Get a Job!
Twenty-five-year-old Jolie Gendler received her master’s degree in publications design only two months ago, but she’s already developed a daily routine for finding a way to put it to use.
Gendler rolls out of bed every morning and immediately flips open her laptop. If she’s not reworking her résumé, tuning up a cover letter or compiling sample work, she’ll hop on the Internet and scour job websites like MediaBistro, SimplyHired and Indeed.
She estimates that some days she’ll spend up to six grueling hours hunting for a full-time job in her field.
By late June, Gendler had applied for over 30 jobs and garnered only two interviews. Gendler says she’s completed lengthy projects for companies looking for design samples, only to find her work isn’t precisely what they had in mind. In a word, she said, the whole process has been “frustrating.”
“All that work, all that time, all that waiting,” Gendler says. “Of course after you’ve handed in each round you think, ‘maybe they’ll hire me now.’ And then you wait about a week. It’s a cruel game that never ends.”
Perhaps the one silver lining amid a particularly dense cloud is that Gendler, who does work part-time as a waitress, is hardly the only graduate struggling to find employment in her field of study. Fellow 25-year-old, and waiter, Joey Ellis, is a passenger on a similar boat.
After graduating from the University of Maryland in the winter of 2010 with a major in geography and a minor in geographic information systems, Ellis planned to land a job as a GIS analyst, the entry level starting point for his field. He interned for the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration following school, but his progression ended there. Of the 50 or so jobs he says he’s applied for since, Ellis has had only one interview.
“I was hoping [the internship] would turn into a job, but at the time there wasn’t a spot,” Ellis says. “I expected there to be more opportunities, but it’s really hard to find places where I’d like to work, that have jobs in my area of interest.”
Fresh off her graduation in the spring of 2012 with degrees in history and secondary education, fellow Terp Dorian Lee is also staring down an uncertain future. Eager to obtain a position as a history teacher, Lee sent in applications to school districts in all 23 Maryland counties, as well as Baltimore city and Washington D.C. She’s still waiting for her first interview.
After spending her senior year of college paying tuition to student teach at two schools in Prince George’s County, Lee quickly found out that the market for history instructors — in large part due to Maryland abandoning the government High School Assessment (HSA) — has all but dried up.
“If you’re a math or science teacher, you’re golden. You’re going to get a job,” Lee said. “Schools don’t really focus on their need for history teachers because they are focusing on making sure their students pass their HSAs — which are only given in English, science and math.” Currently, Lee works as a lifeguard at UMD’s campus recreation center.
So, what’s the answer? These cases, although they are distinct, are markedly common, according to Tracey Paliath, director of economic services for Jewish Community Services. Overseeing JCS’ career services department, Paliath and her colleagues work to dispense creative techniques and helpful tips to individuals struggling to find their ways in the working world.
In Gendler, Ellis and Lee’s cases, Paliath says they’ve made wise choices by choosing less appealing work over no employment at all. “If money is an issue for you, or even if it’s not, take a job that’s less than what you were hoping for or what you are capable of, and work your way up,” she advises. “People who have jobs are more attractive to employers than people who don’t. If you’re working at something, you don’t have to worry about explaining holes in your résumé.”
Paliath also emphasizes how seemingly insignificant details on a resume or cover letter can make all the difference. An inability to follow directions during the application process can easily doom any job search, she cautions. For example, Paliath advises candidates not to contact an employer by phone when a job announcement explicitly asks them to apply only by email. Likewise, sending a document in the wrong Microsoft Word format can quickly disqualify prospective candidates.
“In this market unfortunately, something as subtle as not knowing how to format your resumé correctly can hurt your chances. HR departments are looking for reasons to weed people out and they will weed you out for those reasons, just like a typo will weed you out,” Paliath says. “Dotting every ‘i’ and crossing every ‘t’ is extremely important. If there are five hoops they’ve erected, you’re going to have to jump through all five, if you want to get the job.”
JCS clients are also schooled on the paramount importance of networking — something Paliath says isn’t utilized nearly enough as a means to foster job opportunities.
She likens the job hunting process of interacting with others and calling upon friends and family — regardless of how distant — to entering the dating scene.
“You have a list of criteria for the kind of person you want to marry or be in a special relationship with, but if you haven’t met that person yet, staying at home and being upset about it isn’t going to work, right,” Paliath reasons.
Networking, she points out, is a skill that many job-seekers need to learn. For example, says Paliath, people need to know how to approach others about their job search, and should recognize that even if the person they approach may not be able to help, that person likely knows someone else who can.
Dealing with hundreds of different clients, Paliath is empathetic toward individuals in search of quality work. She understands how demoralizing the process can be. For aspiring professionals like Gendler, who devote so much of their day to finding a job, it’s maddening to have the stress of feeling discarded constantly in the back of your mind.
“I sometimes dread going out and meeting and seeing people I haven’t seen in awhile because the first or second thing they always ask is, ‘What are you doing these days,’ and I have to say, ‘Oh, I’m still looking for a job because nobody wanted me,’” Gendler says.
Help — Just Around The Corner
Tired of navigating the job search on your own? Maybe Jewish Community Services’ career counselors can help. For more information visit jcsbaltimore.org/job-seeking/.
JCS also helps employers looking for talented employees by offering free recruitment services. Visit jcsbaltimore.org/serving-businesses/employers/.