Friday, May 18, 2018

Anxiety, Sensitivity & Job Searching

I haven't posted in quite a while because now that I'm not down-and-out depressed and seemingly non-functional as a human being, it's hard to know what this blog should look like. But the truth of the matter is, even though I've been working my tail off ever since graduating almost a year ago, trying to get my career off the ground, there are still days I wish I could go to sleep and never wake up again or throw my tea cup collection against the bedroom wall out of frustration with friends who I sometimes feel always let me down.

About a month and a half ago, I finished my third internship I've completed since graduating. Since it's hard to get jobs in my field without a Master's degree, I've been taking different short-term opportunities to try and get experience hopes that can: 1) give me some much-needed career direction, 2) boost my resume, and 3) provide me with some interesting experiences living in cool places. The process has had its ups and downs, but I've gained a lot from it and I wouldn't change the path I've taken. But I have to admit, it's been a heck of a whirlwind, and now that it's all died down to me sitting alone day after day in my parents' house in my hometown, getting to have social interaction maybe once every other week...I feel a lot of days like I could scream from the weight of everything whirling around in my own brain.

Who knew sitting around doing nothing but looking for jobs, applying to jobs, waiting to hear about jobs, etc. could be SO. DAMN. STRESSFUL.?

I mean, this is supposed to be the dream, right? I have all this time on my hands, so I can write music, finish my novel, take up watercolors, read all the books I've bought the past two years (and maybe the ones I never got around to in college, amirite, ladies??), maybe actually paint along when I'm watching Bob Ross...But no. I just spiral. All I can think about is finding a job. I need direction. I know I should be doing the projects I put off when I'm working, but I feel too stressed. When I try to pick myself out of the house to do something to get my mind off of things, I talk myself out of it.

"Oh, it'd be too far of a drive." "You know, it's getting close to 3pm and traffic is going to pick up and then what." "Well, shit, it's raining and you can't walk in the rain, can you?" "Coffee would be nice, but do you really want to spend the money if you're going to get an apartment if you land this job?"

Instead, I pick through every job board I know, emailing links left and right to loved ones to get their opinion, bookmarking the sight, pasting the listing into a Word Document, writing a plan for a cover letter. I scour listings until I could cry with frustration at all the dead ends.

Too far away. Wants 7 years experience. Have to have a PhD. Need to be proficient in 5 languages. Only pays $9 an hour. Wants candidates to be knowledgeable of how to operate a gristmill. Only considering people between 5'7" and 5'9".

Recently, I was invited to interview at 3 organizations, all within a week's span. It was exciting and overwhelming and as stressed as I was at the prospect of talking to strangers and traveling to new places, I was exhilarated that a mere month into my job search, I had so many doors opening up. I ended up being a finalist at all three, and I even drove 7 hours up to interview at one place. I was looking at apartments, going to IKEA to scope out furniture, imagining and anticipating my new life as an independent career woman. I would volunteer, join a club, date, adopt a dog, have a cute little apartment with all my own furniture. I would sit in coffee shops and write poetry.

With one email, that's all gone.

I guess I find transitions difficult and job searching is like one giant monster transition fest. Every new opportunity that comes on the horizon, you have to start considering whether you could see yourself in that place, with that company, living in the area. Then if you get called back for another interview, you start looking at apartments and imagining how you'd decorate your desk and checking out the restaurants in town....Then suddenly it's back to square one until a new opportunity comes along and you start the same process. From the outside, nothing is happening in your job search, you're just unemployed, but inside is a constantly changing reality, like the waves at the beach, rolling in and out, in and out. Intermixed with all of that can be grief - grief for the little dreams and hopes you build up that then get smashed to pieces like a sand castle too close to the tide.

It's also tough because people don't have a lot of sympathy or patience for the job searcher; companies don't respect your time or the stress interviewing and applying puts on you. You could put hours into writing application materials and never hear a peep from the recruiter (did they even get my application? Or is it floating in a black hole somewhere?) You can go in and interview THREE TIMES and not hear a decision until you email and ask what's up. People are busy and just plain discourteous and as the beggar in the situation, you're expected to put up with their shenanigans, dropping everything to interview at their beck and call and putting your life and search on hold while waiting for an answer. All the while, you're not making money and you're ready to claw your face off with frustration.

It's hard to relate to people you talk to because they don't want to hear about all your options on the table and interviews where you were asked ridiculous questions...People don't always get how crushing a "no" can be, especially if it's the 100th no you've heard.

And finally, there's just the hurt of feeling like you're not good enough. The sensation comes at some point in the process, if not at many points. Whether it's when you've opened up the 20th listing that it turns out you're not qualified for or the 4th email saying they've decided to go ahead with another candidate...It wounds you a little bit. Even if the people are complimentary and encourage you to apply if there's ever anything else listed, it still stings. You've been rejected. The whole process taps into my underlying insecurity that I'm Not Good Enough. Especially these days when jobs expect you to be freaking superhuman (as a side note: My sister actually came across a listing recently that flat out said they were looking for Thor.)

I wonder why I wasn't smarter about what classes I took in college, why I even majored in what I did, why the universe led me down the path I did. I feel frustrated because supposedly people change jobs all the time but I'm only in my mid-20s and feel like I have trained myself into a corner and can't break into another field. It's discouraging to be plain and simple being compared to someone else. Then you're told you have a lot of what they're looking for. Then you're told you weren't enough. You're left wondering why you weren't good enough and why the other person was better. Yes, I know that sometimes people are just a better fit for small, even arbitrary reasons, but it can get to you.

The whole process is exponentially more difficult if you're shy, socially anxious, introverted, autistic (or have some form of Social Communication Disorder), or have poor executive functioning (ADD/ADHD). This post is long enough as it is, so I'll only briefly say that although my social anxiety is exponentially better than a year ago, interviews still make me very on edge because of the unknowns of the situation (you have to navigate a strange city and/or building to get there, you don't know exactly what the process will be when you get there, you don't know exactly what questions will be asked.) Then afterwards I tend to beat up on myself for not answering better or being more sociable and making small talk. When I don't get the job, I sometimes wonder if it was because I wasn't more outgoing. Add to that being an introvert...it's tough to think up answers right on the spot! Oftentimes a day or even a week later, I think of the perfect answer for a question that just didn't come to mind when I was put on the spot.

Anyways, this was a lot of ranting and rambling, but I wanted to get these feelings off my chest and let anyone else out there struggling with Job Search Anxiety and/or Job Rejection Insecurity to know that they're not alone. It's a tough place to be in. I could go on for another page or two about how frustrating this stage of life is, but hang in there. This too shall pass. If depression and dark thoughts about yourself, doubts about your worth or your future start to become too much, please know that even if your depression or your unemployment have been going on for a long time, life is full of unexpected twists and turns, and sometimes they're for the best. There's hope.

Stay strong, friends.

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