it is good to have something else to look forward to. For me, it’s NaNoWriMo. I’ve decided to have a launch party, celebrate the craziness of the month. I’ve also got lots of plans with friends in the next month, and I’m hoping these things will help me stay balanced. That, and the kitten snuggles I get to have every day I spend at home. That’s lovely too.

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Fake It ‘Til You Make It

There is a deep level of self-consciousness that comes with job hunting. Not only must you compete with other candidates, but often you’re competing with the cyclical wheel of experience–you must have experience to gain experience (I’ve found several internships that require “internship experience” to apply). You buff your odd jobs into shining lessons of achievement, finding it difficult to express just how much making fancy coffee beverage taught you about leadership, or content writing, or people skills. You know you can do any of these jobs you apply to, but on paper–well on paper you look like a thirteen year old.

Over the past month I’ve applied to almost twenty different jobs. While not necessarily a feat, I have heard back from only one of these applications–a rejection. I know that hiring is a difficult job, and I am not asking for anyone to coddle me, I mostly don’t expect any replies. But I have certainly found it hard to keep throwing my resume and cover letter into the void, hearing nothing. I know this is how it works, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

I’m not here to complain about the job industry, or to moan about how hard this economy is for our generation. Honestly, there are people out there who would say it better than me anyway. But I do want to acknowledge something that I don’t think enough people pause on–job hunting is hard. It doesn’t feel good, it beats you down, kills your confidence, makes you question your abilities, stresses you out.

People always want to talk about the ways to get a job, but few people talk about just how difficult that actually is. How difficult it is to lay in bed, far too awake for your own good, wondering just what you could be doing differently to stand out, to grab their attention, to not be such a unemployed sad sack.

A few days ago I read an article in The Washington Post about a writer and playwright, Monica Byrne, who’d recently signed a book deal and crowd-funded a performance at the New York International Fringe Festival. Byrne mentions that other artists now approach her, asking “how she did it.” As though she followed a magical formula for success.

In the article Byrne posts what she calls her “anti-resume” a complete list of her inquiries–almost 600 of them. “The data were revealing. First and foremost, of all the things I’d ever submitted to or applied for, I’d gotten only 3 percent of them. That’s a 97 percent rejection rate. That means I got 32 rejections for every acceptance.”

When I’m feeling particularly melodramatic about the job hunt, I open Byrne’s “anti-resume.” I skim through the hundreds of red lines (indicating rejection), and focus on how they swallow nearly every page. Byrne’s anti-resume reminds me that rejection is part of life. That I must continue shouting into the void, because sooner or later, the void has to shout back.

Job hunting is hard. Some days (my sad sack days), it feels like the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But I am valuable. I am a hard worker. I am talented. I am skilled. I am smart. I am caring. I am passionate. I am worth the investment.

So let’s stomp on the face of rejection, and keep going. We are valuable. We are worth it.