I have found applying for jobs to be a soul-crushing yet somewhat addictive process. My first cycle of going through the job application process lasted for about a year and a half. It took me through three internships and left me feeling that my college degree was worth nothing and that my personal value was less than that.
After finally settling into my job as a contractor with the U.S. government, I quickly realized that work sucks. I hate work. I had always justified it to myself before as Oh, these are just internships. Real jobs will have something to do besides busy work. False. My main complaints at that office were the following:
1. I had nothing to do. I would say approximately 6 hours out of the 8-hour workday were completely for personal time. I caught up on my email, bought LOTS of stuff online, and knew everyone’s Facebook statuses by heart.
2. Who was my manager? Even when I got offered my new job (see below) and had to give my two weeks notice, I was like Who do I have to tell? (I ideally wanted to tell one person, pack up my office, and leave the same day). Since I was a contractor, I had my contract manager, I also had a team leader, and her boss who was the division leader, and THEN I had the people that actually passive aggressively interacted with me daily. They tended to favor one of two management approaches: a) I don’t want to teach you/wait for you so I’ll just do it myself. b) I don’t know how to do my job so can you do it, but if you screw up, I’ll blame you?
3. People were weird. I found out over a year after I started working there that one of my colleagues had kids. Don’t you want to talk about your kids? I still don’t know where most of my former colleagues are from and/or went to school. I hate networking but I just want to connect on a personal level. In college, I knew that my boss lived with her brother and had a friend with 20+ cats. At my old job, I only knew who the guy was that always had something stinky for lunch.
4. My salary was 50% more than I asked for. Most people would think this is heaven and tell me to stop bitching, but this is international development. You don’t go into this field to get rich, or at least, that’s some of the Kool-Aid I drank when I signed up. We’re allegedly “working” to alleviate hunger, disease, and other crises, but we have to maintain a lifestyle where we shop at Whole Foods and use pink lava salt on our food?
Dat ain’t right.
5. No travel. All of these flaws would be excused if you paid for me to travel somewhere.
There were some positives of the job though:
1. I had a lot of free time. I trained for a half marathon, a lot of which I did during work. One time, I ran 10 miles while on the clock and no one missed me. Several blog posts have also been written and posted entirely while I was at work.
2. Time off. I didn’t have a ridiculous amount of vacation, but in the year and a half I was there, I went to Peru, Puerto Rico, San Francisco, Oklahoma, Miami, Phoenix/Grand Canyon/Las Vegas, Reno/Denver, and Connecticut/Boston. Not too bad, yeah?
3. Living solo. A lot of the money I saved up while working there and living with (mostly) good roommates helped me afford living on my own (future blog post).
When I started, I really had no intention of leaving this job for at least two years. Searching for a new job sucks and it was a dream for me to work at this office. But even after only six months, I was ready to go. Once I realized that this position had no advancement potential, I slowly eased back into the job application process. For the record, I do hate applying for jobs, not because I’m bad at it, but because everyone on the receiving end of job applications is dumb. Seriously though, come on, HR people. Get your lives together.
I think that one of the main reasons it took a while for me to get a real job in DC last time was because I wasn’t physically in DC. No one wants to pay and wait for you to relocate. You’re not worth their time. I also didn’t have much experience in the field yet. Although my resume is impressive, there are thousands of people just like me here.
For this job search, I think my biggest drawback was my pay. At times, I was willing to take a pay cut just to get out of my position. But, $10,000 less? No, ma’am. So, my first job actually kind of stunted my career growth. I didn’t have the skills to move up, but my salary expectation was what some managers earn. To make a long story short, from November 2013 to August 2014, I applied for hundreds of jobs. I probably don’t even want to know how many. If I wasn’t applying for jobs, I felt guilty. No one was going to just come up and tell me I’m beautiful and say they love me and feed me. In the same way, no one was going to come up and offer me a job. I had to scrape my bitch ass through this backwards job search, one mediocre cover letter at a time.
And some people were interested in me. A lot of the organizations I applied to received money from the agency I used to work at, so hiring one of their former employees would be a big advantage. But finding a job with the salary I wanted was tough. I interviewed for 30 jobs. THUH.URR.TEE. Sometimes, they were phone interviews, sometimes in-person, sometimes on Skype.
This is how I looked when I interviewed in-person:
This is how I looked when I Skype interviewed:
And, because my past internships and jobs have taught me that when in doubt, make an Excel spreadsheet, I made one of all the jobs I interviewed for! (Click to make it bigger)
As you can see, some rejected me, some I rejected (or stopped the application process because they couldn’t meet my salary expectation), and all of those ones in white never got back to me. If you’re going to make someone interview for a job, you at least owe them an email saying they didn’t get the job. If you don’t send them an email, you are, what we call “an ASSHOLE” and I hope the same thing happens to you in the future.
The job search sucks also because:
The average number of people who apply for any given job: 118.
“You will have to invest energy in learning this process and remember that any frustrations encountered in the job search don’t relate to how valuable you can be on the job.” -Alan Carniol
This means that your viability as an employee does not necessarily indicate whether or not you will get a job. Applying for jobs is a skill in itself, and guess what, they don’t teach that at our overpriced higher learning institutes. I quickly realized that applications were all about quantity, not quality. Why spend hours perfecting your cover letter or tailoring your resume to a certain organization when they are just going to hire internally or their resume filtering system will rule you out because you didn’t mention one of their buzzwords.
Which brings me to the grand finale. I applied for the job I currently have in July. I interviewed by phone at the end of the month. A few weeks later, I was offered an in-person interview and a subsequent phone interview with a manager at an office in Connecticut. While I was still in the interview process there, I heard back from a different organization. The position there offered a much higher salary and seemed like interesting work that I was qualified for. So, I was interviewing for two potential jobs simultaneously. The first place, following all of the proper etiquette, offered me the job and a decent salary. I really liked the staff when I interviewed there, and it seemed like a welcoming environment. Without committing completely, I filled out the hiring paperwork and gave them a start date for a few weeks later. The day after the first job offer, I had a second round interview for the second job. I really wanted that salary. I thought the interview went well, and I told them about my first job offer. I said I preferred the job with their organization and asked them to give me an answer by the beginning of the next week.
Waiting, waiting, waiting…
They finally replied that they were hiring someone internally. Bummer, but at least, I didn’t have to Sophie’s choose between two jobs. So, I committed to the first position, finished my last days at my government contractor job, and booked a last minute ticket to Sri Lanka (a reward to myself for being done with that job). While on the beach in Sri Sri, I get an email from HR Lady at the second job asking me to call her. Why would she want to talk to me? Wasn’t rejection enough? Always curious, I asked if we could correspond by email. She responded that the internal candidate they offered the job to (a week and a half earlier) had turned down the offer. They were interested in maybe potentially hiring me. Are you fucking kidding me? It was the Friday before I was supposed to start my new job and you MIGHT offer me a job eventually? It stressed me out, especially the salary part, but I had to turn the job down. It was a half-assed offer too late and I had made my mind up that the first organization would be my next job. I declined the position in a very professionally way, I thought. HR Lady responded:
“Dear Peter, It’s never too late.”
Yeah, I made the right choice. I want a job not an inspirational quote, thanks.
I’ve been at my current job for just over two months now. It’s a non-profit, so it’s a completely different style of work for me. Sometimes it’s hectic, sometimes people are still passive aggressive, and sometimes people are just dumb. But, I like it. I really do. And life is so much better when you don’t hate the 40 hours of your week you spend at your mindless job and the infinity hours you spend outside of that stressing over how much you hate it.
In conclusion, I just want to say…
(takes a breath)
It’s never too late.