My CompliKAITed Life: The bipolar nature of the post-grad job hunt

didnt-get-the-job

By Kaitlin Marie

The day after I posted my confused and dissatisfied musings about Wanderlust, I got invited to a whirlwind job interview. It was a case of unbelievably good timing: I applied that morning and they asked me to come in that afternoon.

The job was a marketing/media assistant position with a really awesome company in the town where I live. It offered EVERYTHING I was looking for and it was right on my doorstep. I felt like my entire Wanderlust conundrum had been answered! If I could land this job, I could start the career I was longing for AND turn my current apartment into the home I so desperately wanted. Ask and ye shall receive, Amirite?

Additionally, I had an INCREDIBLE interview and I fell in love with their company culture right off the bat. Everyone was so fun and laid back. They wore shorts and drank beer and threw beef jerky at each other during my interview. It seemed like the perfect fit for me, and as I left the building, they assured me that I was one of their top candidates and they would follow up with me soon…

But I never heard from them.

Two weeks after my interview, I painstakingly crafted a beautiful follow up letter, detailing how much I had enjoyed the interview and I how enthusiastic I was to take on the job. But still, nothing.

A MONTH after I had sent my follow up letter, I sent a shorter one. This one was mostly just inquiring whether the position had been filled or not. Finally, a week after I sent my last follow up letter into the vast expanse of the interwebz, I received a clipped, formulaic email about how the position had been filled but “thank you for your interest.”

I can’t even convey the depth of my despair. It was like my heart had been crushed in a vice.

I’d spent nearly two months scheming and dreaming about the kick-ass life I could be living with this job, how many opportunities it would afford me, and then the rug was ripped out from beneath me. I drove home and cried in my car.

A Glass Case of Emotion

I was torn between several different sentiments. It almost felt like going through a grieving process; I was mourning a lost opportunity.

My gut reaction was spite. Like any jealous ex girlfriend, I instantly wished that the person they hired instead of me totally sucked at the job and that they deeply regretted hiring them. This kind of logic immediately led to further, unlikelier, fantasies of the company calling me up and begging me to take the position because the person they hired is sooooo bad. Also, they needed someone with better fashion sense, so obviously they just had to come crawling to me on their hands and knees and plead with me to accept their job offer.

After my self indulgent imaginings had reached their ludicrous high point (which involved the guys that interviewed me weeping softly at my funeral while wishing they had hired me so I hadn’t been in the wrong place at the wrong time, resulting in my tragic death by car accident), my psyche naturally began to blame these guys, both for not rescuing me from imaginary-death-by-car and because their boys club probably didn’t want a girl around, crying and eating chocolate and menstruating everywhere.

drawn-and-quartered

The dude is me; the horses are my emotions

But in the end, my reeling emotions deposited me on the cold, hard ground of guilt.  Sure, everyone’s entitled to the occasional bitter day dream, but the spite had to stop. This company wasn’t setting out to hurt me. They simply chose the person they felt was the best fit for the position, and the fact that I was not the best hurt more because I wanted the job so badly.

And beneath all of the other feelings bubbling up inside of me, there was an overwhelming terror. Terror that, the longer I waited to find a new job, the more likely I was to get stuck. Terror that I would never be good enough for anything else. I don’t want to be a secretary for the rest of my life. This is not the career I spent four years in school for.

It’s petrifying to browse through the editing and marketing jobs on Craigslist and realize that you’re not qualified for them. Too many jobs want too much experience. How are you supposed to get that kind of experience no one gives you the opportunity to prove yourself and earn said experience?

An Employer’s Market

The day after my rejection, I had lunch with my dad and we rehashed the whole fiasco over cheeseburgers and side salads. He said something very wise and sagely as my dad often tends to do, after showing you the funny cat videos he’s posted on Facebook.

“Right now it’s an employer’s market, Kait,” he told me, and something clicked in my head.

pick-me

He was right. There are simply more job applicants than there are decently paying jobs right now, and employers know this. In fact, they’ve been using this as leverage to force the job-hunting masses to work ever-longer hours for dwindling wages. I can’t even count how many job postings I find almost offensive, due to the amount of work they’re asking for almost no money.

A lot of the jobs in my field (writing, marketing, SEO, content creation) in Chicago are offering $10 an hour for 40+ hours a week, which is insane.  After taxes, my take-home pay amounts to just over $10 an hour, and I can barely afford to live on my own in a small suburban town! I can’t imagine trying to live on that in an expensive metropolis like Chicago. WTF?

And then, of course, there are the internship opportunities. There are sooooo many internships right now. The employers are taking further advantage of the post-grad job seekers by offering professional-level jobs that pay with college credit or experience. What they don’t tell you is that while you’re toiling for your hard earned “experience”, your employers are high fiving each other for getting free work out of you. But don’t slack off just because you’re not getting paid! You need this internship’s recommendations and reference letters if you hope to ever find a real, paying job.

But lately you’d be more likely to stumble across a unicorn.

I’d even go so far as to liken it to a dog-owner who has run out of treats. They still want their dog to do a trick, so they use a piece of dog food. The dog knows the difference between its treats and its dog food; whether or not the dog rolls over is dependent on how hungry the dog is — and we job-hunters are pretty hungry these days.

