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Question 1

Are you currently in a job that you feel overqualified for?

A someecard from Genevieve.

Did I expect to be in a more advanced position in my life? Yes. I expected to have a full-time job. I expected to be living in my own apartment. I expected to have my own health insurance.

I was never thinking about marriage or children or owning a home — the most important thing was always financial independence and I’m eager for my life to move on and to get there.

I was laid off from a corporation that owns a chain of medical offices in my hometown of Salisbury, Maryland, and the neighboring county. I was a front-desk receptionist and interpreter for the Spanish-speaking patients. It was a position that required a lower level of education than a college degree.

I was employed for eight months and then laid off for reasons that were never clearly explained to me by upper management. The corporation was most likely seeking to downgrade their staff, as a few others had been laid off before me within a short span of time. I was an easy target because I was one of the youngest employees, I had no children to support, and I was still a dependent on my mother’s health insurance.

I have now been unemployed for a year and four months. I know that I am not alone when I say that my experience has been frustrating. So many people have told me that because I am trilingual and have a Bachelor’s degree, I have an advantage. That might be true to some extent, but it doesn’t feel true.

It doesn’t feel true because I know there are more people attending college and more bilingual Spanish speakers, and I don’t feel as though that skill is so unique anymore. And I don’t want to be pigeonholed into jobs I’m not interested in purely because of a bilingual skill that some employers are desperate to have.

I want to work in the publishing industry. But when jobs are so scarce, it’s tempting to take a job that is completely out of your field of interest because there is nothing else. It used to be a guarantee that you would find a job with a Bachelor’s degree, but now it doesn’t seem like a leg up. Most of the jobs being offered that I might be considered for do not require a college education, just a specific skill set.

I’ve found it very rare to find available entry-level positions that require a Bachelor’s degree but do not require previous experience, with the exception of some marketing and sales positions.

I was in Boston for three months this summer for an unpaid internship with a political campaign and tried to find employment before I even arrived. I registered with two staffing agencies and conducted my own job search, but was unsuccessful with both. I submitted applications for part- and full-time work, including university staff positions, restaurant work, and cashier positions at stores like Goodwill and Staples.

I’ve turned down a customer service telemarketing position as well as a position selling life insurance policies because I don’t think my strengths lie in sales. I am more inclined to accept a job at a bookstore or a serving position at a restaurant, but even those are more and more difficult to get.

I never thought that getting a job at Barnes & Noble would be so competitive and would require previous experience at a bookstore. I was able to get an interview with them, but was not hired for the cashier/bookseller position, most likely because I was in a giant pool of other applicants who also have English concentrations from college and look exactly like me on paper. The only way someone can possibly stand out in that circumstance is if they’ve worked for that same company before or if they know the manager personally. You’re even competing with people who have Master’s degrees.

The biggest barrier preventing me from finding a job in the field that I want is that ever-present issue of not being able to acquire a specific kind of work experience because every job you’re interested in requires previous, specific work experience and somewhere along the line an employer must be willing to take a chance on a newbie and allow them to get their foot in the door.

I’m not sure if my current unemployment status has prevented me from being hired for postions, but the longer I’m unemployed the more suspicious I become of that being a factor. It creates an unfair stigma or assumption that you are unemployed because you are lazy and unmotivated and haven’t been looking.

I’m not giving up entirely on the field I planned to be in, but I’m having to temporarily put that plan on hold. You have to take stepping-stone jobs just to get into the industry you want to be in, let alone the job. That might have been true before the economic collapse, but I find that for our “stuck generation” it will take a longer time to climb the job ladder and get to the place we imagined we would be at by end of our twenties.

It’s important to be ambitious and go for what you want, but you have to be realistic too. I’m aware that my skill qualifications may only yield certain kinds of low-wage positions at this point in my career.

I try to have a positive attitude with regards to my future, but it’s difficult when all of the economic experts continue to have a grim outlook and the national unemployment rate is moving very slowly. The overall poor economic conditions, the slow hiring trends, and the national unemployment statistics exactly mirror what we are all personally experiencing — and that’s what makes it real, they’re not just numbers.

