Get a job.
That’s the next step in growing up, right? Go to school, get a job. It’s almost a promise isn’t it? If you go to school, you will get a job, society says. Lies.
I’m kidding of course. Going to school is a very good way to get a job. Most of the people I know who are relatively successful and well paid went to school. So I went to college and a good one at that. But those who know me know I like to make things harder for myself so instead of the coveted STEM majors I chose the dreaded liberal arts and submitted myself to the alter of all the starving artists who had come before me.
By the time I graduated from college I had heard and seen enough to know that the job market was a very scary place that ate liberal arts majors for breakfast. “I can prepare myself for that,” I thought – and that was true. I started to think about what I wanted my life to look like after college. I knew I didn’t want to stick around the DC area for much longer as I had lived there my whole life. So when an opportunity to move to NYC opened up right after I graduated, I took it, thinking if anything New York was big enough that I could at least get a receptionist job. I put on my adventurer hat and moved September of 2014, ready and willing to fight for a place in such an iconic city.
I want to stress that I knew what I was getting into. Moving to a new place and job searching are difficult things to do on their own and I was doing both at the same time. Navigating a new city, away from my home right out of college is not for the faint hearted. But I also felt like I had a lot going for me. My resume was professional and my cover letters were relatively sharp. I had internships during college, great admin skills, a bachelor’s degree, and the cutest smile the east coast has ever seen. By the end of the year, I thought, that’s when I’ll have something. Of course, that didn’t happen.
The thing about job searching is that, it’s not the rejections that kill you. I want to be rejected. But the way that job searching works now is that we only hear from employers if they are interested in meeting with you. Other than that, radio silence. Sometimes we aren’t even notified if our applications are even received. And after weeks and then months of sending in applications that I worked really, really hard on, for jobs that I had naively gotten attached too was heartbreaking. I would see jobs I wanted to apply for that would then disappear the next day when I was ready to send in my paperwork. Eventually I stopped caring about the type of job I wanted and just applied for anything, as I was quickly running out of financial support. It got to the point where I would dread applying because I knew nothing would come of it.
For a little while there, I felt helpless and stupid and like a complete failure. It was a vicious cycle that combined an odd mixture of self-hatred and righteous martyrdom. In these few months, I slept maybe six hours a night and slugged my way through the day. I didn’t feel like I had a purpose and I would lie awake at night wondering how I was going to get through the next day.
But every time I felt too low to do anything, I thought about how much I wanted to be here, in New York, and how much I wanted to move and to try something new and to live a life that was different than the one I had lived before. And I was doing that, despite not having a job or a plan beyond getting a job. I moved somewhere by myself and I was going to make it work or die trying (hyperbole mom, don’t worry). I wanted this and if I was going to let this defeat me than frankly I didn’t deserve to have this opportunity in the first place.
So I changed the way I search for jobs and how I wrote my cover letters. I took sometime for myself, despite feeling guilty about occasionally spending money. And I really came to accept that if for some reason living and working in NYC didn’t work out and I would have to come home, then that wouldn’t be terrible and I wouldn’t be a failure because of it. I would be a person who tried something new and a better person for it.
And eventually I did get an offer, as so many people told me I would. I felt validated, I felt wanted. But more than anything, it was good to know I wasn’t crazy. “I can do this,” I finally thought.
Of course, I turned down that job in favor of an unpaid internship I was more interested in. You would think after all those months of hardship, I would’ve learned to take what’s handed to me. Unfortunately, I’ve never been very good at that either.