I wrote this back when Becky was still unemployed and about three months into the latest job hunting struggle. It encapsulates the way we will be approaching job hunters in this blog. – Joel
An open letter to all the great, unemployed workers out there (and my wife),
I want you to know something.
I admire you.
I see the battle you are waging, the all out, balls-to-the-wall war you have to fight every, single, day. When we were growing up, we were told that the great Baby Boomer exodus would start happening at just about the time we were to enter the job market, and there would be opportunities for us that weren’t there for our parents.
This was a lie.
We are still fighting each other in the great Hunger Games of life, scrambling for scarce job openings that pay us a fair wage. In some cases, we returned to graduate school — partly in order to give the Baby Boomers a bit more time to retire, partly because we were drilled with the belief since elementary school that higher education was the key to a life worth living. We left owing more than we can make in many years of full time work and unable to find work with employers who only care about experience, not degrees.
There were no jobs to be had.
You fight on. You send out up to 30 resumes a week. Some weeks you have two interviews, others none, but you are averaging enough to know that the resume and cover letter are working. You are Da Vinci when it comes to interacting with interviewers; you paint genius with your answers.
You have discovered how 90 percent of the trite advice you find on job forums is complete bullshit. You know this because you have A/B tested every version of your resume and cover letter and you’ve worked every variation on answers to interview questions according to all the competing advice to be found about job hunting. You know that whether you spend three hours fine-tuning each resume or spend that time sending your standard resume to 10 openings, you will get the same results: a computer that takes two seconds to reject you for being unqualified. You are found to be unqualified for the same exact job you’ve been doing for five years when they are only asking for two years experience. You have had someone say that yours was the worst resume he has ever seen, and someone else look at the same resume and ask if he can use it as an example for others.
You gave up on getting anywhere with Target, or United Health, or General Mills, or 3M, or the University of Minnesota, because no matter how well you match their job descriptions, their computers will reject you.
You take whatever contract, temp, random work comes your way in order to struggle one more day to find a job, any job, because after months of searching, you have switched from trying to find the right fit to trying to find anything. And you may have many months to go. And you have to fight to get paid on a regular basis with your contract work against people who think you are stupid for wanting to be paid for your work and ask you why you can’t just be patient.
I’ve been there myself. Last year I spent 9 months in that desert.
Here’s what worked.
You need to hang on to whatever keeps you going: Anger works. Anger at the computers that now determine if people fit a specific job rather than search for people who can grow to meet any challenge they need to face for an organization. Anger at interviewers who have you come in twice, take competence tests, and then never speak to you again except through a generic form letter emailed five weeks after last contact. Anger at the people who say if you don’t have a job, you are doing it wrong, even though you have done it wrong, right, and every possible permutation in between. Anger at all the people who have jobs who are so utterly unqualified for them you wonder what on earth they did to get them. (I will say in answer to those who say you are doing it wrong. I did nothing special to land my current position that I hadn’t already tried with others.)
Love works. Love for the person you have chosen to spend your life with. Love that helps you to sit up late into the night with your spouse, finding and applying to new jobs, filling out another form with the same information that is easily found on the resume, scanning networking events and job fairs (both useless) for the next possible opportunity. Love that your partner is sending out your resume to everyone he knows that might have a lead on a job. Love that you are doing everything you possibly can. Use that love to get you out of bed in the morning when everything else fails and you can’t otherwise find the strength to keep going as visions of Don Quixote tilting at windmills flood your head and you wonder what else keeps you tied to this earth except that one strand of love.
Every day, you wonder if you will land your next job before or after losing your home. You wonder if you will be able to find enough to even file bankruptcy if it comes to that. You wonder how to pay the 1000 per month in student loans for the degrees that no one wants. You wonder what else you have that might get you 5 bucks on Craig’s List so you can eat. You wonder if the next person who harangues you for being lazy since you “do nothing” all day will be the one that sends you into the abyss of despair (or if the above mentioned anger or love will be enough to weather the judgment of this latest idiot).
Above all this, know that you are admired.
You are loved.
And one day, I can’t say when, or how long, one of those resumes will hit, and it will be over and the sun will shine again and your chest will suddenly unclench and you will take the first deep breath you have taken in months. Be sure to prop yourself against something when this happens, in case of fainting. I mean that. Be prepared to spend the rest of your life working off the financial hole that unemployment has dug for you.
Know that someone took his lunch hour to write a letter of love to you, the job searcher. Someone who has been there. I wish you all the best, and speedy responses.