Millenial Blues

It’s been a rough year for me.

I graduated from law school last May and still haven’t found a full time job. Obviously, a forced relocation that uprooted me from my network and delayed my taking the bar exam for an additional six months didn’t help. Still, who knew it would be so hard for an educated, able bodied person to find meaningful work? And by meaningful I mean something in a professional field (I’d prefer to at least be a paralegal but at this point, I’ll take a secretary job) that pays at least $10/hr. It just seems like every time I get close, something happens to knock me off my ass again. I had a great internship at a non-profit last summer that was an audition for a full time job. They gave the full time position to another intern who was less qualified than me, who kept the job for just under a year and moved on (I know that because we’re connected on LinkedIn). I really wanted that job and had they given it to me, Tex and I would still be in Atlanta. But I guess it just wasn’t meant for me.

Seeing as Texas hasn’t been hit as hard in the economic downturn, I had high hopes for finding employment in Houston. Tex is employed but underpaid- we’re a hair above “just barely making it” without any income from me. I had a talk with one of my law school gal pals and realized my law degree was screening me out, so I have removed it from my resume. So I spend my days getting up at 8am like I have a job to go to, applying to jobs, working out in the afternoons, and watching tv. It’s depressing. I don’t have any friends or family of my own here. I gotta say, being a housewife is no fun unless you’re rich. It’s almost enough to make me wish I had a baby just so there would be some purpose and meaning to my days. I’ve still got the tax preparer gig, but summer session is slow and they overhired. Since I’m the newbie, I’m not getting hours anymore and tax season doesn’t start until January. Bar results aren’t out til November. So what the fuck am I supposed to do in the meantime?

I know that you shouldn’t worry and pray. But it’s hard not to be anxious when your bank account balance is always hovering close to zero after paying rent, and you have to keep borrowing from your ever dwindling savings account just to make ends meet. I wish I had Tex’s assuredness that everything is going to be okay. Part of me is just angry. I feel like I did all the right things, and even if I didn’t, I worked my ass off and made the best decisions I could. As a working class black girl from the south side of town, there were certain things I just didn’t know. Sure, I could have chosen a different major, done different extracurriculars, or chosen a different graduate degree but that only would have happened if I could somehow go back in time with what I know now. I’m not expecting to be on easy street before I turn 30. But can I at least make some fucking progress? I know there are plenty of folks out there who aren’t as smart or as hard working as I am who are doing far better financially. I try to count my blessings instead of other people’s. But will the struggle ever end? Can I at least get to the point where I can maintain instead of playing catch-up? I just want to be able to use my God-given, school-refined talents to make a living. Why is that seemingly so impossible? On top of everything, my car is breaking down so I’m scared to  go farther than the grocery store for fear my car will overheat. I’m trying to preserve it for when I really need it, like to go on job interviews. But that means I can’t go out to networking events, which are all 20-30 minutes away in downtown Houston. I don’t know anyone I can catch a ride with either, and Tex works on the opposite side of town so he can’t get me anywhere I need to be before 7pm, which is when most events are ending. Plus, apparently networking ain’t free anymore- you’ve got to pay cover.

I try really hard to put a brave face on. I pray and try to put it out of my mind. But every day I don’t have a job is a day I feel useless. Unwanted. What was the point of 7 years of higher education, when I could have stopped at high school and been in the same position? Possibly a better one, since I’d have 7 years of work experience? By the way, entry level ain’t what it used to be. Jobs that required a college degree when I was in college, now only require a GED. If you do need a degree for the job, you also need 5, 7, 10 years work experience- just to be able to make $50,000/yr or $40k/yr with benefits. It’s insane. *sigh* In my heart, I know that God will provide. He’s never let me down yet. But the doubt in my mind is hard to quiet. I used to feel like I could never fail. I was valedictorian, voted most likely to succeed, got into the honors program at a top ten public university and survived law school, even if I didn’t necessarily conquer it. I guess this is just my test…patience isn’t my biggest virtue. But giving up isn’t an option. I have to make it. I have to.

Holding Pattern

I’m feeling a bit out of sorts today. I’ve been chugging along on faith and optimism for the past month, but every so often it starts to flag and I struggle to remind myself that this is just a phase. I know that “comparison is the thief of happiness” but I’m not so much envious as wistful. There’s no one common denominator between my friends who are employed and those who aren’t. We all went to school and graduated, we all networked, we all had internships. It just seems to be more about luck of the draw.

Job applications are currently the bane of my existence. I feel like I’m an outdated model– the only things I’m an “expert” in are history (there’s no lack of social studies teachers) and law (these days, you’ve got to be licensed to do something as menial as document review). I’m a Renaissance woman who can do a lot of things with above average competence, but nobody wants that anymore. If you have to be trained, you’re out of the resume pool. Tex is actually back in Atlanta today, interviewing for two different positions at the same company. It would be highly ironic if we ended up moving back there and I’d miss Whataburger (lol) but I’m definitely rooting for him to succeed. I got a part-time job with a tax preparation firm, but I’d imagine they have some openings back in Georgia so I could transfer. Even if I couldn’t, I’m not making nearly enough to justify staying here if Tex gets the offer.

Today I interviewed for an office assistant position–shockingly, I hadn’t been screened out. I say that because I created a dumbed down resume that omits my law school experience precisely for applying to jobs that I would otherwise be overqualified for. However, I realized that I had accidentally sent in my real resume to this listing. After introducing myself the guy asked, “Why are you here?” and I couldn’t bring myself to lie. I was upfront about the fact that I simply need work, and have no problem doing administrative tasks. I actually enjoy keeping things organized and helping people out.* I figured that honesty couldn’t hurt since he already knew I was ridiculously overqualified. Surprisingly, he said he understood and even more, that he liked me. He told me he had several more interviews to conduct,  and asked would it be okay for him to forward my resume to some of his business friends in the event he decided I wasn’t the best fit. Of course, I said yes. I don’t expect to get that job, and I won’t be mad if I don’t. But it was nice to have a moment of authenticity and compassion, and to be seen as a person instead of Candidate #56.

Tex and I have agreed that applying for jobs all too often feels like selling yourself, except there’s no money on the counter when you leave an interview. Chasing down a customer? Dressing the part? Check. Pulling out your best tricks in hopes of eventually getting paid? Check. Psychologically, the process would be easier if you at least got a rejection email. Instead, you get really pumped up about any listing that even seems like a slight fit for you, craft an amazing cover letter and anxiously wait to hear back…until you forget you even applied because you do that every week. I really feel for Tex because unlike me, he’s had probably 20 interviews, all with different companies, since he got laid off. You’d think that at the point where you put on a suit and go talk to a human being they’d at least give you an idea of why you didn’t get picked, but that’s not the case. It’s always about the “right fit”. Why does fit matter if I can do the job? With the exception of domestic workers, who are around your home, children and personal belongings, the perfect personality shouldn’t be a big deal. It’s not as if you’re going to have work with that person for the next 20 years. That kind of career longevity is reserved for the big companies, and even their retention rates haven been steadily falling. Job hopping is fast becoming the rule and not the exception.

Ah, well. Just wanted to get some things off my chest. Trouble doesn’t last always, and it’s a beautiful day for a walk around the neighborhood.

 

*I could have been a librarian in a past life. Actually, I seriously considered getting a Master’s in Library Science. Except the idea of 2 extra years of school to learn the Dewey Decimal system when I already knew the local library like the back of my hand seemed silly.