The process of finding a job is exhausting and overwhelming, with so many online job sites and professional networking sites like LinkedIn that must be monitored daily. Job updates flood my inbox, and cover letter after cover letter after cover letter must be specifically tailored to respond to each job posting.

When all of the tediousness is yielding no feedback, no results, it’s tempting to shut myself off from all of the chaos, to get some relief from the hours of daily web presence that are demanded to keep up to date.

Often times, all I want to do is fall of the face of the earth for a while.

But the advice I keep getting from everyone around me goes like this: “You have to keep networking, keep sending out the resumes, and ultimately keep going back to the screen, because the relief of getting a job far outweighs the temporary relief you get from stepping away from the computer for a week, banging your head on the desk repeatedly, or doing nothing.”


  1. Nick Sophinos at 4:19 pm, September 26, 2012

    This would be a good forum in which Genevieve could express what she really wants to do for a living. All I gathered so far is that she has an Liberal Arts degree and the desire to work. There has to be more.

  2. Genevieve Salem at 12:24 am, September 27, 2012

    I want to be a proofreader/editor for a book publishing company. But everyone around me keeps telling me that those kinds of jobs are on the endangered species list and to be more realistic about my career aspirations. I’ve considered getting a Master’s degree in public policy because I’m passionate about gender equality, reproductive rights, pay equity, campaign finance reform, environmental awareness, etc. Perhaps part of the problem lies in that I don’t truly know where my talents lie. I like to write and I have an attention to detail, that’s all I know. So I think I’ll start with just obtaining professional work experience wherever I can get it. I would like to start out by finding work as an administrative assistant at a university or with a nonprofit organization.

  3. Melanie Pachet at 10:05 am, September 28, 2012

    Hi Genevieve. I’ve recently run into the same problem having graduated with a liberal arts degree from a good university but having no substantive work experience. I joined AmeriCorps. It’s lousy paying (just a stipend), but it’s something! And I’m working (or serving, if you will) at a nonprofit that I love for people with disabilities. I’m getting 9-5 work experience, diversifying my skills, and helping an underserved population. Look into it! After only a month of applying and looking through AmeriCorps listings, I got a wonderful position. Also, my AmeriCorps predecessor who had my position last year was actually hired by our nonprofit because she got her foot in the door. I know how you feel. There is hope!

  4. Jessi at 7:41 pm, September 29, 2012

    That’s a good idea! I’m kinda in the same boat (if I could have my way, I’d write books for teens, but that doesn’t pay). I’m unemployed, I kinda know what my strengths are and what my passions are, but going back to school is so expensive, I don’t want to get the wrong degree that would take me back to square one. My mother just keeps telling me to work and I will see what I want and don’t want. Now only if i could find a job….

  5. Ben A. at 12:05 am, September 30, 2012

    Out of all the posters for both questions, I think your experiences lie the closest to mine. I studied audio engineering and radio production, as both fields are either evolving, or close to extinction in a traditional sense. The way that they changed from when I started the degree path to 4 years later, specifically due to economic and technology changes, was staggering. That being said, I’m glad someone with a similar experience is voicing all of this out – the only jobs open really do seem to be sales, marketing, sales again, etc, and my strengths are totally not there. It’s the exact same thing with my fields, in the end – you’re competing with a bunch of people that can work for free or very little indefinitely, and usually have more or less similar experience. It feels awful.

  6. Anonymous at 1:50 pm, October 9, 2012

    I am glad you are starting by finding admin work. That’s how I got started. My only thought for you: Getting a University admin job is HARD. I have over 10 years of admin experience including managing entire departments and working for CEO’s and have tried for YEARS to get a University job. They are highly competitive and hard to get. I am not saying don’t apply to them, but don’t limit your applications to just non profits and universities. Both are hard to get. Applying to any industry to get your foot in the door. I have experience in 4 or so different industries at this point and it has helped me get jobs to have the different experience.