The Endless Search For My First Real Job
I’m 20. Two-zero. And I can’t get a job. In fact, I’ve never had a job.
I’m beginning my junior year in college. I’m an excellent student, and don’t partake in any less than savory extracurricular activities. So why is it that I never get hired, despite the countless entry-level positions I’ve applied for? My job search began about three years ago, when I started college. I decided that I needed to become more independent and take on more responsibility. My parents allowed me to live rent-free throughout college and high school; for that I am eternally grateful. I know many other students who do not have that luxury. This also makes me feel guilty at times, and quite frankly, abnormal. I can safely say that I do not know a single person in my inner circle who has never had a job, especially at 20.
Your first job is an important rite of passage. You always hear your parents reminiscing about their first job; how they made great friends, learned a lot about themselves, or perhaps even met their future spouse. A first job is about more than getting hired. It demonstrates that you are able to partake in bigger responsibilities and contribute to society. For some, a first job represents freedom and independence, and the transition from childhood to adulthood.
I often feel like I’ve missed this rite of passage altogether. I certainly lack independence, and I don’t feel like I’ve ever been truly responsible for anything beyond the realm of my personal life. I often can’t relate to my friends, when they discuss the joys and pitfalls of their current jobs. Sometimes, I feel like I’m stuck, like I’ve missed the transition from a child to a mature and responsible adult.
Upon hearing that I have never been employed, people will look at me with either disdain (“she must be a spoiled brat”) or complete shock (“I can’t believe you’ve never had a job!”) For example, I was recently interviewed for a sales associate position at a local mall. Upon reading my resume, the interviewer quickly determined that I had never had a job before. She politely, but somewhat intrusively, inquired into the reason I’ve never been employed. I plainly told her that I never found the “perfect fit,” but in reality, I was secretly wondering the same thing myself. I thought the interview went well, but I later received an e-mail stating that they had chosen to go with a “more qualified candidate.”
Waves of self-doubt came over me as my disappointment took the form of self-loathing. I wondered what was wrong with me, what I was doing wrong. It seemed so easy to get a job in my mind, but turned out to be more difficult than I imagined as I continued to receive more similar replies. It all seemed so unfair. I had worked hard in high school to get into a good college, and I still wasn’t able to achieve this seemingly simple objective that young teenager’s just entering high school had already accomplished. I felt discouraged, disheartened, and useless.
And then I stopped.
I learned to accept that it wasn’t my fault. I had done the most that I could with what volunteer experience and relevant skills I had on my resume. I presented myself in the best way possible. Instead of doubting myself and focusing on all the things I couldn’t do, I started to focus on what I could do.
I am polite, dedicated, and hardworking. I can do this. So to everyone out there—no matter how old—on a seemingly endless job search, please remember this; you are enough. There is nothing wrong with you. There are so many external factors impacting your job search that have nothing to do with you. This opportunity simply wasn’t meant to be. The most important thing I’ve learned in all of this is that there is hope at the end of every rejection letter. Without a doubt I know that, one day, I will find a job that is perfectly suited to my interests and abilities. And I know that there is one out there waiting for you too.