Why I am angry

From December 2014:

I had dinner with a friend of mine over the Thanksgiving holiday. My mother doesn’t like her at all, and she very rarely has strong opinions on anything, let alone my friends, especially at this age. My mother never liked my friend, we’ll call her L. My mother has very good reason not to like L and after I speak with her, I constantly ask myself why I am friends with her. I remember one time, L made rude comments about the dishes in the sink and the mess in the car. I said something of course, and am wary about introducing her to other people I know. But also, her family was/is not as wealth as mine, so I played it off as her insecurity, especially since I don’t really care for her opinions. As I think about why I still communicate with her on occasion and even maybe call her friend,  I think it’s because I have known her for so long, and she’s one of my few friends from childhood, outside of school, that doesn’t have at least one kid out of wedlock and aspired to more than just graduating from high school and finding a man. As I think about it further, my mother also has a friend that I don’t like because she insulted me, maybe there is something there as well…

Anyways, L is arrogant and annoying, but also loyal and ambitious. She’s not one you want to talk to when your down, but she’s educated, so you can have intelligent debates with her. She’s also a snob though, but I would be friends with a snob over a bum. She was supposed to go to an Ivy League college, according to her, but she’s doing pretty well without having gone to an Ivy League school, according to her. She thinks she’s quite knowledgeable although most things she says have very obvious counterarguments. She went to a summer program at an Ivy League school, and she would tell me that because she went to the summer program she would undoubtedly be attending that college, despite the fact that the fine print said that the program in no way boosted one’s chances of attending the college. Because my high school was feeder school for Ivy Leagues, did not know the extent of it until I graduated, I felt I had to apply to at least one. If I could go back, I would apply to the other one, which might have actually been a good fit, but weather and location were very important to me (academic rigor was a given). All those years, I kept my mouth shut, again because my saying anything would come across as arrogant because I actually had/could’ve had the pedigree that she wanted. I’m a legacy, sorority and college, but decided not to cash in on that either, because I wanted to be my own person. My children will have no choice, or maybe at least two between myself and my parents.

L is in law school know and had a series of jobs as a legal assistant. I don’t know the extent of her employment history, but I do know she stayed close to home until law school, when she still did not go far. Again she wanted to go to an Ivy League school, but seems well on her way to have full-time employment as an attorney after law school.

I was going to say that I am angry because despite her arrogance, she still manages to have a job and go to law school. However, it’s not that I want her to not have those things. As I think about this, I am actually quite thankful that she did not get into an Ivy League school for undergraduate or law school because NO ONE would ever hear the end of it. Unfortunately, now she wants the responsibility to fall to her children…

As I think about the one job that I wish I never agreed to, I’m also very angry that they’re still employed. I am angry that the heads of the company went to Harvard and are wealthy as the operate a patriarchal organization whose policy mirrors the practices of their home country, which should not be part of the culture of a US company as the goal is to move towards non-discriminatory practices and more of a work-life balance, and not away from it. Then again, the people that I aspire to emulate would have never worked there. So, I guess, they can have that. For most of the people there, that was the highlight, for me it was the lowlight. I said yes for the money.

There are other things that I can be angry about though, like the fact that I have very limited control over what I applied to, recruiters who recruit without understanding the industry and who give false hope, and also being in a sea of people who are under-qualified and are being hired precisely because they are under-qualified.

I worked hard to graduate from some one of the best high schools, I worked hard to graduate from one of the best colleges, and I worked hard to graduate from one of the top graduate schools in its field. Despite this, I got told by someone who was pretty and had long hair that I don’t produce results. Of all the people I had worked with, at much more respected organizations, she was the only to say this, based on her feelings. I feel like the genius on Scorpion who got arrested in Arizona and said that he could not possible be tried by his peers because of his high intellect. I do not go around saying things like that. I never even considered myself to be all that smart. Yet, when people say they’re impressed with my resume and make hints at me leaving for something better, it makes me certain that I am not being hired because I worked to hard. I had an interview once with a global company and the head guy said that unlike most people he was not afraid to hire someone smarter than him. He also was refreshed to see that I had some “normal” retail experience.

So now, I have to find some way to try to make myself appear somewhere between normal and impressive. I leave things off my resume, change the titles, remove certain responsibilities, and leave off some of the languages that I know. I tried full honesty, and it’s no longer an option. I have to make sure I smile, and act more personable and demure. I sometimes wonder if having longer hair would help, certainly in Florida… For certain companies, I have even wrote the college name of my university and not the university itself, so it’s not that obvious and I don’t have to deal with concerns over pay, etc, and all the other stereotypes that come along with it… No one seems to care about my graduate degree though, whose institution is less known that the other, so I was hoping that would create some balance.

