I sent out my 150th job application today.
That’s something I never thought I’d type. I lie. I’d been anticipating it.
One hundred and fifty!
If my job search was a human, we’d consider him/her/them a scientific marvel, a living symbol of human resilience. There’d be a statue erected in honour. At the very least, a park bench.
I’m humouring myself, but the truth is, I’m not sure how to feel. Yes, I’m aware that 150 perhaps isn’t that many compared to others. Take, for example, the woman who’d applied to a whopping 357 jobs before receiving an offer. If that’s the average, then I have a long way to go, so that resilience better keep on resilience-ing. Of course, our situations are different. She possesses marketable, useable, in-demand skills. I frittered away an unfathomable amount of money on a master’s to improve my chances and appeal, but in a subject that’s not worth much outside of academia. I had hoped for copywriting or editing as I do love me some snazzy sentences, but those need portfolios and evidence, and, well, to come back to that age old mantra – I can’t get experience if no one will give me a job.
Let’s think about who I was for a moment.
I had always enjoyed the go-go-go of work. The getting up in the morning, put the coffee on, head to the bathroom to get made up, the is-my-eyeliner-too-big-today? of my daily routine. Sitting with a half cup of strong drip coffee (it cooled faster), the checking of my news feed. The tittering at negativity, the eye rolling at politics, the softening at those feel-good articles concerning good doggos and pretty kitties. The jamming out to confidence-inspiring music on the tram, the good mornings to colleagues, the setting down of bags, starting up of monitors. I was, at my core, a people-person. A social butterfly, the one who could strike up a conversation with anyone and everyone, the kind who brought in cookies and donuts because there was no better feeling that seeing a smile on a face, knowing the day was off to the right start.
I was all of that, and then some, and more.
I am purposeless. I am without direction, with decision, with determination. Hours on job applications, sitting through online assessments and skills tests, labelled ‘highly proficient,’ ‘a strong candidate,’ but more than that, I am ghosted or unfortunate.
I’m not alone in this. No, not at all.
I have friends who are of different nationalities to the country I live in, who struggle just as much. Their qualifications aren’t accepted, their work experience is dismissed, their names (much like mine) are too foreign sounding.
We sat together, not too long ago, and lamented as a group. Misery doesn’t love company, it requires it. If we could charge minimum wage for the time spent on job applications, that would pay so much that we wouldn’t need a job at all. Because job hunting is a full-time job.
There are interviews, too, and these are treated like end-of-year exams.
I search and scour and spy across all manner of platforms. I learn names, hierarchies, histories, hobbies of the HR. I study in depth the details of the company, where did it start, where is it going, who’s-who and what’s-what. I have a fantastic memory for these things. I practice smiling in the mirror, I rework my voice so it’s not too high or nasal, I say sentences over and over so that they sound natural in my mouth. I find ways to get the interviewers smiling and laughing in the first five minutes because, hey, that shows interpersonal skills and a knack for open and natural communication. I rearrange my entire personality to tick boxes on checklists. I see heads nod, eyes brighten, hear ‘that’s a great answer!’ and it’s a genuine response because I of all people know when someone is faking happiness. We laugh and joke and I thank them for their time and nod enthusiastically when I hear, ‘we’ll be in touch by XX date.’
And then XX date approaches.
It is XX date.
XX date passes.
And I think, and I know, is it me?
Because it was me.
There’s just something, something small that I can’t quite put my finger on just yet or maybe I don’t want to, that is missing and that they can see is missing and that’s the one thing I can’t fake.
Or maybe this is what the universe wants.
Then everything goes full circle, and we start the dance again.
If I think of rejection, I think of it as a bright swirl of colours blocking the way into the future. Most would think of it as a crumbling brick wall, one that’s been there far too long, but for me, it smells wonderful, like candies and brithday cake and a warm fire crackling away in the middle of a cold night. It feels familiar, like a hug from an old friend that lasts for over a minute, like a rubbing hand over a tired shoulder, like a nice sit down after a long and challenging day. It has a voice too, and that voice is comprised of every encouraging word I’d ever heard growing up. It coaxes and teases and I get close enough to peer through it, to see the fields beyond the mist, but never strong enough to pass it.
Why does creativity look like a child’s sugar induced daydream? Because it’s inviting and it’s comforting and it’s cruel. Rejection is real and raw and numbing but there’s hope, desperate and unrelenting hope that one day, just one day, someone will change everything with that simple word: yes. There is nothing crueller than what we desperately need but can’t have.
So, then….150 job applications?
Here’s to the next 150.