Zachary Karabell recently wrote an article for TheDailyBeast.com, where he said, "there is no crisis of employment for those with college degrees..." Well, I beg to differ; my story shows that education and experience do not always equal employment, no matter what society has led you to believe.
I have a bachelor's in journalism with a minor in women's studies from a great (read: expensive) university and a master's in South Asian area studies from The University of London. During my college career, I was an editor for my school's newspaper and completed two high-profile media internships with national magazines, both of which published my work. Meanwhile, I was active in volunteering with numerous political and human rights organizations.
After I finished my bachelor's I looked for and applied to numerous jobs including those in my field and others. I was able to secure some volunteer work with my local newspaper as a community opinion columnist, answering weekly questions and writing columns. I naively believed that finding a suitable job in journalism would be easy -- I had the skills and a degree from a great university plus internship experience. I knew I would have to do grunt work, for which I was prepared and ready. I know I didn't have top connections with magazines or newspapers, but I kept applying. Between 2007 and 2009, I applied to a total of 147 jobs with hardly any responses or interviews.
In the summer of 2008, after a year of job-hunting, I decided to pursue other interests. This led me to pursue my Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA). I then went to Pakistan in late September 2008 and taught English to orphans and underprivileged children and primary school teachers at a local charity school. At the same time I became a Huffington Post blogger writing about my experiences in Pakistan.
I arrived back in the U.S. in January 2009 and started looking for jobs again. Even with more experience and a willingness to leave the U.S., finding a job was still difficult. With grad school still in mind I took the GRE and applied to a school in London.
Finally, in September 2009, I found a position through a family friend. I applied for a communications position with a leading private school in Dallas. I was completely over-the-moon when I got the position! I felt that after two years of searching, my degree was finally worth it (For years I struggled with believing if my degree was worth the time and money). That same month I was accepted into a graduate degree program in London. I decided to defer grad school for a year to work at the private school to gain experience and save money for London.
I left my in September 2010 and headed to London to start my one-year master's program. It was technically cheaper for me to go to school abroad for a year than staying in the U.S. for a 2- year graduate degree. Plus, it gave me more of that great "international experience." I returned to the U.S. in August; I started searching for a job in July. In November 2011, I was awarded my master's degree in South Asian area studies.
It's now the end of February 2012, and once again I'm struggling to find a job. To be honest, my greatest fear when I started my grad degree was not being able to find a job after finishing the program. Since July I have applied to more than 100 jobs. I've widened my catch and applied to jobs everywhere, including retail and my alma mater; but alas, nothing.
I was under the false impression that if I worked hard, went to college, did internships, participated in various clubs, volunteered and lived abroad, I would have a good career and a chance at the American Dream.
Forgive me for ranting, but I'm frustrated and quite despondent. There seems to be a real catch-22 with education and unemployment -- I couldn't find a job so I went back to school. Now that I've finished school, I don't qualify for unemployment benefits. It's a vicious cycle. Meanwhile, my friends in the UK, who are also recent graduates, are able to apply for unemployment benefits through Jobseeker's Allowance, provided they are actively looking for work.
A friend said it perfectly the other day -- I'm in a bad market, both where I am in my career and with the current job situation in the U.S. See, I would gladly work retail or any job I'm overqualified for at this point, but most of the time my resume probably isn't even looked at for those jobs because people assume I'd be dissatisfied and quit soon. Yet for those jobs that I am qualified for, people would rather take someone older who has more qualifications or experience, but is willing to work in a lower position for less pay.
This second struggle for a job is making me question everything -- my education, my beliefs, my faith and above all my self-worth. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for something. The fat cats on Wall Street say many unemployed people are "lazy." I'm not lazy; I can't find a job and try every day. If I'm over-qualified for some jobs and under-qualified for others in own field or related fields, what exactly should I do?