Adobe Flash Player is not installed. Please download and install it to listen to audio.
by Emma Jacobs
My job search began nearly four months ago. I’ve sent out dozens of cover letters and applications, mainly for jobs without pre-requisites. A history major like me doesn’t come with many specialized skills besides research. These days, it’s difficult to convince people to take a chance on an entry-level hire.
I’ve landed a handful of interviews, but still no job. There was one week when I got three rejections. It felt like I’d hit a brick wall. I’m scared of having nothing to do after working non-stop for 4 years. I’m not questioning my abilities, but I have been questioning my choices, knowing students with engineering degrees are still finding jobs. And many of the positions I am equipped to fill are disappearing.
Alex Kaz is another new graduate without a job. He majored in physics and has been applying for teaching jobs like Teach for America which usually hires recent graduates. Not this year:
“We had the one day interviews and that’s when everyone comes in.” Alex remembers. “A lot of people were former bankers, lawyers, attorneys etc. You could see that clearly this was not their first career choice. And many worked on Wall Street for x number of years, or worked at a law firm, marketing or whatever. And they were sitting amongst us in a program originally geared towards people leaving college and trying to get them to get into the classroom.”
Now Alex is feeling a bit lost. So am I. After all our hard work, it’s difficult to face the reality of a big blank space now that we’ve finally graduated. I’m not devastated, but I’m exhausted. Before graduation, my father kept asking if he should bring the car to take my things back to Boston. I wasn’t sure how to answer. If I found a job, I wouldn’t have to move home. So I just said, I don’t know. At least I can commiserate with my friend Avigail Oren about our job searches. We give each other pep talks. At this stage of the game, it’s all about shifting our expectations.
“I would hate to say that I would take any job,” Avigail says. “I’ve definitely had to rethink. I started out looking for jobs that paid 30 to 40 thousand dollars and now I’m looking definitely from 20 to 30 (thousand.) And I would say it’s been difficult hurry up and waiting. ‘Oh! We want to get you in for an interview right away! Right away!’ You hustle in. Two weeks later, you’re sending a follow up email saying: ‘Are you still alive? Hello?’”
I’ve been there. But sometimes when you’re lucky you get a reality check early. At one small nonprofit, the hiring manager told me up front that other applicants had master’s degrees and years of work experience. Avigail says she gets it:
“Ultimately I am a new entry into the job market, despite all my unpaid internship experience, despite all of my volunteer work and activities. I’ve never gone into an office at 9 o’clock and walked out at 5.”
And for us, it may be a while longer until the 9 to 5 job materializes. I finally decided to take another unpaid internship and stay in New York for as long as I can afford it. I’ll have to get temp jobs to pay the rent. But at least when my father asks about my plans, I can tell him not to bring the car.
Emma Jacobs graduated from Columbia University with a degree in History. She co-directs youth mic, a youth media program for teenagers.
For a related lesson plan, check out PBS Teachers.