Job hunting woes

Job hunting sucks. Seriously.

As someone who’s trying to make a difference and apply my skills and knowledge from university into the real world, nothing shatters my idealism faster than looking at the job market, reading stories from disillusioned experienced people, listening to wary family members, and facing my own fears and self-doubts.

High-impact careers, careers for social change etc. come with such huge risks and it’s been quite depressing learning how little I’m willing to give up for comfort, familiarity, and my own mental health. Also, my obsession with ethical responsibility is making me so so suspicious of working for the government AND NGOs/nonprofits AND the private sector. My aunt was telling me the night after my graduation that I need to chill and that there’s no such thing as a perfect place to work.

“You can’t do everything,” she said. “But you can at least do something.”

She’s right, of course. I understand that. I’m not trying to solve every social ill out there, but I am trying to just work at a decent place with decent pay that won’t contribute to greater corruption and irresponsibility in the name of good intentions. I want to know I’m contributing to something purposeful, meaningful, and exciting and it’s worth the move away from home, my family, and my community. Perhaps that’s just too naive of me, but it’s not my fault that going through Journalism and Global Studies classes made me think that way.

I don’t think I previously shared this but I was nominated for the Peace Corps for this July in the Youth/Community Development sector. After months of waiting on a response from placement, I reconsidered this endeavor after much soul-searching and research about the organization. I realized that the extreme flexibility I would need to have in order to be placed, the 2+ year stint abroad, and the uncertainty about the sustainability, necessity of the projects I could work on or even my presence in XYZ country was just too much for me to accept. I also accepted a paid summer internship at the Make A Wish Foundation in Phoenix through August which would make me unable to join the service at the time I was nominated. I contacted placement with my situation and was notified that my application would be deactivated and should I decide to apply again, I would have one year.

So there goes my trusty job plan that I had counted on after graduation. I thought I would be gone as a Peace Corps Volunteer for 2 years and then come back to grad school, apply for tons of jobs and be accepted to all of them—BAM! AWESOME LIFE ACHIEVEMENT. Hehe, if only it worked out that way.

I’m also feeling slightly self-conscious anxious about being one of few Muslim/African-American/hijabi/women entering this field of international development/affairs. It’s so intimidating to feel confident and respected and secure in the professional work world anyways, but even more so when you know you may be the first one going through this process. I wish I could network with more people like me so that I could get a better idea of what the reality is like for me to get a job and successfully navigate all the social/political issues that come with it. Like have there been any hijabi Peace Corps volunteers? What has their experience been like? Traveling/living in Guatemala was tough for me as a Muslim in a country that had very little familiarity with the religion so it was not really accommodating at all, even though many people were very in general nice and welcoming. It’s hard to not be wary or have certain expectations when entering someone else’s country, but if you can’t have a place to escape and seek solace with a community that understands you and meets your basic social/spiritual needs, how can you last through such grueling work? Also, hijab is a pretty red flag already in the U.S. where enough people are educated about Muslims, so imagine that in rural, not-so-safe areas of developing countries that are ignorant to Islam or have negative perceptions? This is a problem area for me that I have yet to see resolved or addressed by anyone in the field, even by materials on diversity in Peace Corps, USAID and the Foreign Service. I’d like to act like I’m so brave and don’t care about what people think of me as I win the locals all over with my Pollyanna attitude and determination, but sadly, I do not have that kind of energy. If you know where to get some, please let me know and I’ll buy it off of you.

So where does that leave me now? Like I said for the summer I’m working at the Make-A-Wish Foundation in their National Events and Brand Campaign department from June-August AND THEN I’m going on a 2 week trip to London & Rome with my cousin!! I’m so excited! This trip is exactly what I need as I end my academic career and enter my stage of disillusioned graduate having an existential crisis before waking up to the real world.

I’m not stopping the job applications though. I’ve found several that I’ll be applying to over the next few weeks. Entry-level jobs are quite difficult to find these days. Everything is an internship or a position that needs 5-7 years of experience. So how am I supposed to get experience if I need to have experience first?? It makes no sense honestly. And then there are great positions like AmeriCorps that pay you next to nothing and are so rigid in their timelines that you can’t negotiate your start and end date. I had that issue already when I was offered an AmeriCorps position in Phoenix but I would have to miss school for an orientation, and now I’m going to have the same problem again for another position because I’ll be gone to Europe. It’s ridiculous how my life presents such frustrating conflicts.

My mother also wants me to study for the GRE and take the test so that I can apply for school next fall. When am I going to have time for that?? I also don’t know how long I should plan to work either, because that affects the type of job I’m going to pursue and how much I will give up for it (relocating and commitment). I’d like to do an academic type master’s like in Public Diplomacy or Global Communication or Development, but then I think about how I need to be practical and should go for an MPA/MBA. If I decide for an MPA/MBA, then I’ll definitely have to work for longer in order to be competitive, so that means more time out of school and more pressure on finding a good job.

And then every so often, my law school aspirations sneak back into my head until I smack myself. Another option is just being a freelance writer and giving myself time to write a book while mooching off of my parents. That could be quite character-building. I just can’t seem to narrow down what it is I want to do in my career. I JUST WANT TO LEARN FOR THE SAKE OF LEARNING, IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK?

If you have any job hunting advice, consoling words, or sarcastic remarks, feel free to share. I’d love to hear some sobering thoughts from the rest of you in this field of social entrepreneurship NGO/public service/international affairs. If you’re Muslim too, I really want to talk to you as well! Sorry for such a depressing post, but I really needed to unload and just vent. I can’t be the only one thinking this…

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