So, you’ve just graduated from college, and that sparkling, brand new degree is framed on the highest shelf in your living room. You’ve done it! Four years of school- six if you couldn’t resist your college’s game room- and now you’re ready for that career job! You start your employment search- cover letters, resumes, cold calls. You’re young, bright and determined to have an income any time now. But then a month later, and not one response back, the situation that this current economy has created hits you like an unwarranted tackle from Ohio University’s troubled mascot.
I attended a stand-up comedy routine last Saturday, and maybe Seth Myers summed it up best when he told a gym full of over 2,000 Villanova University students, “As for the Seniors, I’m sorry about the economy.”
The room laughed, but the tone was more of a desperate haha. I know I was holding back tears. It’s no secret that the search for employment, especially career-oriented employment, is as hard as ever.
I myself graduated from University over a year ago, and 40-50+ rejections later, I still find myself answering phones and bagging customers’ food at a restaurant. It is maddening for sure to constantly ask, “Pick up or delivery?” as my Bachelor’s Degree withers away under my Counter Boy title and tip jar.
I have had many instances where I almost hung up the phone, grabbed my bag full of notebooks filled with story ideas (I have a B.A. in Communications: Journalism and Multimedia), and walked right out of the restaurant.
But then I think about the huge mistake that people in my position are making right now. Do I want to work in a restaurant- the job I’ve held for almost four years now as I worked my way through school? No. But will I quit before I land my career job? Of course not!
Too often I see those who have been laid off, or those who have graduated and can’t find work, apply for jobs all day, and then sit around the house, waiting for a good job to come calling back. And every time, I cringe, because they are making the biggest mistake of their unemployed careers.
I work at the restaurant not because I like it. The food is good, sure, but I would much rather be a customer. I do it, because, well, the simple truth is that one needs to be doing something. One needs to be working, even if it’s not at a job he or she wants. It’s very important to the resume. Imagine if you’re one of those people who have graduated or been laid off for over six months now, and all you’ve done is search for your type of job, neglecting all other opportunities that come your way. Because you’re better than asking customers what kind of cheese they want on their burger, right? Now, you finally get an interview for one of the jobs you’ve been searching for all over the world. You’re sitting in front of the Human Resources representative, and you’re bursting with confidence.
I’ve got the great education! you boast to yourself. I’ve got the great past work experience!
But then she looks up at you with concerned eyes, and asks, “So, what have you been up to recently?”
“I’ve been looking for jobs” isn’t going to be a sufficient response. It’s going to cut your interview short, and prolong your already long employment search.
I recently had a job interview where I had been asked the same exact thing. My current resume reflects my college degree, three internships, an on-going gig as a science writer for an award-winning news website, freelance experience and volunteer work. Believe me when I say I felt confident in it. But then my interviewer looked up at me with confused eyes.
“What have you done recently?” she asked.
I was taken back by this question for a slight moment, but then quickly directly her eyes down to the section where I had listed my restaurant job.
“Oh! Sorry!” she responded. “I skimmed it too fast!”
Just like that, she had been willing to neglect all of my relevant work experience and education I possess just because it seemed I didn’t have any sort of job now. It is ironic and sad that the crappy job becomes just as important as the degree and experience.
But of course, in this economy, finding those irrelevant jobs isn’t an easy task either. At the restaurant, I have listened to my boss reject three people for jobs in one day. This is not an excuse to sit at home and do nothing, of course. Go out and volunteer. Go get an internship in your field. Sure they won’t pay, but your resume will look that much better with them on there. You’ll be prepared to answer that question, “What have you been up to recently” before it even gets asked. Because in the world of employment hunting, your present activities- relevant or not to the job you ultimately want- can be your greatest tool.
Out of the millions of things I appear to be doing right now- the internships, science writing and volunteer work- the only thing that pays me is the restaurant job. But they all, along with my counter boy mantle, pay me back a thousand fold as they cover all of the empty space on my resume page, and I am able to show any potential employer that I am still capable of being a hard worker no matter the situation. Because being unemployed is no excuse to not work.