for release Friday March 25, 2005
by Melodie Davis
Recently I started to type a file name for “Job Description” after my annual job review and my finger accidentally typed “Joy” instead of “Job.” It was a slip of the keyboard finger, but what a thought.
This is my Joy Description. How novel! I’m going Joy Hunting. Hmm. Not usually what we think of when we think about jobs, hunting for them, performance reviews, the whole job thing.
Yet a job is a joy. Perhaps you wouldn’t go that far but would agree that being without one when you need one is certainly the opposite of joy. Having a job that you can literally look at the description and think of it as a “joy” is a blessing indeed.
As high school and college graduation dates near for many young people, I have a second daughter pursuing an answer to the question, “Is there life after college?”
Earlier in a column I indicated that our oldest daughter had finally found her first “real” job after college and hinted that was a whole other story. It took her a solid 18 months—or almost two years if you count the last months leading up to college graduation when all anyone ever asks you is “What are you doing when you graduate?” and all you want to do is scream. Especially when you don’t know, and have been doing everything you know to do and still come up empty.
She reached the point of despair many times: what good is a college education at a highly rated school if you end up folding towels in a home décor store? Of course a general degree in “English” is not in as much demand as a job in nursing, engineering, or computers, for example. But how could I fault her for choosing my major?
She and her colleagues at her new job have some advice for employers: be willing to hire someone without experience. How else are kids going to get some?
Eventually she went the route of working for a temporary agency just to get some experience and also earn some bread—which is not a bad way to get permanent jobs these days, I’m told.
When she was job hunting in her chosen areas, almost everyone wanted 3-5 years of experience. The blessing of this computer age when you can dash off resumes to potential employers with the click of your mouse pad—is also the bane: employers get scads of applications, and most never even bother to acknowledge that yours was received. So it’s a black hole. All told, I’m sure she sent inquiries or applications/resumes to well over 100 employers in several general job areas.
For her first interview, my husband and I drove her about 200 miles round trip in the middle of the night from where we were vacationing to catch a train to Washington D.C. What great expectations she had for that interview. How happily we sent her off to the big city. I felt like Ma and Pa in the Little House series sending off their daughter by train to her first job. Luckily Michelle has an almost indomitable cheerful outlook on life. After every interview, she felt she’d “done well.” She thought they liked her, were impressed by her resume. But came up with nothing. How much tougher for anyone to job hunt who has a more naturally pessimistic outlook on life.
Now, everyone’s experience is unique, and it’s probably dangerous to make oversimplifications, but here are some hints based on this recent experience:
Job experience is job experience. You never know when some odd job you picked up for a few months ends up being the credential that helps sway a potential employer, especially in an “employer’s market.” The home décor store where she worked part time is known for the emphasis it places on customer service. Its stellar reputation was known by the interviewer, and actually good customer service comes in handy now in her job where she has to make sure advertisers are treated well.
If I were looking at resumes, I would look for bright, enthusiastic, dependable kids who spent summers holding down real jobs and showing up for work every day, on time, ready to perform all day long. The kid who has clerked at the grocery store and worked in a warehouse knows the importance of getting everything right—something that is hard to learn in college or in a prestigious honors program or cushy internship assignment. What you want to know is: will this kid work until it’s done and ask questions and confess right away if they mess up and do something wrong.
Don’t hire out of charity but rather because the person is enthusiastic, appears capable, put together, and lit with a fire, over someone who may have a little experience but who gives the impression of just going through the motions.
And good luck “joy” hunting to all the graduates—whether from high school, college, or technical school. A good job is a joy—and worth it to keep hunting and training and retrofitting yourself until you find a situation you do enjoy—at least most of the time.
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Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three daughters.
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