Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Conversation

Just like "how's school going?" and "how's the dating scene?" were common questions I got asked during trips home from school, now I get asked, "how is the job hunt?" This is a legitimate question since I am, after all, unemployed. But it is also the most annoying question in the world because obviously the job hunt is not going super great if I am still unemployed after months of "hunting." I don't mind this question in emails from good friends because I know they commiserate with me, and I have complete control over how much I talk about it. But in person, this question inevitably leads to the exact same conversation over and over. Below I have documented this conversation, which I have had (with little variation) at least 127 times since moving back to Vancouver. My inner commentary in italics.

Person X: Kristin, it's good to see you!
ME: You too, it's nice to be back in Vancouver.
Person X: You're looking for a job, right? Always. They always bring up the job hunt. It's like they can't help it. Like when you see someone who's clearly pregnant and everything within you knows not to comment immediately on their pregnant state, but you can't help it. It comes out. I understand. I try not to hate them for this. 
ME: Yeah, I graduated with my masters in August, moved back, and I've been looking for a job. I'm not sure why I always give specific information like, "I graduated in August." I can immediately see their little minds ticking away the math to calculate how long I've been jobless. Why can't I simply say, "I recently graduated, and I'm taking some time off. How's the dating scene?" or "You're pregnant, huh?" End of conversation. 
Person X: A masters? Congratulations. What did you study?
ME: English. So, pretty useless when it comes to getting a job. Really. I always say this. What is wrong with me? I'm just asking for what comes next. 

We laugh.

Person X: What are you hoping to do, then? Teach? I have quickly learned that no one has any idea what English majors actually study. People mostly associate English majors with their high school English teachers and with Jane Austen. When asked about it, I've tried explaining my thesis topic to some people, and they seem completely caught off guard when I don't say something like, "I compare and contrast Pride and Prejudice with Little Women." 
ME: No, I did some teaching while getting my masters, and it turns out I don't enjoy it that much. You would think that saying, "I don't like teaching" would end a conversation like saying, "I don't like babies and joy," but it doesn't. They continue. 
Person X: Well, what then? And this is where I get annoyed. Mostly because they start to seem a little annoyed that I don't seem to be taking this whole job thing very seriously. 
ME: I've been applying to a variety of jobs. I get more vague. 
Person X: What's your dream job? Like, if you could have your pick of jobs, what kind of work would you like? I can never quite tell if people are asking this because they really want to know or because they're trying to ask me some soul-searching question to make me finally realize my true hopes and dreams. If it is the latter, thank you, Person X. All I needed was someone to ask me this soul-searching question. Problem solved. I will now go out and achieve them all!
ME: I think I would really enjoy a job that combines writing and design. I could be really good at creating promotional materials like catalogs or leaflets for a company. And this is true. And I would be really good at it. But it sounds like I don't know what I'm talking about. Leaflets? Who makes leaflets anymore? Also, enough people have asked me this that I really should have a made-up answer that I can say concisely and confidently like postmaster general! or, dog walker! 
Person X: Well, have you . . . and this is where they start giving me advice. There is quite a range. Some people say obvious things like, "have you considered a writing job?" And some people say extra annoying things like, "have you considered expanding your job search beyond Vancouver/Portland?" Mostly, I don't like receiving unsolicited advice because I am stubborn, and it is often offered in a condescending way as if I haven't given this subject any thought.

I humor their advice, and I try to end things on a positive note by mentioning that I have had some interviews. And I'll keep on applying. And I exit the conversation.

I understand why people ask me about the job hunt. Everyone has that one big thing going on in their life that everyone asks about. Like the "how's school?" question. Or the "how is your family doing?" question. They're being polite. They're making conversation. I just don't like talking about it. I don't like talking about it because I really don't like that I graduated in August with a masters and I still don't have a job. I don't like that even though I've applied to tons of jobs, when I talk about it with people it still feels like  I should be doing things better or differently. I especially don't like that I probably should be doing things better or differently, but I'm not sure how to adjust because there is so little concrete feedback from "the hunt." When people start asking probing questions, I feel like I have to justify myself to them. Like they don't believe that it's difficult to find a job right out of college. Like a small part of them is really thinking that if I were just working harder or being a better person that I would already have a job. And then a part of me starts to feel that way too.

And that is why I hate The Conversation.


Renny said...

Tell them you're working in sex crimes. People literally walked away from me last summer after I told them that.

Whenever I went home during my stint at BYU people would say, "how is college?" I would respond, "it's good." Then they'd stare at me as if that were not enough. What they REALLY wanted to ask was, "Why don't you have a boyfriend yet? You aren't getting any younger you know. Everyone ELSE that went to BYU from here is married..."

Elisa said...

People need to mind their own damn business.

And I HATE unsolicited advice more than almost anything in the world. Especially when it's super obvious, like, "You know you can call and follow up after an interview. You don't have to wait for them to call you." Are you kidding me?! And whenever people give no-duh advice like that, they always say it like they INVENTED the idea or something. Clearly this is a major pet peeve of mine. So amen to that.

Also, the "you majored in English, so you must want to teach" made me lol. You're right--people have no idea what English majors actually study.