Patience in the Time of Unemployment

The familiar “ding!” of my e-mail goes off and I immediately react with a feeling of hope, apprehension, and anticipation. I quickly head over to my laptop, open my e-mail inbox and sigh. Another junk mail arrival, airlines boasting of their newest sales, donation requests from various groups, and the like. I have become one of Pavlov’s dogs, though instead of reacting to a bell for food, I react to the “ding” for word from a job.

It is not uncommon to hear of recent college graduates who are struggling to find work; rather it is much too common. I graduated in 2010 with my Bachelor’s degree, volunteered for a year and then went on to complete my Master’s degree. I finished my studies this past August, flew home from Dublin and landed back in Boston with new-found knowledge and wild fantasies of gaining imminent employment. What a wide-eyed idealist I was.

Granted it has only been four months of job-hunting, but with each passing day I feel the pressure to find employment mounting. Also, I recognize my concerns and complaints may seem trivial to those facing long-term unemployment, those with mortgages to pay and families to support who may have gone without work for a year or more. In the big picture of unemployment, I am sure my few months of job searching are a small matter. However, my loan payments are still due, my desire to move out of my parents’ home is rising, and a general feeling of “uselessness” is becoming the norm. I spend hours a day searching various employment websites, applying for numerous positions, crafting the perfect cover letters, and trying to sell myself in the best way possible. I’ve had a few responses, a phone interview here and there, impersonal rejections, but mostly my inbox remains empty.

I have friends in similar positions. Or, if they are not unemployed and searching, they are underemployed in jobs they dislike and that they cannot easily escape. Leaving a job that provides healthcare, a steady income and full benefits, no matter how unfulfilling, is a giant risk to take, especially in this economic climate. It is easy to fall into grumbling with them, commiserating about how tough it is to be a twentysomething trying to find a fulfilling job and the “unfairness” of it all. We went to college, got our degrees, did thankless internships, volunteered our time and energy, and still nothing. These conversations quickly fall into a back-and-forth of who is more miserable, who has less money, and who needs a job most desperately.

I’ve quickly come to realize that these chats do little to boost my hopes in getting a job that I love—a job in which I can grow and put into practice what I’ve learned inside the classroom. Instead, they fill me with bitterness and melancholy. I’ve struggled to stay positive during the job hunt. One friend suggested positive affirmations, telling myself “I will have a job by such and such a date.” Well, the dates keep getting pushed back, and with each passing deadline my confidence diminishes.

Yet I often remind myself of the numerous ways in which I’m blessed and privileged. I have parents who let me live at home for free and even help me out with money when I need it. I have friends who let me stay at their apartments for days at a time and will listen to me vent when I need to, or who take pity on me and treat me to a pint every now and then. I have had and continue to have amazing experiences. I realize I have more than most people do, despite being unemployed, and I am incredibly thankful for that.

More than remembering what I am blessed with, I find myself returning to a quote from St. Francis de Sales: “Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them – every day begin the task anew.” St. Francis’ words help me to re-center, to remain optimistic in my search, and perhaps most importantly, to have patience. To begin the job search anew every day is mentally exhausting and can be depressing, but it does not have to be. The ability to start each day fresh, to “set about remedying” my situation, is something I strive to accomplish daily. Having patience with myself, setting about to remedy my self-doubting thoughts and decreasing confidence in my skills and abilities, is pivotal in my own personal job search.  And when I struggle to do this, I return to these words to instill in me a sense of hope and patience that something will come along soon.

Kat O’Loughlin is a graduate of Saint Anselm College and Trinity College, Dublin.