Wait For It

I’m going to say something controversial now: job-hunting sucks.

Looking for a job, the whole painful process of unemployment, is a relentless fight to retain some semblance of ego. Truly nothing takes the same toll on your self-esteem. It makes romantic rejection seem like a trip to Disney World: sure, ‘It’s A Small World’ is going to make you loopy by even the second play, but you can always hug adults dressed like cartoon characters for comfort.

Every tip about the job searching process contradicts another: stand out but not too much, blog to show off your writing skills but don’t write about this or this or this, don’t allow yourself to be taken advantage of but take whatever opportunities you can get.

Most of your efforts go unrewarded, potentially even unread. You spend 50% of your energy crafting applications that walk the line between “I’m different and exciting” and “I will fit into any team”, and the other 50% is used up trying to convince yourself that you’re employable. I find myself vacillating between adamant confidence that I’m a hard-working, intelligent wunderkind and believing that I’m a useless good-for-nothing. (The ratio tips ever more towards the latter, unsurprisingly.)

On a recent day off, I went to support my running club at a track event and during the day, a thirteen-year-old girl I train with/ trail behind asked me about my job because she wanted to get one (that pocket money just ain’t cutting it for her). If you aren’t familiar with what failure feels like, check in with the smaller humans who look up at you like you’re in charge, like you’re supposed to have it together, because those eyes read like, “Girl, I’m in Year 9 and I know where my next pay packet’s coming from!”

At one point, a position with Dream Job™ potential came along. I worked my little cottons off to perfect my application, pouring an abundance of time and heart into it in the hope that this would be The One. It was the first job I got genuinely excited about, the one that I opened up about to friends and family, all of whom reassured me I was perfect for it. Even the stranger I was stuck on a coach with for eleven hours insisted I was perfect for it (and she knows me better than anyone).

I started to believe it. I built it up in my head.

I didn’t even get an interview. Instead, they sent me a vaguely encouraging rejection email and I pretended it didn’t matter after all.

When enough applications have been floated out into the ether never to be heard from again, rejection can feel like a comfort. It’s closure. That message read as heartfelt and personal. “Try again in the future” was better than being job-ghosted. I later discovered that the company had sent the same email, word-for-word, to a friend of mine.

The Gmail account I set up specifically for professional use has become my tormentor. Now I gotta, I gotta inbox full of rejection (to the tune of Natasha Bedingfield’s ‘Pocket Full of Sunshine’, FYI). I can log in anytime I like just to feel bad about myself. It’s a quiet wasteland only occasionally disturbed by the entrance of a lone cowboy to the theme music from ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’; that worn, old cowboy will shoot a couple of holes into my ego and then ride on. On one hand, it’s nice to see somebody, anybody, but on the other, those bullets hurt, man!

Quick bounce back on Kennedy these days, though. I blast the Hamilton soundtrack and knuckle down in search of my next opportunity (“I am inimitable! I am an original!”). It’s this relentlessness that’s perhaps toughest of all. There’s no free time because there’s no work time. Every second that I’m not sat browsing Indeed.com or rewording my CV to cater to every demand of the latest position that pops up, I feel like I should be. I haven’t been relaxed enough to read a book for weeks. I love a good cover-to-cover reading sesh but a few hours not spent producing something, not grinding out another boastful yet genial covering letter? How indulgent.

I have to imagine my future self reading this post and calling Debbie Downer on all of it. Her inbox is a happier place: opportunity, acceptance, accomplishment. She can plan for trips on aeroplanes and shop for her friend’s Christmas presents with unconstrained generosity. She is exhausted at the end of the day. Her time is hers; it’s evenly divided between friends, TV, runs and reading without a nagging feeling in the back of her mind.

She’s great.

I can’t wait for you to meet her.


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  1. Ugh, I can SO identify with this! The best advice I’ve gotten is to send the application and then totally put it out of your mind, just work on finding the next one. It sucks, but agonizing over the call back is just painful! Good luck to you, it WILL happen eventually!

    • Thanks! It’s definitely true. I think you get better at not taking it personally with more experience. To begin with, each rejection or lack of response hit me really hard whereas now I have a thicker skin. Hopefully the right job is just around the corner.

      • exactly, it’s almost never “personal,” just trust that you will get what you need and what is right for you! in the mean time- i feel your pain 🙂

  2. Tema

     /  November 24, 2015

    Hello Jessica! Feeling your pain…and anger…. The effort and labour that goes into the applications… arrrgghh…. gritted teeth…. breathe breathe breathe. I totally found the whole thing emotionally exhausting. Most of my fellow grads had secured OT jobs and well there I was grafting away…. I just felt so low and it is a blow to your esteem whatever anyone says… It’s taken me six months and I’ve been lucky to find something …. finally …

    My tips:

    Keep faith – there is only one you and you’re an amazing writer
    Persistence – just keep doing them, it’s a churn but you need to be in it to win it
    Friends – don’t hide, make sure you go out and offload, they’re always so empathetic
    Time – Craft out work time (as you would with uni) so that you can enjoy your free time and maybe do some other stuff that you find interesting… freebie day courses, art galleries / museums, I dunno whatever you enjoy (we’re spoilt here in London)
    Separation – Go somewhere else to write out the applications, in Walthamstow we have a load of cool coffee places to hang out in and that’s where I did most of my work so when I came home, I could actually switch off
    Healthy coping strategies – I’m afraid I did succumb to chocolate and nicotine, try to avoid and maintain the healthy running!
    Goals – Is there something else you’d like to do, that you can fit in besides what I know is the all consuming job hunting job – I put together a scrap book of ideas for decorating projects around the house, besides taking my mind off the jh and kind of gave me a sense of purpose and achievement.

    It is hard but I’m wishing you all the best. Fatema xxx

    • That’s really good advice! Thank you. I definitely think you’re right about separation and enjoying free time. Otherwise it’ll drive me mad.

  3. noimnotok

     /  November 24, 2015

    I find that the 50% trying to convince yourself you’re employable has a tendency to creep up to 90% over time.


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