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Question 0

Do you feel stuck?

Genevieve Salem

I definitely feel “stuck.”

When you’re in your mid-twenties, unemployed, and still dependent on your parents, it’s very easy to lose your sense of identity and purpose.

You question your qualities and capabilities. Why am I here? What do I really have to offer? It makes me feel lazy and guilty and at fault when people continually ask, “Have you found a job yet?” and the answer to that question is always, “No, not yet.” It makes it seem like I’m not looking hard enough or I’m not focused enough on the job search.

It’s always very tough confronting the firing squad of other adults, like your parent’s friends or your boyfriend’s parents. “What sites have you looked at? Where have you applied? How many applications have you put out?”

I’m 25 and at an unpaid internship. And this sounds crazy, but I feel fortunate to have gotten this internship opportunity because at my age and being out of school, businesses and employers are reluctant to hire people like me who are not enrolled as full time students at a university. I tried to get an internship through the English department at the university in my hometown but they refused me because businesses require that you be a student “for liability or insurance” purposes. I’m not quite sure what that means.

All of the book publishing companies that interest me never seem to be hiring for any entry level positions. There are unpaid internship opportunities on one end of the spectrum, and then on the other end of the spectrum the positions they ARE hiring for are that of senior editor or managing copy editor or accounting specialist — jobs that require many years of experience. Even the entry level copy editor positions posted on my hiring agency’s website require at least two years of experience.

How does one get their foot in the door if they’re too old to be hired for an internship, but without any experience in the field to actually be hired for a job? I almost feel I have to make my case as if I were switching careers because I didn’t major in English or journalism and I’ve never had an internship related to the field of radio or print publishing. And there is definitely a very small window of opportunity for horizontal job movement. It’s very difficult to change or switch career fields because it’s like starting from zero — back to square one. All the previous employment experience you’ve accumulated means nothing.

I completely agree that it’s up to each one of us to make the best of our situations no matter how crappy they are. I don’t want to be seen as playing the victim or simply whining and complaining and blaming everything on the outside circumstances, but I feel I do have a right to express my bitterness. I can’t help but feel resentment towards the idea that everyone, growing up, told us that we could be anything we wanted to be and that a Bachelor’s degree would open up the doors of opportunity. But I feel like it doesn’t make a difference anymore. I have a Bachelor’s degree and it doesn’t mean I’m going to get paid more than someone who didn’t go to college. I still don’t expect to receive anything more than $10 to $15 an hour, which is what I made during the summers while I was still in school.

The decisions made at an executive level at financial institutions definitely have an impact on our day-to-day lives and that should not be ignored. Not just young people new to the job market but retirees and seniors are being forced to suffer the consequences of someone else’s greedy and irresponsible mistakes. Another issue of frustration is that we spend so much money trying to get an education and the reward is you get to become part of a gigantic pool of job applicants that look exactly like you on paper.


  1. J at 2:12 pm, September 20, 2012

    It seems that in all of these stories people want jobs in the specific field they either studied in or in what they want. Don’t be so narrow minded! Genevieve, your answer is in this quote of yours: “I almost feel I have to make my case as if I were switching careers because I didn’t major in English or journalism and I’ve never had an internship related to the field of radio or print publishing.” Yes, you do have to make your case because hundreds of others WITH experience are applying too. You need to look at other jobs. Admin jobs. I got my foot in the door by starting in admin. I ended up working in a couple of different industries, working up to working in sales, marketing, and managing entire departments. Because I have worked different industries, it gave me a resume that I could translate my skills into different positions. You are looking for jobs in 1 industry. In an industry that doesn’t pay well. Add that to your lack of experience in this 1 industry and you have your answer. Buck up and apply for other things.

  2. Genevieve at 10:44 am, September 21, 2012

    Thanks for your advice. My head hunter told me exactly that about a month ago and I am currently looking for administrative assistant positions. I still haven’t found anything but I’m not whining and I’m not complaining. Perhaps I come across as picky but honestly at this point I am open to taking any sort of office position I can get. I just want a foot in the door.

  3. The Onceler at 11:27 am, September 21, 2012

    I have read and re-read your post, but I still find myself unclear on what your course of study was, and what your career aspirations are. Could you clarify?

    The economy and job market are particularly bad these days, so finding a good job is even harder than normal. That being said, I would suggest that you open yourself to a more diverse range of job opportunities. It has been my experience that very few people follow the career trajectory that they had envisioned. Directly related experience is clearly desirable, but the bottom line is that virtually *any* experience is good experience. Your internship might just be the stepping stone that you need, although it is a bitter pill to work without pay, especially given the weight of your college debt. If you do in fact need to find a paying job (and who could blame you), don’t be afraid to consider work that might be only tangentially related to your intended path.

    Over the years, the diversity of my work experience became something of an inside joke among those I am close with. In fact, I spent many years concerned that I lacked focus in my ‘career’. Ultimately, I realized that my diverse experience was an asset. I now have a job that I enjoy very much, and that pays me well. It is precisely because of my diverse experience that I am suitable for this job. I suspect that this is true for a great many people. In time, it will likely be true for you.

    Good luck!

  4. ed at 4:06 am, September 23, 2012

    hello Genevieve, Rule #1 never work for free ! ! ! A internship from a reputable company wil compensate you in one way or an other. Many lower level companies dangle the internship in front of you as it is their way of trying to get free help as their business cannot afford hiring someone and if you reference them on a resume most reputable employers in the field will not be impressed, and might possibly hire you feeling sorry you became associated with a low quality company, but at a lower position than if you worked at Mcdonalds got paid and increased your academic credentials using their tuiton reimbursment program, and who knows perhaps you might find a worthwhile career with them!

  5. Elle at 12:17 pm, September 27, 2012

    For a contrasting viewpoint, I was eventually offered a job at every place I volunteered, but when I applied to paying positions I got interviews at only two places over the course of a year. Do what it takes to be a real person to the people who are making decisions and to demonstrate transferable skills, whether that’s informational interviews and other networking, or volunteering. But don’t work for free for places that treat you like a non-entity or don’t offer you useful experience. Good luck!