Philadelphia Metropolis


Finding Work

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By Shannon Fandler

For the classes of 2009 and 2010, having a job has become not the logical next step in a graduate's life plan, but something akin to a miracle credited to God, the alignment of the stars, lucky socks or possibly animal sacrifices.

At my college, the career office prominently displays its list of students who have gotten jobs since graduation in giant letters because there are so few names. They are legends, these college graduates receiving paychecks. 

A coworker of mine recently tried, not too subtly, to set me up with one such legend: her neighbor, a recent grad who had just got a job with Vanguard.

"So what was it again that you sold them on?" she prompted him, and he answered, with the earnestness of a Boy Scout, "Teamwork! They're really big on teamwork, and that was my main talking point."

Funny, because in the job hunt there is no teamwork, only dog-eat-dog ruthlessness. You are your own best friend -- and sometimes you don't even like yourself.

I walked away from the attempted matchmaking because although I have nothing against teamwork, I hate business-oriented buzz-words.

At the recent Campus Philly job fair held at Drexel University, the word "teamwork," as well as "key player," "goal-setting," "game plan," and other annoying sports-themed metaphors, were being tossed around as frequently as the logo Frisbees available for free at the Vanguard table.

College Grad.jpgSo few jobs, but so many free things. All you had to do was promise to "touch base" with the company representative at a later time, and you could have not only Frisbees but measuring tapes, lunch boxes, magnets, pens, and little squeezable, stress-relieving foam objects in various shapes and colors. Also, bags.  A deficit of jobs, but a huge surplus of bags -- drawstring, tote, nylon, canvas. I gathered seven, all from companies I would never consider working for.

I don't graduate until December, but I was at the job fair with a friend who just finished her degree in graphic design. She was there looking for work and I was there to glance at Grad school tables. A list of preparation tips for success offered at the fair suggested not bringing a friend, probably because in the job search you have no friends but yourself. The list also suggested that female candidates wear a bra, and that it is polite to introduce yourself to the company representative before pillaging that company's table for free gifts.

My friend, who had come well-dressed and armed with resumes, didn't find any leads. In the month following her graduation, she is discovering that a paid job in the fine arts is actually a myth, and she may have to resort to less creative, production-based design

Many graduates are resorting to unpaid internships. They prefer to work for free in the field of their choice rather than accept a job that requires them to wear a magnetic name badge and/or a paper hat. Because of this influx in candidates who are overqualified and too old to be interns, there is a shortage of internships for those who should be getting them--undergraduates wanting credits and exposure to an industry. People like me.

Nothing spells failure like being turned down for a job without pay.

I never did hear back about the summer internship I applied for at a local publishing company on Chestnut Street. I bombed the interview. I had barely remembered my own name, let alone the books I had read recently. As they asked me if I could find my way out, I mispronounced the word "goodbye" and stumbled backwards out of the office. I wouldn't have hired me either.

And here I thought I was prepared. I rehearsed answers to every possible question. I made a list of publications I read regularly. I researched contemporary authors to name as my "favorites." I also thought of adjectives and brief phrases to describe myself.

One of these was, "Can think on my feet." I don't really like this expression, "think on my feet," and evidently, it isn't true of me. I just thought it would be useful in a fast-paced publishing environment. I imagined myself running from one place to another and having to think as I ran. It didn't seem very difficult.

But I guess thinking on your feet should include being able to answer simple questions at a job interview. And I couldn't.

Nothing will save you if you forget your name, your manners, and even the most basic vocabulary, but they say it does help to dress for success. For instance, I went to my interview in a body stocking that ended just under my armpits. A salesclerk talked me into it, telling me that it would "smooth everything out."

She also tried to talk me into a $200 blazer that, she said, had "hire me" written all over it. I'm glad I said no. Like other job-seeking paraphernalia--the Philadelphia Credit Union lanyard, the Catalyst 360 water bottle, and all those bags--having that blazer in my closest would merely remind me of my unemployability.

Though my interview was weeks ago, I still have the nude body stocking dangling, limply, over a chair in my room. I'm not quite sure what to do with it. It lacked the power to produce a job and at night it scares me.


Shannon Fandler is a Philadelphia-area writer who will be looking for work soon.





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