Born in 1991, Emily has spent has the majority of her life developing her sense of self. Although a taurus, she puts up with no bull. Emily enjoys short walks on the beach and long neurotic conversations. For the past three years Emily has displayed her wit, style, and opinions on her blog, thehappening.co. Emily graduated Hampshire College in 2013 and is currently annoying her literary contacts for a job in the publishing industry.
I never lie here on The Happening, however, there are certain aspects of my life that I simply omit from my postings. I don’t do it to be dishonest but I can’t imagine wanting to read these sorts of thoughts if someone else were to write them. That stops now, or at least momentarily. It should be no surprise to anyone that after four fabulous years at Hampshire College, I graduated in May. I spent those semesters studying something that I loved; the politics of popular culture. Pretty neat, right? It might not be as “practical” as engineering or dietetics, but it was something that I felt I could really fall in love with, and I did. How amazing is it to feel completely invested in your education? As someone who lived it, let me tell you that it’s pretty awesome and beats something that you think you should study because evidently most of us end up in the same boat. After graduation I took a little while to decompress, enjoy time at home, and do special things with my friends and family. July is when I really started trying to find a job, thinking that I would be somewhere just after Labor Day. I set this as a goal for myself because not only did it seem like a reasonable amount of time for a special and qualified someone such as myself, but it is also common knowledge that people in publishing adore their summers, or just can’t get shit done for three months. To be a little less euphemistic about it. Mind you this didn’t entail casual looking and emailing people who I thought were relevant to my search, but rather the real “I’m-not-getting-out-of-this-chair-until-I-find-a-job” looking. As my parents would say, I ramped it up. I started keeping lists that were even more anal retentive than their antiquated predecessors, listing things as asinine as email correspondence. There were dates, times, multicolored inks. I even went so far as to make flow charts of how my connections were connected, including a few important facts about what they do and any other relevant information (i.e. “she’s a real go-getter! she’ll be running the department in 10 years!”). I expanded my network, contacting my “b” team or simply becoming more relaxed in defining who my “a” team was. I spent countless hours scouring various job posting sites, sometimes just to change the verbiage of the same job (i.e. editorial assistant, editor’s assistant, assistant editor, assistant editorial asshole), sometimes to change the job field entirely. Since then, I’ve only continued to ratchet it up. I now have a “you can do it!” playlist that isn’t entirely dissimilar to the mix that I use at the gym, all so that I can eek out just a little more work before declaring that I need a snack and a nap, just like a big girl, or a kindergartener.
At this point, I’ve been working at such high octane and I don’t even have a job! When I tell my mom that I’m burning out she understands and then we have a good laugh at what will happen when someone actually hires me and I’m working. How tired will I be then? But this is my reality, scratch that, it’s most kids’ realities. I remember the last day of my div iii seminar when my teacher asked each student what their post-Hampshire plans were and we all seemed a little hopeful, as most college grads do. We were realistic. How could we not be? But we weren’t thinking that we’d be nearly six months out of school and unemployed. We’re nearing November and I’ve stretched so far beyond my comfort zone that I’ve started feeling like Stretch Armstrong: this ridiculously creepy toy that my brother used to have. Just like my mom, I don’t care much for things that are obvious, and do you know what is obvious? Companies postings jobs because they’re legally obligated to or stringing potential candidates along, all the while knowing that they’re hiring the receptionist or the senior publicist’s idiot nephew. What these companies do is really reprehensible. They keep databases of hopeful applicants, like a glorified little black book. What are we? Just notches on the proverbial belt? This is a game that we’re all forced to play and is one that I would be more fine with if it weren’t stacked against me to begin. And I’m not making this up, nor do I buy into most conspiracy theories. Though the idea that the moon landing was cheaply filmed on a Hollywood set is a fairly convincing one. That aside, it does seem like we applicants are stuck in some unfortunate dream sequence, unable to wake up or perhaps we’re any of Dante’s characters, working through numerous unsavory levels of Hell only to find that purgatory is the anticlimactic prize at the end of the game. At this juncture I’ve had meetings on top of meetings with people who say that they’ll put in a good word for me and who knows? Maybe they do, maybe they don’t. They further what feels like a goose chase and have left me wondering. I often question the usefulness of meeting with people who ultimately do not have any decision-making capabilities or at the very least, the ability to influence the decision makers. Sure they’re fine people and now I have a much greater appreciation for coffee and accessible public restrooms. Apparently meeting people is a good thing and I continue to do so because positive things arise from networking, so I’ve heard. But I don’t want more friends. I don’t need someone else to chat books with or someone to listen to how amazing I am or someone to give me insight. Why yes, thank you for telling me to apply to one of the largest publishing houses ever, that’s fantastic advice and I will do that right away! Are you kidding me? Do you know what I’ve heard and done just to “play this game”? And I’m not even athletic! Now I understand my classmates who went for more schooling to “further” their education when it was impossibly clear that they were just avoiding the workforce like a Manhattan theater ridden with bedbugs. And who knows, some of them may actually become doctors some day. If that isn’t a scary thought…
Every so often my parents and I reconvene to strategize, but at this point I’m at a loss. I’ve networked, applied blindly, had more coffee dates than I care to admit, sent out more emails than storage will allow, and nudged people to the point of possibly ruining some friendships and still, radio silence. Just the other day I sat down with my mom and assured her that I don’t think it’s me that’s the problem and I truly believe that. I know how hard I worked in school, how much garbage I took* during my internships, and that I’m a good person, but hiring is just that screwed up. Of course people will regurgitate what they’ve heard on the news or at cocktail parties, saying that everything has fallen apart because of Obamacare, but the truth is that things are just really messed up all around. This time has been extremely trying, there’s no denying that. It’s been emotional and no scapegoat will make it any easier. I’m tired of hearing that it’s the government’s fault or that it’s HR’s fault because it just sucks. Sometimes, when I’ve really had enough, I tell my family that I’m done learning and growing, I just want a job! And this is true. I’m tired of feeling like I’m compromising who I am and what I want just so that someone will hire me. As someone who tries to learn from every experience, this is not something easy to feel or admit. At a recent lunch with my mom, we discussed the idea of what advice I would give to people approaching graduation and the only thing I could manage is this, get ready as best you can for a lot of strife, frustration, and disappointment because even if you’re as prepared, qualified, and connected as I am, you can still end up nearly six months out of school without a job, spending brief moments trying to figure out what the hell is going on. There have been moments where I’ve felt like I’m crawling out of my skin, unable to verbalize my thoughts or even know what they are, and questioning what the point of all of this is. And I know I’m not alone. Friends have confided in me regarding their issues, while others simply don’t have them or are just too embarrassed to admit that they feel the same way. We’re a generation that takes a lot of garbage, getting blamed left and right for our current status and this just isn’t fair. Of course some kids may be turned off by the idea of moving out of their parent’s homes, there are also people who listen to new wave, smoke, or believe that the South should secede and form a new country, but they’re not representative of the entire movement. What I know to be unequivocally true is that I want a job, no one will hire me, and there’s something grossly wrong with that.
Because I have no idea how this will end, I think I’ll leave you with something my brother told me after I got my latest helping of discouraging news, “it’s just another thing. Don’t be discouraged because ultimately what’s important is how you handle it.”
*One of my bosses actually required that I take out that garbage and this included emptying numerous coffee cups filled with stale liquid and dried cigarettes.