It strikes me that I should have started writing, recording, this earlier. At the very least, it would have made an interesting study in the psychology of the unemployed, intelligent, frustrated mind, of which nearly every millenial is.
I had a job, a maternity leave replacement position, in Calgary that ended in June. I had planned to move back to Vancouver once it ended, because Vancouver was where my family, my friends, and the boyfriend I had recently reconnected with were.
I wasn’t an idiot. Four, five months before my position ended, in February, I started applying for jobs in Vancouver. In April, I had a very long phone interview with a very interested employer. When I visited Vancouver in May to look at housing options, I interviewed with her in person. At the time, a representative from HR was present, because, as she put it, “we are very serious about you”.
As I am still unemployed now, in February of 2013, that very serious, very interested employer suddenly vanished and neglected to return my emails when I followed up with her in June, August and October of 2012.
I am a millenial, born in the 1980’s. I was one of the masses who went to university – the University of British Columbia, in my case – with a plan for my life. I was going to do my B.Sc. and apply to medical school. My MCAT scores were high enough, but thousands of my peers, perhaps more socially adept than me, had the same idea. When I finished my B.Sc. and post-interview offers of admission did not appear, I decided to apply to graduate school and pursued a M.Sc. I continued applying to medical school.
I did everything right. I volunteered. I held a job. I took up a martial art. I was a little naïve, but not gullible, and most people who knew me could vouch for my honesty and compassion and passion about medicine. I volunteered in a laboratory, and of the other two summer students, made the most progress on my research project. And yet, no medical school.
In 2010, I finished my M.Sc. and worked as a technician. I had a year long contract with a retiring professor. Six months into my contract, he called me into his office and told me that because things were going faster than expected, my contract would be terminated in April instead of July of 2011. One month later, I came into work to find an email from him telling me that my position would be terminated by the end of next week but that as severence, I would be paid until the end of February.
I was a union employee. They told me there was nothing I could do and advised me to start looking for another job. Thanks, union. My fees certainly went to a good cause.
That May, medical schools rejected my bid for admission again, and I planned to move to Calgary, hoping a year’s residence in Calgary would open the doors of Alberta’s medical schools to me. I immediately started applying for jobs at the University of Calgary. A few days before I flew to Calgary to look for housing options, I received a phone call scheduling an interview.
A few days later, I got the job.
A year later, I had been rejected by medical schools again; this time, for the last time. I was determined to make my future elsewhere, especially as my year in Calgary had taught me confidence in my skills as a research assistant/technician.
And that brings us back to the beginning of this story.
Since July, I have had many, many interviews. Of those many interviews, there were at least six where I advanced to second round interviews, where they asked for references.
If nothing else, the last seven months have taught me this: there is nothing wrong with my resume or my CV. There is nothing wrong with my interview skills. I have two very strong references.
In every instance, someone with a little more experience, with a little more pull as an internal candidate has trumped me.
What am I to do? How is this my fault?
It isn’t your fault, my friends tell me, which only makes the tears run a little more fiercely.
You’ve done well to advance so far interviewing, particularly for jobs in the biotech industry and outside the Research Assistant/Technician field, they say. I love my friends, but that’s a very bitter slice of consolation right there, right now, as I am nearing the end of my Employment Insurance period.
Can you apply for other jobs? Other friends ask. I have tried. There is only so far one can go in explaining how transferrable your skills are in your cover letter. I have tried applying to receptionist positions – God knows I can type and communicate – but even though I have omitted my M.Sc. degree, I am still overqualified for those positions. I have never heard back from a receptionist application.
I’m intelligent. I’m educated. I’m smart. I tend to have my shit together. And yet, time and time again, in the last seven months, I have learned that that is not enough.
The boyfriend tells me that that this is a universal experience, that nearly everyone experiences this at some point in their lives.
I haven’t told the boyfriend yet, but an unlikely friend once offered me a job with a construction company. I was surprised when he told me that I was strong enough to work construction – me, five foot two, stressed to under a hundred pounds Asian girl – but you know what, come March, come the end of EI benefits, I will pursue that offer.
The prospect amuses me. Perhaps I should train to be a black comedian. I have no shortage of material for black humor.
Come March, come employment as a construction worker, I will consider myself to have failed, but the question is: did I, the individual, fail, or did society fail me?