Sorry to rant, but it’s very difficult not to be bitter about the state of the job market lately. And internships were awesome back when I was in college. In fact, I did several — both paid and unpaid. But number of actual, paying jobs for my field is overwhelmed by the multitude of credit-giving internships and small businesses looking for recent college grads to set up their social media presence free of charge.  And it’s just tear-your-hair-out frustrating.

The Ungrateful Child

All of my melodramatic ranting and raving eventually leads to more guilt. I feel like an asshole for whining because at least I have a job. And it’s not just a job — it’s a job with benefits that allows me to live on my own, rent an apartment, pay off my car loan, and buy the occasional (VERY occasional) cute shirt.

According to the statistics, I’m an outlier. I’m one of the lucky ones. I may not have my dream job or be saving for retirement, but I have my health and independence.

When I read the unemployment horror stories featured on Gawker, I’m apalled by how ungrateful I am. There are people struggling every day to make ends meet with food stamps and unemployment, while I sit in my cubicle and complain that I’m bored.

 Bipolar Tendencies and Tricks Without Treats

I find myself yo-yoing between the extremes:

  • I am incredibly grateful for my job
  • I abhor my job
  • I’m so fortunate to have what I have
  • I can’t even afford to buy a decent phone and I’m underpaid and I’m not saving anything and I hate it

I’ve been hovering between these poles for months now. It’s exhausting. And I think that a lot of the other post-grads out there are in the same shoes, struggling with the same tailspin of emotions.

Our basic needs are met, but we are unsatisfied.  We want the American Dream. That sparkly, perfect,  “red,white,&blue” future has been dangled over our heads since we were children, like some shiney toy on a mobile. All our lives we’ve been promised that if we just keep our nose to the grindstone, get the right grades, and go to college, that the bootstraps will be there for us to pull on.

But they’re not.

Instead of the treats we were promised, our employers are demanding we do tricks for dog food. And we just roll over and take it.

My CompliKAITed Life is a column by Kaitlin Marie running on Kate-book.com every other Wednesday at noon. You can read all about Kaitlin’s Zombie Apocalypse plans on her blog Zombies4breakfast.com. Oh, and follow her on Twitter here or on Pinterest here. She pins obsessively.

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8 thoughts on “My CompliKAITed Life: The bipolar nature of the post-grad job hunt

  1. Amy Jade says:

    Kaitlin – I always love reading your posts! This is something my friend and I were just talking about yesterday. If you asked me last week I would have told you I consider her to be my only highly successful friend. She was recruited out of college, given a sign on bonus, and started out making 60k. Oh, and she loved her job. Last week she was laid off. Damn, now who do I have as a most successful friend? Everyone else I know is looking for something better, looking for that dream and only seeing student loan bills knocking. This is a generational problem. The cost of education today and the reward aren’t adding up. This is what angers me about politicians who say hard work will always result in the American Dream.

  2. Michelle says:

    Having worked in Corporate America for 6 years now, it saddens me to say that “hard work” and qualifications ultimately matter significantly less than who you know and who you’re willing to step on to succeed.

  3. Kaitertot says:

    Amy! You’re always so awesome for commenting on my stuff! : ) I don’t have any friends as successful as your friend is, although I have a few that have JUST broken into their chosen fields.

    It’s just a messed up time to be our age. (Altho it’s a great time to be taking time off with an adorable baby named Milo, right?)

  4. Kj says:

    Ugh, I hear you! It’s not so much the pay (although it is the pay), but the lack of dignity in so many jobs. Employers know you need the jobs desperately, so they feel like they can treat you like crap. It sucks. Best of luck!

  5. Kate Torgovnick says:

    At the risk of sounding like a PSA, I want to give you assurance that it will get better! My first job out of college was writing spam email in an office where they counted bathroom breaks. (My mom called it the sweatshop for college grads.) There was one day when I just didn’t show up to work because I just couldn’t make myself go—instead, I watched the apartment building across the street burn to the ground. I was fired shortly thereafter … and the next day received one of my own spam emails.

    All it takes is one little break and it can change very quickly. So keep with the being thankful, treating yourself well when you feel the so-understandable anger, and keep hoping for that break. I feel so confident that you have what it takes.

  6. V Wirth says:

    I know the sentiments exactly – and I caught both whooping cough and a bad case of fleas from my well-paying, benefit-including, not-much-working-doing, but not-at-all-air-conditioned job. I yo-yo between looking at the men and women around me wondering how they support families on the same wage when I struggle from paycheck to paycheck, being in fear of daring to venture outwards because maybe one day I can too, and feeling like I aimed so low for myself and for my soul that I aught to be taking that ‘Stepping Stone’ idea serious and right-the-fuck now. Some American dream.

  7. Catherine says:

    You’re not alone, Kait! We’ve all been there, especially in publishing, where the dream job is *thisclose* and you want it and…so does everyone else. But I’m with Kate T: it does and will get better for you! Chin up, for real.

  8. [...] It’s hard to believe that this time last year I was hunting for jobs, and even posting about my failure to acquire said jobs, and here I am again. Still at square 1. Still secretary-ing my heart out in the daytime hours, and [...]

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