And then it’s like, what was I supposed to do? I needed money, so I went to places that I hoped would give me the best ROI, and that I happened to enjoy as well. And now, what am I supposed to do? I tried honesty, full disclosure, and being myself, but then I get people saying things like “we don’t care where you went to school”. The only people who say that are those who do. Just like the only people who say “we’re about meritocracy” are those who aren’t. Think about it: do companies/organizations known for being meritocratic and diverse proclaim it every chance they get, or is it found somewhere on their website, or in their actions?

I’ve been dealing with a recruiter who did not get back to me until I contacted my former boss. She told me to call today, but still no response. I do not want to be a recruiter because I prefer analytical work over administrative work, and prefer not to be in customer/client-facing positions. But I sometimes wonder, if it would be better to have the actual analysts periodically receive and review the resumes, but I guess that’s what a referral is, but I had a referral, I used to work for the company before and was asked to interview for a full-time position even when I did not apply for one. (That’s one of the things I regret, but I now have a better understanding of the recruiting process.)

Most days I feel like I’m suffocating. If I had followed my high school plan, I would have been in law school now, but I wanted to try things, ignoring the fact that most people do not try things. I have made another plan, which of course has to include borrowing more from Uncle Sam, but as I think about how much debt I will have at the end of it, how I would much rather work, and how I had a plan before that got completely derailed, I just wonder if this is all futile. Then despite my best efforts I still continue to breathe. I search for jobs again, and then I stop as I think that they’re just going to hire someone less qualified.

College and Post-College Careers 101 – A Letter to my Younger Self

First off let me say, that when I took up drinking as my hobby, I had one of the worst hangovers that I’ve ever had. I let go of the hard drinking for now, and just have a glass when I’m feeling really depressed. I was saving the bottle for a happy occasion, but as I feel myself getting slower mentally and my birthday is approaching, the hope for the happy occasion has long since subsided.

To be more engaged with others when I was in a happier place when I moved back in with my parents, I volunteered to interview high school seniors as a part of my college’s alumni association. Then I was excited for the students and really wanted to encourage them on their pursuits. Now I feel like I have nothing to offer. I have failed. How am I supposed to sit across from them and explain how invaluable a college degree is, the experience, blah, blah, blah? I can’t, but I can offer the truth. I can bring them back to reality and tell them what I wish I would’ve heard at their age:

1. Where you go to college and what you study matters.
People say it doesn’t matter in the long-run, but they completely skip over the fact that a recent graduate needs to first enter the workforce before they can even think about the long-run, not to mention the HUGE amount of debt everyone but the extremely wealthy and the extremely poor will amass. (Not $30K but more like $100K, but in my case $300K when you add graduate school.)

First, where you go to college…

If you want to be able to work in any state in the United States, you’ll need to go to a school that’s respected and known in every state in the United States. You will need to look at the university rankings on USNews, Forbes, etc. This becomes especially important if you want to work on Wall Street or in Consulting, or at any other well-known financial or business institution. If that is your goal, you’ll also want to stay away from getting a graduate degree from any school whose undergraduate program is not in the top 10, with some wiggle room given for the top 20, or top state schools since there is  bitterness towards people who go to top 10 schools and more recognition that the cost of college is ridiculous when compared to the returns. That will bring down your resume and remove opportunities that you could have probably had with just your undergraduate degree.

On the other hand, building off of the bitterness towards the top 10 schools, if you go to a top 10 school do not venture out of the major metropolitan areas. Outside of the major hubs, there is a preference for local candidates from community colleges or local state schools. This preference is very strong in places like Florida which is generally seen to have a weak educational system at all levels, and neither it’s state schools or private universities are highly ranked with the U.S. (In Latin America people will say MIT and FIU in the same sentence, but then people from MIT have no idea when an FIU is, but in Latin America, you get extra points just for attending school in the US.) So if you know you want to live in Florida, go to college in Florida. You must be sure you want to stay in Florida, because your chances of leaving Florida are slim. You can compare that to degrees from state schools in California, North Carolina, or Texas, which have more national regard.

Second, what you study…

Do not major in a qualitative area. People stay study what you enjoy, and follow your dreams. If your dream involves majoring in a qualitative area, go to whatever school you want, as long as you don’t have to take out any loans. The other option is going to law school, but you MUST go to law school. Do not do what I did and delay law school for a lackluster MA degree. If your focus is on law school, you’ll need to get into a top 25 school if you want to eventually work as a lawyer. You can go to a school not in the top 25, but you should NOT take out any loans to do so, because that would be a waste of money. Taking out loans for law school if you get into the top 25 is a safer bet. Yes, it is betting.

