The stress and strife of job hunting

I hate job hunting.


Without a doubt, one hundred percent, with every fiber of my being, hate. job. hunting.


We’re a mere 19 words into this post, and I obviously have many feelings about this topic, especially right now. However, the firmness of those first two sentences might have raised some eyebrows, so before I continue, I want to acknowledge and firmly distinguish what this post is and isn’t.


This is not a rant about companies, hiring, or the state of our country’s employment; nor is it an assertion of my own skills or deservingness to get a job somewhere.


Unemployment is a real struggle for millions of people in our country, which has only been made all the more challenging by the current COVID-19 pandemic. More people than ever are out of work and trying to find new jobs, which makes the application process even more competitive.


Right now, I am applying for limited jobs in a field that is still largely shut down, competing against a larger-than-usual number of applicants. There are only so many positions available, and decisions have to be made. It’s impossible to give every applicant the same chance, and even more impossible to go through every application and offer feedback. The majority of the time, I get passed up for jobs that I could thrive in, simply because my application is competing with tens or even hundreds of others. It’s not personal by any means, and I don’t hold it against any person or organization.


But that doesn’t mean that the job application process doesn’t wear on me as an applicant – especially since I’ve been in it for a year now. And of every single job that I have applied for over this past year, I have been invited to exactly one interview. Just one.


This might be ‘just the way it is’ in the job-hunting process, but that process takes a very real emotional and mental toll – and that is what this post is about.


It is an honest sharing of my experience with the frustrations and stresses of job hunting, because it can be defeating, so utterly defeating. And exhausting, especially after months of sloughing through it.


… … …


Job hunting in itself is stressful enough, but there are also other life factors that compound the stress of it all:


Living at home at the age of 26…


running a failing direct sales business…


while watching my sisters and friends all living on their own…


and dating someone living in the very place I so desperately want to be…


after making the hard decision to leave said place that I desperately wanted to be right after I had moved there…


and coming back to square one (you get the idea of where this is going)…


I’ve fought tooth and nail for a year now to step into the next chapter of my life, out of the role of ‘lifelong student’ and into my dreams of moving to NYC and working in theatre as a self-sustaining adult. I was so excited to finally start contributing to the field that brings me such joy and purpose.


But then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and those plans and aspirations for last year flew out the window and shattered.


I did my best to stay optimistic, and I applied for the few theatre jobs that were available at the time. But to no avail. So I took temporary nannying and babysitting jobs here or there, and eventually moved back in with my parents at the end of September. I decided to try working my direct sales business full time for a few months to see if it might be a viable source of income, while also figuring out what to do next.


But upon realizing that my efforts with my business were not going in the direction I wanted, I put renewed energy and faith into my job search in December, calling on friends, family, and the world of Facebook to ask for help. I got a lot of support and ideas, although it was difficult to follow up on many due to the proximity to the end-of-the-year holidays. I did what I could, though, and put in some applications to jobs that sounded really cool, challenging, and impactful.


But we’re not even to the end of January in this new year and I already feel frustrated and exhausted. The renewed energy I had going into this new round of job-hunting has depleted, because the responses are all the same as they were with every application I put in last year: no interview, or, often, no response at all.


… … …


I don’t know the average amount of time a person spends on one job application – honestly, I’m probably way over – but it’s important to me that I take that time to do the research and invest myself in that job, because I care about the positions I apply to.


When I put in just one application, I spend at least half a day on the entire application process. First, I research the job and the organization, so I know what the mission of the company is and what kind of work they do. I want to be excited about the organizations I work for! This research and excitement help me craft a cover letter or personal statement that shows how my skills and experience fit the organization and their ideal candidate, and how I believe I can and will do a good job filling the position. I also look over my résumé to make sure the experiences and skills are reflective of what this particular application is seeking, and then, after anywhere from four to six hours of work on just that one application, I submit it.


So I invest my time, energy, and heart into every job I apply for – which is exhausting in and of itself. It’s all the more exhausting to emotionally manage the constant rejection of that effort and care over and over again.


That said, do I deserve a job just because I put in the amount of effort that I do in the application process? Absolutely not! No one owes me a job offer, or even an interview.


The time I invest in these applications comes as a result of both caring about the positions I’m applying for, and from me taking the time to intentionally and methodically think about my own experiences and skills, and then show in my application how those fit their job description.


So every rejection I receive hits me twofold: I feel disappointed because I won’t get an opportunity to work for an organization that really excited me, and I feel frustrated and defeated because I know I’m qualified, but for whatever reasons, those qualifications weren’t enough and I’m not what they’re looking for.


I also admittedly feel confused regarding the latter point, too: when I have done the work to show how I pretty well fit their ideal candidate, but then don’t get the opportunity to even interview, I’m left wondering what else they were looking for that they didn’t include in their job posting. What about me didn’t fit? Did I miss something in the application requirements? Was there something about this position or organization that I should have addressed in my application?


(Or, if you ask my inner critic, “What about me just wasn’t good enough?”)


And I *know* it’s not personal, as I had mentioned earlier – the job market is competitive, especially in the theatre field, and eSpEciAlLy especially in the theatre field right NOW. Again, I don’t hold that against anyone or anything.


BUT.


That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t *feel* personal, particularly after so many rejections. I start to doubt myself and wonder if there’s something wrong with me:


Am I not qualified?


Am I writing my letters and personal statements wrong?


Am I not conveying myself authentically?


Am I coming across as arrogant? Ignorant? Naïve?


Why can’t seem to get any of these jobs?


But here’s the thing: I know that I can do it, I know I’m capable of getting the jobs that I want, the ones that mean something to me and would allow me to use the skills that I have and grow in the ones that I don’t. I just have to keep applying until I find the position that sees that.


But right now, I’m tired.


I’m tired of investing time and energy in application after application, for organizations that I will never have the chance to work for.


I’m tired of fighting to prove that I can do the job and do it well, only to have that overlooked.


I’m tired of fighting with myself to stay optimistic and not take every rejection personally.


I’m tired of being told not to cry or to remember that the job market sucks right now or that everyone goes through this.


I know this is just how job hunting and the job market are right now. I know that I’m not the only one who is struggling or will struggle with this. I know it’s not personal and I know that someone will eventually want what I have to offer.


I know that I can’t (and I won’t) give up.


All of those things are true.


But I don’t want to hear any of them right now.


I want to scream and cry and swear and sob – because this process is frustrating. It’s defeating. It’s unfair. It fucking sucks.


Tomorrow, I will get up, put my game face back on, and put in the next job application.


But for right now, I just need to cry about it.


... ... ...


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