Twelve 20-somethings chronicle their lives for WBUR. Learn more.
In 2008, I graduated from one of the country’s top universities. Having spent the first six months after graduation looking for work in my field , to no avail, I realized that my timing in entering the professional world could not have been worse. So, I took the opportunity to develop my resume with more unique, “real world” experience that might give me a leg up on my competition.
I spent almost a year living and working in Buenos Aires, where I became a certified ESL teacher and through marketing campaigns and word-of-mouth established a loyal base of almost twenty students. I also worked as a bartender to develop my Spanish language skills, and I am now at a near fluent level. After some time, I decided to return to the U.S. to pursue a more permanent, professional career path.
That was two years ago and, while I have interviewed extensively by networking and taking advantage of even the most tenuous of connections, I have yet to find a professional job. I began my job search in the field of international education — high school and university study abroad programs, or non-profits that provide educational aid in underprivileged communities.
My focus has since widened to pretty much any job that has normal hours and benefits.
I have managed to maintain my financial independence by working as a bartender in the Boston area. The irony is that the longer I go without a professional job on my resume, the less likely I am to be offered one. Interviewers look at my resume and notice a rather significant employment gap. I still never know what to say when asked — “I’ve been bartending” just never seems to go over well.
In truth, I have developed some very useful skills over my years in the industry, skills that would probably get me the job if I could prove I had them from a source other than pulling pints. I am a strong communicator and saleswoman; I can multitask in my sleep; I don’t get overwhelmed easily; I am adaptable to change; I am comfortable engaging with people of diverse backgrounds. These are skills that would make me an excellent candidate for most of the positions to which I apply. Unfortunately, it seems it doesn’t count if this skill set is the result of years slinging drinks.
I am at a point where I don’t know what to do, except perhaps go back to school and add my own straw to the pile of student loans that’s breaking my generation’s proverbial back.
But there is still no guarantee that I won’t wind up just where I am now, only saddled with monstrous loans to pay off with my $2.63-an-hour-plus-tips wage.
I am afraid this generation has missed the golden age of the American Dream. Hard work and education simply are not enough to get you where you want to go anymore — in fact, it won’t even get you close. We need to be more creative, more entrepreneurial, more competitive, more dedicated. If I could share a piece of advice with my 2004 self, it would be this: Choose a path and stick to it. If you want to be an actress, to travel the world, to work for the World Health Organization, to be a teacher, a doctor, a lawyer — choose. I couldn’t, and now I do something that was never on my list of things to do.
Kat is one of the two participants in Generation Stuck who are documenting their lives in audio form, in addition to text. Those stories will be broadcast on WBUR in November.