What do you get when you mix planning a whole post-grad life and a pandemic? A crippling, anxiety-filled shit show and a fabulous welcome to adulthood. Like the estimated 4 million college students that graduated this year, I’m finding myself between a rock (a virus) and a hard place.
Before I even started my senior year, I told myself that I would have a job secured (even if it was an unpaid internship) for after graduation. Unfortunately for me, my last semester of college went down like a fling with a Grade-A fuckboy: It lured me in with plenty of charm and promise, only to leave me broken as soon as things started to get real. And here I thought only men could finish prematurely! After the blow of losing college life earlier than expected came the ever-dreaded time to look for a job, except I get to do it during a pandemic. The process has been worse than trying to get attention on any dating app: even if you’re a catch, you still end up ghosted.
“Dear recruiters: unpaid internships are complete BS... but can you at least message me back?”
I know I’m not the only one who’s going through this issue, either. Students from all over have prepared to enter the "Grown-Up World" by working their asses off. But, much like the emotionally stunted men on Tinder, the workforce just isn’t ready for this jelly. A lot of internship programs and jobs are cancelled (like this whole year tbh), with most places struggling to hold on to those already employed. About two-thirds of jobs that would be entry-level and available for recent graduates have completely disappeared––just like my ex when I said I was ready for something more serious. Even if this pandemic is as unprecedented as can be, I often find it hard not to blame myself for the situation I’m in, and for not making different choices in the past. (Sorry I didn’t go into medicine, mom.)
If there’s anything this pandemic has revealed are the cracks in our systems that have been there forever. Like, did you know that 70 to 80 percent of jobs aren’t even advertised? And more than 80 percent are straight-up obtained through "networking" (a.k.a nepotism)? Trust me, I’d love for a wingman to hype me up to employers so they would even consider me, but Madame Rona just. keeps. cockblocking. me. I’ve even applied to a handful of internships that are looking specifically for recent grads––a Prince Charming in a sea of Chads!––but, they end up being more frogs than princes. Most internship opportunities are only for current students, which is no coincidence: legally, companies can get away with not paying interns if they’re being compensated in any way, such as academic credit. And for those interns who are willing to play the game and work for free, they have to be able to afford living expenses, which ends up being completely elitist. What type of credit can I get as an adult? A big batch of Experience. At least guys buy me dinner first. Internships make me go get them lunch.
During my infinite number of quarantine job searches, I have done everything I could to stand out. I revamp my resume as if it was a quirky Tinder bio, tinker on LinkedIn to look profesh, and cold-message people with the roles I want. Am I experienced? In what ways do you need? You bet I can use Outlook, hottie, and I’m definitely flexible on hours and workdays. But even that does't seem to be working: I had an interview set for a dream job, and it was cancelled the day-of. They didn’t even say anything about rescheduling – I’ve had more decency from Tinder dates than that! Yes, Tinder dates. I’ve followed up multiple times only to hear silence; I’m running out of ways to say: “Hi! I hope this email finds you well. Just checking in… do you still remember me? Can you at least have the courtesy of putting me out of my misery?”
Of course, while I hear nothing back, I keep seeing peers flaunting their recent job updates, producing the worst FOMO of my life. As if the (substantial) amount of engagements (and weddings!) weren’t intimidating enough, now I’m dealing with a constant barrage of professional announcements, just adding to the feeling of inadequacy. Everyone is doing great and I’m sitting here jobless and alone, as I aggressively hit like and comment to congratulate. Do I have unrealistic expectations? How and where did I go wrong?
It’s a crazy world to be looking for a job, too. For us considering in-person jobs, we’re willing to risk getting infected for a paycheck. For remote jobs, we would have to mostly train ourselves and wouldn’t have face-to-face conversations. I’m okay with ditching after-work drinks or water cooler conversations, but it’s pretty hard to foment a professional relationship (the kind that helps maintain a career, yk?) virtually. And not being able to get a good job right now isn’t just the pandemic’s fault; there’s little hurdles everywhere that employers place for us to jump over. “Entry-level position. Needs 3-5 years of experience. Must be knowledgeable on how to fly a rocket, swim with sharks, and know what type of coffee the boss wants without asking.” Barf. Job descriptions often look like one of those Tinder bios that ask too many specifications from potential matches. Newsflash: dating apps aren’t for your grocery list of qualities women need to have. I’ve had my fair share of gross dating profiles – but why’s your LinkedIn description so full of red flags? I’ve been told: “You gotta message until they get tired of you, that’s how you get your foot in the door!” But aren’t we tired of telling creeps to stop harassing women and sending unsolicited pics?
I feel gross after only a few cold emails with my resume as an attachment. “Do you like how it looks? You like my skills section? What do you want me to do with it?” Not to mention, stalking potential employers to the point of becoming Joe from YOU: digging into who I’m talking to and stretching the truth to get to their heart. I’ve looked into people’s LinkedIn and heard myself narrate in his voice. “Well, hello there. Who are you? I can be that person for you.” Didn’t we agree he’s a creep (not to mention insane)? The whole process is horrifying, but so is the disrespect we get as people who want to work and be productive. Prospective employees deserve way more than what we’ve gotten so far. I would rather hear a hard, “NO, YOU SUCK FOR THIS JOB,” than be waiting on the couch for a rose that will never be for me.
Some days during quarantine I apply to five jobs, re-do my resume and light a candle hoping for the best. Others, I find myself scrolling through TikTok trying to distract myself from the creeping thoughts of belittling myself. But – and I feel like we somehow often forget this – we’re going through a national crisis! And a civil rights movement! Being alive and healthy right now is an automatic win. Getting out of bed is an achievement. Doing your part in the world by wearing a mask and educating yourself on what’s happening is also being productive and important. I have to remind myself to not measure my self-worth and value by the lack of opportunities I have right now. The world’s inability to accept us right now doesn’t mean we aren’t worth acceptance. Our worth, as professionals but most importantly as individuals, is not measured by our inability to be seen and appreciated by others. So, keep scrolling (and swiping?), but not finding a perfect match that sweeps you off your feet right now isn’t the end of the world.