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The Four P's of Job Searching

Updated on January 31, 2016

If you follow me on social media, you know that I’ve been searching for employment for quite some time now. I have a Master’s degree in social work and years of experience, just very little work experience. It’s been more than six months now, but I haven’t given up hope. I just had a job interview this morning and I have two more scheduled on Monday.

There is a lot out there in terms of tips, advice, and suggestions for the unfortunate unemployed. I tend to think that most of it is bupkes. It shouldn’t matter what you post on social media, so long as you’re not openly bigoted or on drugs. (Although it is nice to have a designated “professional” account; I have one on Twitter.) Being assertive and confident are fine, if you’re white, cis, straight, able-bodied, and male. So the best tips I can offer are the four p’s I just came up with.

I am a neurotic person who’s faced a lot of backlash for trying to be myself. My anxiety tries to get the best of me, but I won’t let it. There’s no need to think catastrophically if you can help it, and trust me, having OCD makes my mind produce the most awful scenarios imaginable. But trust me, you’re not going to be homeless. You’re not going to have to settle for something you hate. Having a degree doesn’t mean as much as having experience, which is hard to get if no one will give you a chance. But relax. Your ship will come in. Please try to stay positive, keep a stiff upper lip when rejected, and tell yourself that this won’t last forever. That job will come.

Put on that game face, soldier! No, but really: despite how dispiriting multiple rejections can be, don’t let it eat at you. Take it all in stride. See interviews that didn’t result in placements as gaining acumen on what people are looking for. Or, in the case of group interviews like that which I had recently, size up the competition and exercise your ability to stand out.

Some people might wave their arms in the air and tell you, “Stop, stop! No one talks about money during the first job interview!” I disagree. Remember what I said about not settling? This is where that comes into play. I have actually turned down interviews over having to relocate to a job that wouldn’t pay me sufficiently to do so. I am a skilled professional, and I will not accept anything below what is standard to others in the field. Do your research. For example, I found that the majority of social work jobs pay between thirty-thousand and forty-thousand a year. When asked about salary in interviews, I’ve indicated that that range is acceptable to me, and not a penny lower. They are impressed not only by my knowledge of the field but my hard bargaining. I just lay it out straight and clear: if you are going to make me move for this, then I’ll need enough dough to cover rent, gas, and student loan payments. Don’t let yourself accept what you feel is less than what you’re qualified for.

Position and Privilege. Allow me to delve into this topic with my usual social justice/intersectional feminist mindset for a minute. This is a big one, and it could actually negate all your experience and education. Consider this: I’m white, middle class, and highly educated. So what could be possibly keeping me from a job? Three things: my weight, my gender, and my brain. I am perceived to be a woman, and fat women face higher rates of unemployment because of implicit fatphobia in society. With a few clicks of a mouse, you can find my social media accounts, upon all of which I am openly trans. Compared to binary trans people (men or women), non-binary trans people face even higher rates of unemployment. And mental illness? Most people hide the fact they’re going through it. The general public still judges us as being crazy or dangerous.

When looking for work, keep in mind your diversity. Are you a person of color? Are you disabled (especially visibly)? Are you old? Are you MOGAI (MarginalisedOrientations, Gender Alignments and Intersex., i.e. asexual, pansexual, or non-binary)? Are you autistic?

We’d like to think we live in a world where outward appearances or other characteristics of our humanity wouldn’t affect our employment prospects, but they do. Our privileges put us ahead of others and our positions may leave us at a disadvantage. As goes intersectionality, these things have a tendency to compound on one another--meaning, if you’re trans, black, and in a wheelchair, you have three things going against you.

I’m not one to leave things off on a sour note, so I’ll just say, good luck. More often it’s the economy, not you. Just put your best foot forward, know your stuff, and sound like you want the job. And as life usually goes, good things usually happen when you least expect it.

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