I am a 26-year-old unemployed graduate student. Before telling me that “all grad students are broke” scenario, my story is a painful reality that I live with every day, and every day I am more heartbroken than the day before. The truth is, moving back home to New York was probably the worse decision I ever made.
I am a New York City native, born and bred in Brooklyn. My whole life has been surrounded around the saying “work hard, and you shall have your reward, ” and for a long period of my life, I believed that; until I graduated from college. I returned home after living on campus in D.C. for four years and was ready to start my life. I was 21 and hungry because I believed that I could do anything I put my mind too.
Unfortunately, this was not true.
I worked hard ― VERY hard ― and still had nothing to show for it. I moved back into the public housing apartment that I grew up in, having high hopes for what this piece of paper, which I worked so hard for, could get me.
I didn’t want to dream anymore. I wanted to bring it to reality.
I started teaching and then got an opportunity working for a private school. The truth was, I wasn’t happy there, and I knew it from the first day. However, I wanted to make the best of it, so I decided to go back to school to receive my Master’s degree, so I could finally start my career in communication.
Before I knew it, I was an overwhelmed, emotional wreck. Having to go to school after work, and reporting to work at 7:30 a.m. in Queens got the best of me, so I had to leave. My financial stability was gone, and my hopes for leaving my apartment with my immediate and extended family looked impossible.
I looked for jobs in every area that I could. I looked; I applied; I PRAYED. I assure you that within a whole year’s time, I had received over a hundred rejection letters; let’s not mention the jobs who never replied at all. I was heartbroken and devastated and wanted to know what I was doing wrong. So, I tried something else. I began freelance writing.
I started my travel blog and began applying to online publications for social proof. I started cold pitching and joined writing groups so that I could learn everything I could to become a better writer. I know you’re probably thinking, “Good for you; you found your saving grace!” Um. No!
After all that work, there were no responses from cold pitching, and I was still receiving rejection letters from firms and companies. My blog was not kicking off as much as I’d hoped, and I felt as if my one way out turned into a dead end.
Judging from a little over a year ago, has much changed? No. I still receive rejection letters and worse, no follow-ups. Still, no gigs that pay me a substantial amount of money to survive, and yes, I still live in my childhood apartment with six other people. But Why?
Why is it so hard for people who have so much to offer? Why are we continuously told that we are not good enough?
Why is it such a painful process to wake up every morning and tell yourself, “I am going to be great,” when things are thrown at you constantly to make you feel otherwise?
Why are entry-level positions asking you for five years of experience when it’s supposed to be entry-level? I wish I had the answer to those questions. If I did, I probably wouldn’t be writing this right now.
The truth is, New York City is so crowded that the job market is like a piece of beef and the job hunters are a herd of thirsty hounds. People from all over look for employment in New York, and the reality is that outsiders live better in New York than native New Yorkers. So, not only am I in competition with the thousands of New Yorkers, but I am also battling with people from New Jersey and Connecticut ― hell, even Massachusetts. All of this, to hopefully receive a “yes” or confirmation that I am an exceptional candidate; which has yet to happen.
The second thing is, New York itself is expensive. Neighborhoods have been gentrified only to accommodate those who make over $55,000. Rent can run you $2,300 a month, and apartments that are lower in rent have three people living in it already. Ten times out of ten, you’ll more than likely get the smaller room out of the four, so you’ll pay $50 to $75 less, and the place needs a lot of work.
Lastly, writing jobs in New York are not easy to come across. Most creative jobs want you to do one out of two things: intern or work as a temporary worker. Temp jobs are very common in New York, but because of the high demand, they are hard to find and hard to land. I’ve been interning recently and, unfortunately, it’s not what I thought it would be. I barely write, and when I do it is not to the capacity, I would like it to be. The money is just enough for me to get there and buy lunch; which leaves my account low and sometimes with a negative balance. I am going to continue my internship, but my chances of being paid well are also slim.
With all of this happening in my world, what am I to do? That’s the question. I will soon have three degrees ― two bachelors and masters ― with no income, bad credit (thank you, college) and no space of my own. Can I survive another year? Probably not. Will I try? Of course. But if nothing takes off, then I’m back to the drawing board. But, that’s the life of a New Yorker, right?