Text by Francesca Taylor
Disclaimer: “The Job Hunt” is a work of non-fiction. While I’m sharing my true story, I am in not qualified to endorse how anyone else chooses to live. Please do not confuse this work of non-fiction with professional advice. Although the author and publisher have made every effort to ensure that the information in this article was correct at press time, the author and publisher do not assume and hereby disclaim any liability to any party.
There was a time in the United States that a regular 40-hour work week was Monday through Friday, from about 8 or 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Today, full-time job schedules include any of the 7 days of the week and a plethora of variable hours. The job HUNT; however, is 24/7/365 until you land a job and, in some cases, it seems like it will never end.
In my opinion, looking for a job as opposed to a career is as different as night and day. I have a college degree and specialized training. I am, as far as employers are concerned, a “professional.” Strangely, that seems to work against me more than for me. Some recruiters with stern dispositions and inquisitive acquaintances even scold me and say “What is the problem? Why can’t you find a job since you have that fancy degree? You MUST be doing something wrong!”
If you don’t believe those words hurt, then think again. My degree doesn’t have feelings, but I do. I’ve learned that piece of fancy parchment paper glued on a mortarboard will burn just like any other piece of paper. To say that I have a degree is just space to fill on my resume, and I broke my back working to earn it.
It All Adds Up
In the last year, I’ve logged literally hundreds of hours attending job fairs, career symposiums, and employment counseling sessions. That time easily doubles when you count the hours I spend perched in front of a computer screen, pouring over one employment website after another. I’ve heard and read so many experts (“this is what I did to get my job, and you can, too!”) that I can’t figure out how to apply all of their tips at the same time. It’s a marathon at best, and I rarely make time to sleep and/or eat out of fear that I’m either missing an opportunity or submitting my application one day too late.
I don’t wake up in the morning (or at 2 a.m.), slide on my fuzzy slippers, whistle a tune and sprinkle the fairy dust around my bedroom. This is hard, like the night before a big exam hard, and many times it can be brutal. The punch in the stomach is even worse when some hiring manager or interviewer that is half of my age looks me in the face and reveals the salary is .25 cents over minimum wage, then smiles like I should be glad just to have the opportunity. In my head, I start a tally: rent, insurance, utilities, the car payment, toiletries, gas for the car, healthcare, oh yeah, and food. When the final figure is in the red, it means one thing: get a second job. Maybe a third.
I can’t afford to take a job at this stage in my life. I need a career.
That puts me in a difficult spot when it comes to job offers. I have to ask for certain things, and employers know that they don’t have to give them as long as someone else is willing not to ask for them. I count two or three rejections per day, and my personal viewpoint is that it’s because I am too old. Yes, I’ll admit, I’m tempted to push my vital stats 10 years younger to just get my foot into the door. But I know this is lying, and will eventually be found out.
What's Going Wrong?
I look at the calendar and ask myself, how much time do I have? Did I do something wrong? Why didn’t I declare this major or that one? Will I end up on the streets like my late brother? Will I get evicted? Lose my car? And the big question: “Am I being punished?”
I don’t know where to go, what to do, or if I will actually make something of my life. Oh, I had such wonderful plans and sweet dreams when I was in college. I could envision the big picture, 10 or 20 years after graduation! Based on my major, a few fellow students would harass and bully me (yes, even in college), usually asking something like: “what do you think you’re going to be, the next Oprah or something?” I always replied, “No, I’m not trying to be the next Oprah; she’s already doing a fabulous job at that. But, I would like to be the first Francesca Taylor.”
So now, when I look at the past, I see those unfilled dreams. I don't really dream about the future because the present — call it Reality — is most important today.
It’s getting harder to know what “The First Francesca Taylor” represents. I will do the same thing today that I did yesterday and all the days before: plant myself — bone weary, hungry, and in pain — at a computer. I’ll fill out application after application, attach my resume and a cover letter, and hit [SEND]. I’m not the first or the last, the most qualified or the least. I may be number 289 or 764 in the pool of applicants. It’s exhausting to be a number, ambiguous and anonymous. But I know I’m doing the best I can while I can.
Let's Go to War
Some days, though, it feels like my time would be better spent at the most congested intersection in downtown Dallas with a big sign that reads, “Please help! College grad, experienced worker. Needs a job NOW!!” I wonder if someone with an iPhone would put a video on YouTube? Would it go viral? Could an employer see it and have mercy on me? Maybe that’s the answer. Maybe it’s time for me to grab a poster board and a fat marker and declare war.
Who do you think the first casualty would be? Me or Unemployment?
In 1918, Senator Hiram Johnson warned that “The first casualty when war comes is Truth.” I can’t help but wonder if that’s the case for me, as well: that in my battle with poverty I have begun to lose myself; the truth of who I am, why I matter, and what I am capable of doing.
But I do know one thing: I will fight.