Unemployment. The one easily identifiable benefit of this period of my life is that it has given me the ability to empathize with a group of people whose situation I thought I would never experience. I now understand something many people from my background overlook. Finding a job (any job) is actually quite difficult—Unemployment is hard.
And, in Portland, Oregon, with one of the highest rates of unemployment in America and a city where twenty-somethings with college degrees “go to retire,” finding any job, much less something interesting and meaningful, is all the more difficult.
(On the unemployed: It’s not that we are lazy and don’t want to work. It’s not even that we have too much pride to take positions that we feel we are overqualified. We want to work. It seems as though there just aren’t enough jobs.)
Returning from Asia, I felt at the top of the world. I received good grades from a well-respected college and had more energy than I knew what to do with. I had (and still have) so much that I wanted to contribute and felt that, more than ever, I was in a position to put my passion to work, help save the world, all while giving myself valuable experience in the “real world” before I ventured back into the realm of academia and towards my career as a doctor.
So I wrote cover letter after cover letter, getting excited about the possibilities and all that I could learn. I honed and re-honed my resume and wrote more and more cover letters. I started to expand my search, first to include more job-hunting websites and then into “less interesting fields.” I even convinced myself that working at a restaurant would provide valuable experience working with people that I could use my in future interactions with patients (I still think that it would).
In all of this effort, my confidence has been shaken. Unemployment sucks. Of the I-don’t-know-how-many jobs to which I have applied, I have had one offer ($10/hour, 12 hour shifts, with a commute and no benefits), one preliminary phone interview, and a smattering of rejection e-mails and postcards. I occasionally find out that the job I applied for (along with over one hundred other applicants) went to someone with a master’s degree in a related field and ten years of relevant experience. All for $14/hour and decent benefits.
With the free time that unemployment has allowed, I can’t really do too many interesting things as I happily blew the majority of my savings traveling around Asia (and most recently registering SHELTER International as a 501(c)(3) organization). I do spend a fair amount of time researching and applying for jobs and do my best to not get too excited about the possibilities that will most likely not come to fruition. I try to stay positive and continue to apply. But there are only so many jobs openings in Portland to find and I am left with the little known phenomena, “free-time.”
I am a workaholic. Unemployment has thus been particularly frustrating. Though I love stillness, I can only have so much before I crave stimulation and engagement. To solve this problem, I have reached out to organizations where I would like to volunteer, but with so much in the air around my schedule, am unable to commit to a regular shift. I am also looking into reading and thinking about academic topics that interested me in college but never had the opportunity to explore. Luckily, I can keep myself occupied with the development of my NGO and have enjoyed dreaming up ideas to turn this vision into something more concrete. I also have my long-term future to think about. Yesterday, while strolling for miles along the Oregon coast, I found myself longing for my secondary applications for medical school.
This period of time has also made me thankful that I have parents who, however reluctantly, are willing and able to help support their ambitious twenty-four year old college graduate who can’t even find a job at a grocery store (because there aren’t any and these jobs might be even more competitive than most). So, thank you for paying my rent and not forcing me to move into a moldy basement somewhere on the outskirts of town.
I’ll stay positive and hopefully something (anything?) will come my way soon.