I have been unemployed for nine months. I have written well over a hundred cover letters. I have a dozen iterations of my resume to showcase my different skill sets. I haven’t written in my blog because I have had to write so many writing samples in the past month that I want to vomit on everything. I have had a company use my application writing sample and not hire me, which makes me want to punch a wall down.
No, not punch through a wall. Punch a wall down. As in punch it repeatedly until my fist goes through it so many times that it obliterates the structural integrity of a wall that previous to my punching was up to code as determined by the state of California. I am under no illusions of my own ability to put my fist through a wall even once. Only illusions of endurance. So I have taken into account that every punched through hole would require me to punch that same spot with all the strength I can muster multiple times.
I have had companies interview me multiple times and then tell me they were in the middle of a hiring freeze. I’ve had a company tell me they can’t afford me while I was waiting to hear back from an unpaid internship. I’ve done phone interviews, skype interviews, multiple competency tests, countless writing samples and the short list is the list of companies that took the time to tell me they weren’t hiring me.
I have applied to every community manager/communications coordinator/social media strategist position in Los Angeles. I have applied to every linguist position in the United States. I have applied to everything from data scientist to Wedding. Planner. Assistant. …Intern.
When I was still fresh-faced and hopeful I had these fantasies about how I was going to be a community manager for some start-up and work with a close knit team to make a difference in the world. Now I just wish I could get through a week with out having to hear some idiot remark about my unemployment from a friend or family member. Because from what my loved ones have said to me in the past six months, I have gathered that they have no idea what long-term unemployment looks like.
The people in my life like to recommend all sorts of things I can do to improve my chances of getting a job. On the face of it there is nothing wrong with that. It’s very nice and I’m a huge jerk for complaining. But you can only hear, “Have you tried applying for jobs?!” in various iterations so many times before you want to rip someone’s throat out. Here are some things that I could go my whole life without ever hearing again:
Have you tried applying to a wider range of jobs?
Yes, yes I have. I apply to everything I’m qualified for so that in the next breath you can tell me about how I’m not getting hired because I’m not passionate enough about the positions I’m applying for. You’re a fucking fountain of wisdom.
If not an inane way to suggest that I apply to jobs that are below my level of skill or education (which I regularly do), this is a veiled way for people to suggest that I change career aspirations. My father will be convinced forever that I have made nothing but bad decisions because I didn’t go to nursing school. They’re ALWAYS hiring nurses!!!
Yes, I get it! I should have been a nurse or a computer programmer. I understand that those are the only jobs I would be able to get. Jobs that are so desperately needed that a company would stoop so low as to hire me. I understand that what you are telling me is that I should pursue markets that have a shortage of workers. Thank you.
“Have you tried making yourself a more desirable candidate or acquiring more skills?”
This one’s great because it implies that I’m not already doing that or that I’m not doing a good enough job of it. I spend straight half of my day, five days a week, reading books and watching educational videos that have to do with job skill acquisition. I have a fucking masters degree. But you’re right. There’s always more to learn so you can just say this into perpetuity and then pat yourself on the back. You’re right every time.
It also throws in my face, the fact about unemployment that every unemployed person is keenly aware of like an exposed nerve. That fact is that I’m unemployed because I’m not needed for anything. I am not talented enough at anything to be needed by anyone and I need to improve. Yes, thank you for bringing that up. The thought of improving myself had occurred to me.
I don’t roll around on my bed all day screaming about how all the companies in Los Angeles don’t know what they’re missing out on because I am fabulous. I’m not unemployed because my self-esteem is just too high.
“I wish I had all that free time.”
Yes, long-term unemployment is like giggle time. This one comes with a side of “you should make art.” I get it. When you’re employed you don’t have as much time as you’d like for other things so you think without a job I could get so much done. But what you didn’t think about is that without a job I have no resources that I can put towards getting anything done and applying to jobs like I do takes a lot of time.
I don’t have free-time. I have time to write cover letters that won’t be read all day. I get to write 10 page samples for jobs I’ll never hear back from. I’m on khan academy learning new things that no one will ever ask me about because I’m not getting any interviews this month. I actually need more time to put on a dog and pony show at networking events because I hear there’s someone you can blow for a gig and I need to find that person.
“You don’t want a job.”
No, of course I don’t want a job. I want to be independently wealthy and use my time and resources in a way that helps people AND I get a lot of credit for that help so I can perpetually feel like hero who lives in a gold plated bungalow. But since that’s not an option, yes, I want a fucking job.
I love when someone tells me about their job to illustrate why I don’t want a job. It’s like the shittiest humble brag ever. This will never be an acceptable response because a) I’ve had shitty soul-crushing jobs before so you’re not providing me with new information and b) you’re framing the argument like there’s no compensation for your soul-crushing job. As though people have jobs for no reason.
This is what you sound like to me:
You don’t want a job. Then you’ll be financially independent and have the security and self-respect that comes with that. When you have a job there’s a greater chance that you could go to a doctor when you get sick. Having a job means you get a greater amount of control over your life and decisions. You get to help other people and not be burden when you have a job. Having a job means you have a positive impact on the world. Having a job enriches you as a person. Jobs challenge you in ways that you do not challenge yourself. You don’t want any of that because one of my coworkers has political beliefs that are different than my own.
“You should make your own job!”
The second unspoken part of this phrase is, “And other bumper stickers I saw at Burning Man!”
This piece of advice I’ve been following trying to make a freelance writer out of myself but I don’t want to hear it. I especially don’t want to hear it coming out of the mouth of someone with a secure job working for someone else. I sure as hell don’t want to hear it rephrased as “manifest your own destiny.”
Being unemployed is an excruciatingly painful position to be in. I work hard. I pursue about five jobs a day, every day. I research every company I apply to. I write a new cover letter or pitch to every single one. I tailor my resume. I try to find someone I know that can recommend me to the hiring manager. I research gaps in my skillsets and learn those skills with the resources available online. I do this all day, everyday and I don’t get any recognition or compensation. If someone contacts me, it’s to tell me no.
It is a constant nagging obligation that is eroding self-esteem I thought was already destroyed. I feel like the only honest answer to, “How’s the job search going?” is a primal scream. As well-intentioned as all the advice my friends and family give me the only good advice is, “I know a guy who’s hiring. I’ll send him your resume.”