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Updated on September 6, 2009

Sometimes You Pound the Pavement, and Sometimes the Pavement Pounds You

When the latest U.S. economic crisis reared its ugly head last year, my first thought was “thank goodness I’m employed already.” I was in my second year of graduate school and securely ensconced in one of two semester-long graduate assistantships that paid fairly well. Since one of my roommates works full-time and I know how to be careful with my spending, I wasn’t too worried.

Alas, the dangers of complacency. I was so involved with my classes, my assistantship duties, writing my thesis and spending time with my boyfriend, I failed to consider what was really going to happen once my second assistantship ended. I already knew that the most financial support my department could afford for any one student would last only one year (two semesters for two different professors). Somewhere in the back of my mind, I must have assumed that, despite the financial problems faced by many across the country and around the globe, I would still get hired somewhere fairly quickly.

A very wise person once said “Never ‘assume’ because it makes an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me.’”

Immediately after I turned in my final papers for my own classes and the final grades for my assistantship duties, I began searching the want ads with a zest akin to the period during which I was applying to graduate schools back in late 2006-early 2007. Since I was accepted at all four to which I applied, I thought (apparently) that getting a job would go just as smoothly and my biggest problem would be choosing among the offers.

Not quite.

As of this writing, I have been applying to every job that seems even remotely suitable for my skills and experience, to absolutely no avail. Most places don’t even call me back, and when I call them, the usual answer is “The position has already been filled by someone we deemed to be more qualified than you.” I have had five in-person interviews, and while all seemed to go well at the time, the responses have been more or less the same.

The various categories of jobs to which I have applied include: secretarial/reception, retail/sales, food service, local government positions, education, hotel/hospitality, medical offices (including my town’s hospital), law offices and, most recently, a bank that can actually afford to hire more than it fires.

Mind you, my only past experience is in secretarial/reception, education and medical office work, but even those employers have turned me down. I also wonder how any of the others expect anyone to GET experience if they are not given a CHANCE in the first place?

Every time I get yet another rejection, I ask myself: “Why? What’s wrong with me?” I am less than a year away from having my Master’s in Science in Applied Criminology, I have held jobs before and (I thought) I am everything most employers would find desirable: someone who does her job, arrives on time, and doesn’t use illegal drugs. What more do people want?!?

People I ask tell me that perhaps it’s the first item I mentioned above. In this still-shaky economy, employers must be very wary of whom they take a chance on. Ironically, some have said, having a higher degree (unless it’s in something really specific, like nursing, K-12 education or medical billing, for example) translates into “this person may rock the boat, and we don’t want that” for many people. I can’t think of any other reason why Wal-Mart and Target turned me down.

If any of you reading this are considering getting a higher education degree, I strongly urge you to pursue one that’s marketable immediately, like nursing or medical billing. Psychobiology (B.S.) and Applied Criminology (M.S.) teach you a lot about how people think and act, but getting a short-term job (or even a long-term one) from either has become extremely difficult. My ideals told me to study Criminal Justice so I could eventually do some good in this world by stopping crime. I still plan to apply to the FBI Academy a few months before I graduate, but there’s no guarantee they’ll take me. In my quest to follow what seemed to be my life’s purpose (don’t get me wrong, it still does), I failed to recognize the fact that I’d need to support myself in the interim, and I certainly didn’t count on Round 2 of the Great Depression.

Searching for a job has become my job. Sadly, the benefits hardly seem worth it anymore. As I’m sure many of you reading this know, one rejection after the next can play havoc with one’s self-esteem. I find myself snapping at people I care about—lashing out in anger at them because I myself feel pretty worthless most days. It’s all I can do not to sink into a true depressive state (I’ve been down that road before, and it’s not a journey I wish to repeat). Everyone has been very understanding, but I wouldn’t blame them if they told me to take a hike until I stop acting like a drama queen. I’m sure they’re getting tired of my constantly saying “I’m sorry…it’s just that I’m so frustrated because I still haven’t been hired.” The other day, my mom very kindly, and logically, said “Stop looking. You’re getting obsessive, and it’s not doing you any good. Your boyfriend has a few days off from work. Spend them with him and just forget about this for a while. There’s nothing you can do about it, and it’s not your fault.” This last statement is the truest one of all. I have to keep reminding myself of a few things:

(1)   The economy being what it is, employers must be extra-cautious about whom they take a chance on hiring. I believe this is worth mentioning a second time because I can hardly blame them for this. They have money troubles too. Several in my town have had to lay people off, and are suffering for it. If they are going to rehire, they had better know that the new employees have not only the minimum required experience, but more. If people apply who are better qualified than I due to past work experience I don’t have, then why shouldn’t they be hired instead?

(2)   There are many other people who are in a much worse financial state than I am. As I stated at the beginning, one of my roommates has a full-time job at a place that really needs his skills (he works in maintenance at an apartment complex). Every time he says he hates his job, I remind him of those people, myself included, who don’t have one and can’t seem to get one. That usually puts things in perspective for him. In addition, I do have a savings account. It’s not much, but it’s better than nothing.

(3)   And, finally, the U.S. state I moved from two years ago is in much worse financial shape than the one I’m living in now. (No, I’m not telling.)

With the new semester underway, in which I am working on my thesis and preparing the study I will conduct to complete it, I need to remember the most important thing of all: why I moved to this town in the first place. I entered the graduate program, finished my coursework and will earn my Master’s degree when I complete my thesis. I did not come here to bewail the fact that I can’t get hired…yet. Many people seem to think that this crisis will soon end. Perhaps by the time I graduate, the Bureau will be more than happy to accept me into the Academy, and all will be as I hope after all.

In the meantime, my job search did yield one positive result: this website and others like it. Once upon a time, I wanted to be a full-time writer. Maybe, at least for now, that ambition of long ago is being realized at last.


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    • conundrum profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago

      Thank you, wannabwestern. Even temp positions haven't taken me, but I'm still trying. Good wishes are always encouraging.

      Thanks to EVERYONE for being so supportive and welcoming!

    • wannabwestern profile image

      Carolyn Augustine 

      9 years ago from Iowa

      You're not alone, Conundrum. My husband works in the museum field and is seeing people with PhDs applying for temp positions because the economy is so bad. But I am hopeful that things will turn around. I wish you well and am looking forward to your next hub!


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