“How goes the job search?”
“Have you heard back from your interview?
“Do you have any leads?”
“Have you looked into other fields?”
“Hey, at least you have a job.”
“I’m sure you’ll find something. You’re meant for great things!”
These are a few questions that, while innocent enough, are really starting to get on my nerves. I hear them a lot, from well-meaning individuals that have nothing but my best interests at heart. But I find myself answering them often enough that it’s really getting annoying. So I would like to take the opportunity today to answer some of them, as well as talk about why they grate on me.
Yes, this is going to be a rant. I’ll trust you’re competent enough to find your own grain of salt.
“How goes the job search?” It goes poorly, if at all, as evidenced by the fact that I’m still working retail and having to get up at 4am most days (3h15 on Saturdays!). One can only see so many “Entry level internship, 3-5 years’ experience required” postings before it becomes better for one’s mental health to just stop looking. One can only take so many rejections (whether overt or the Silence of Doom) before it’s not worth it. And life happens: bills need to be paid, and spoons must be recovered. I’m sure I could spend every waking hour I’m not at work or sleeping looking for a job, but then what kind of life would I have?
“Have you heard back from your interview?” Probably not. Or if I have, it wasn’t good news, and I’d rather not brood on it any more. Believe me: if there was good news, I would be shouting it from the mountaintops for all to hear. Well, maybe not the mountaintops; those are pretty far away. But I would be sharing the good news as widely as possible. If I haven’t heard back when I get asked that question, it just underscores the fact, and I start to worry a bit that maybe my application has once again succumbed to the Silence of Doom (you know, the one where they never call or even email you back, letting things linger in limbo until enough months have passed that it’s obvious you’re not getting the job).
“Do you have any leads?” See the first question: probably not. And if I did, I probably wouldn’t talk about them, since I’ve learned (the hard way) to not get too attached to applications. To do so tends to result in pain and suffering. If I talk about a lead, it just opens me up to these other questions.
“Have you looked in other fields?” Probably. Case in point: I’ve got a Bachelor’s in French and a Master’s in Architecture, and I’m working retail. That’s not exactly my chosen field. Besides, I’d like to at least get some use out of a degree I went $38,000 into debt for.
“Hey, at least you have a job.” I know this isn’t a question (and neither is the next one), but it still comes up often enough. Yes, I have a job, which is more than some of my friends can say. But “having a job” only goes so far, especially when it is still a struggle to pay the bills, when it leaves you too tired and drained to do anything you find fun, when it cuts in to the time you can spend with the people you love. So yeah, thanks for telling me to be thankful for something that’s degrading my quality of life.
“I’m sure you’ll find something. You’re meant for great things!” Yeah, me and everyone else in my generation. Maybe it’s my latent perfectionism, but hearing this just makes me feel guilty for “not living up to my potential” or “doing great things with my life,” whatever that may entail. Not all of us can be protagonists; someone has to be the NPC.
So that was ranty. Please don’t take things too personally. But I’m tired, hungry, and under-employed. And yes, these questions are usually well-meaning, but I’m trying very hard to avoid Funks, and the littlest thing can sometimes set me off. With the amount of sleep I’ve been able to get lately, my mood can be a precarious thing. And since I’m too polite to get annoyed in person, I’ve written this FAQ. I guess what I’m trying to say is:
Thank you for your concern. No news is no news. If I have good news, I will be sure to share it.
First of all, I’m sorry for being one of those people asking those questions. I get horrendously annoyed by similar questions too, and I’m realizing just how easy it is to be a pest when you’re well-intentioned. I know everyone is just curious and wants to know if everything is okay, but really, situations usually don’t change that quickly. “My job is just as blah as it was a week ago, Mom.” “No, my job still has nothing to do with [subject here], Grandpa.”
I think what’s smallest comfort to anyone is “At least you have a job.” That phrase really is one of the most thinly-veiled guilt trip ploys possible; we’re told constantly we should find a job we love and not settle for less, but for most of us, the job we’d love is out of reach, or we don’t even know what that job is. In the meantime, we find ourselves in jobs that drain us of our passion and drive, and we’re supposed to be thankful, no matter what that job is. Mixed messages, much?
Don’t sweat it, man; I’m just as guilty of asking questions like this myself. I think it’s a result of being genuinely concerned for your friends’ well-being.
I think you hit the nail on head in terms of the guilt trip associated with “at least you have a job,” as well as the inherent double standard. The reality is, there just isn’t much out there for people of our generation. Old methods don’t work, but we’re still taught to rely on them by (again) people with nothing but the best of intentions. So buck up: we’re all in this together. At least you can go stab your friends tonight.
My dear, sweet son, thanks for sharing (ok…ranting), which is therapeutic in itself. Do I get a few points for not calling you every week and asking those annoying questions? I admit that sometimes I do ask, but I’m really sensitive to these topics because I’ve been where you are… heck, I’m still there, and I KNOW that job hunting in this dismal economy is beyond frustrating and disheartening, especially for smart, hard-working, multi-talented people. .When I connect with you, I try to ask you about the good aspects of your life: Beth, SCA fighting, fencing, etc. I may be 4000+ miles away (for now) but I’m here whenever you need to talk or commiserate on the challenges of finding appropriate, passionate, prosperous employment. I love you!!
PS: I’m moving back to the USA in about 2 weeks… so it’s back to full-time job hunting for me. UGH! Maybe Costco will hire a 51 year old woman with a doctorate degree?? Larry will join me in the Tri-Cities area of Eastern Washington around the first of the year. I’ll send you a real email soon.
I’ve found that the head-hunting organizations have really helped me. They’ve been able to highlight experiences and skills that I assumed were typical, or mundane, and leverage those to my advantage. I’ve also been able to get my foot in the door to most places that ordinarily wouldn’t have considered me. There are these types of organizations for almost every career path. I cannot recommend a specific one, but they can be useful. FWIW.