I graduated from a top-20 university in May. I was in the honors program, I wrote for the school newspaper and I had several prestigious internships. Guess what? All that stuff means jack shit after you’ve got your diploma. I’ve been on the job hunt for the better part of four months now, and some times it feels like I’m not closer to finding (legitimate) employment than I was the day after graduation when I was packing up my dorm room and recovering from a titanic hangover. What I have learned is the job hunt sucks in so many ways:
1. You’re constantly reminded that you’re really not that awesome
I went to a mid-sized university. I wasn’t the smartest or most talented student by any means, but I made the most of my time there. It helped that many of my peers were looking to enter financial jobs, so there was a lot less competition to stand out as a writer. But when you start competing with other kids your age who have the same interests and passions as you, you realize pretty fast your shit stinks just as bad as the next guy. I’m not saying I’m not talented — far from it — but hunting for a job is a big wakeup call that you’re not the special ray of sunshine you’ve always thought you were.
2. Networking can be the worst (sometimes)
Hunting for a job is really all about whom you know. Sometimes, a family friend or former classmate might be able to get your resume in to an awesome company and you land a job. But more often than not, it isn’t that easy. For the field I want to enter, informational interviews are a strong way to make connections. You are hopeful for the first few people you talk to. You think they could be your big break into the world of employment, scoffing at the notion that getting a job is difficult. Spoiler alert: It’s not that easy. The relentless ass kissing gets old after a while, and it’s pretty easy to get jaded about the whole process. That being said, I’ve met a lot of great people networking and it’s a great way to meet with people who share the same interests as you and whom you could be doing business with in the future. Just don’t expect every single one to offer you a job on a silver platter.
3. Interviews are death
I don’t care if you are Meryl Streep, interviews are the hardest acting job you will ever undertake. The first step is putting on a suit and tie if you’re a guy or some sort of skirt/blouse/blazer combo if you’re a girl. You have to painstakingly go over your resume and cover letter for typos and grammatical errors. You have to time your arrival at company HQ perfectly — too early and you seem crazy, and God forbid you should arrive late. As for the actual interview, you need to seem alert, cheerful, inquisitive and intelligent while also not appearing to be a pompous asshole. And then after the interview is over, you need to remember to send a thank you note. Usually when I get home from an interview I get my suit off as fast as possible and collapse on my bed. I ran a half marathon earlier this year and let me tell you, interviews are the most exhausting thing ever.
4. It seems like everyone has it better than you
Thanks to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and all other forms of social media, our generation is the most well-connected ever. Sometimes, that can be a good thing. Two of my best friends are living abroad right now. A generation ago, it would be seemingly impossible to stay in touch. Nowadays, they are just an instant message or email away. But sometimes all the status updates and tweets are not a good thing. Our generation’s digital desire of one-upmanship is contagious. We’re constantly showing off how spectacular our lives are and how happy we feel. Now that we are graduated, that includes how awesome our jobs are. When you are looking for a job, this employment FOMO is incessant in nature. As soon as you turn on your computer or phone, you can’t escape the reminder that seemingly all of your friends are living la vida employed, and you aren’t.
5. The self-doubt can be overwhelming
After a while, all the negativity — unanswered emails, jobs you didn’t land, etc. — can really get to you. In your head, you start to wonder if, not when, you will get a job. You consider exploring career fields you would have scoffed at a few months before, or taking part-time employment you’re overqualified for. When this happens, take a step back. The first break is the hardest. You just need one job offer to make all the sweat and tears worth it. If you press hard enough, something will happen eventually. But the self-doubt will inevitably happen. Sometimes hunting for a job can feel like being fed a steady diet of humble pie.