The place for your dreams in college, are the electives, minor courses, and you extracurricular activities. You also should not choose an “easy” major so you can get a good GPA. Your GPA matters, yes, but so does your major, not the courses, but your major.

So, major in a quantitative field, especially if you are a minority. Also, learn another language, but only one, so that people do not think you want to be a teacher or a translator. No one likes an overachiever. Top 10 schools generally do not offer a major in business, so if you are looking for national mobility, consider these majors: computer science, economics, engineering, biology, chemistry, physics, math, finance, or statistics. You can double major if you want, but having a double major alone is not something to brag about. Do not worry about studying abroad, nobody cares. If your foolish like me and want to live in south Florida or such similar places know for its low intellectual capital thinking that it might not be all that bad, look at the market. The locals are only going to understand what the locals know. Here, the market is tourism, real estate, business, and sales. Majoring in business, hospitality, real estate, or finance is your only option. Absolutely do NOT come to Florida or similar places with a non-standard degree, meaning, at my college, you could create your own degree. That’s not useful for Florida, as it will not be understood. Stick to the basics and what is easily understood.

2. You cannot make an investment with loans.

Going to college is not an investment in your future, it is a necessary evil and a business transition. A friend’s mother when to MIT and I am pretty sure she did not pay more then $11K for her education. Overall, I believe back then, it was a couple thousand per semester. (That’s an amazing ROI for the baby boomers.) She graduated MIT and her starting salary in an engineering role was $20K. (Notice the specific and clear major leading to the job that had the degree/major in the title.) Her starting salary was higher than the cost of her education. That is not going to happen today. I think MIT is about $50K/year, and the starting salary is probably not above $70K with 70K being generous. Total college tuition will always be higher than your starting salary. Accept it, and move on.

That being said, without a college degree, in most places, you will not even be able to be an administrative assistant. I say most places, because in south Florida, you can have a MA and work for some of the best companies in the country and be under-qualified for the role of administrative assistant. Then, in DC many interns are recent graduate school graduates.

I am not going to say do not take out a loan. (shocking) I have $300K in loans. I applied to 9 schools, and got into 8. None of the schools offered me a scholarship, and so I still got to go with my first choice, which happened to be the best out of the ones that I got into. I could’ve gone to a state school, but then my options would’ve been limited as they are now. You can decide whether you prefer to be debt free, or disengaged and always the smartest person in the room. (There’s a saying that if you are the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.)

If you take out a loan that is greater than your expected salary, you have no choice but to major in a quantitative field as mentioned above. After all, you are also getting hands-on financial experience. (That’s a joke, no one cares about how you manage your personal finances expect for when there’s something negative in your background check. I mean, I’ve traveled all around the world, but yet I’m somehow not qualified to arrange other people’s travel… I digress…) Also, BY NO MEANS, should you be taking out a loan greater than your expected initial salary to attend a school that is not ranked in the top 50. I thought this went without saying, but from recent experience I guess it doesn’t, your starting salary will vary based on location, industry, degree type, major, and school.

So schools will tell you that college is an investment. Not true. I thought maybe it could be true, because you invest a little bit now for much more later, but if you personally have nothing when you’re 18 and are relying on credit, you’re gambling, not investing. I’ve made investments with cash, from a part of my actual salary, not based on an expected salary that was not guaranteed. Gamblers use credit to roll the dye and see what happens. With college financial aid, you’re using loans to gamble for and with your livelihood. Also consider mortgages and the housing market… With loans you are gambling. Do NOT get caught up in the word investment. Accept that the loan is a gamble, the Department of Education and Sallie Mae are loan sharks, and move on. (I mean, explain why I can still qualify for an educational loan, although I won’t qualify for a personal loan until I am 60 at the earliest??? I wouldn’t want one by then anyways…)

3. GPA might matter, but it depends.

If you want to go to a top-ranked consulting firm, you will need at least a 3.7. Go anywhere but a community college, and get a 3.7 and you will be fine. Overall, you do not want to get below a 3.2. Do not stress over the GPA, but focus on the coursework, as going about it that way will probably help your grades. Grades are about 50 percent what you actual do and 50 percent what your teacher thinks about you. Attending office hours and getting to know your professor goes a long way. Try to be genuine with it, and you might also want to get to know them a little bit more before you start speaking up more frequently in class less they view you as a challenge or a brown-noser.

For graduate school and professional school: the lower your GPA, the better your standardized test scores have to be.

4. Graduate school.

If you go to a top 10 school, do not go to graduate school right away. If you have undergraduate loans, do not go to graduate school unless they pay you. When applying to graduate school, the ranking of the undergraduate institution matters as you consider wether or not you want to attend. The same principles regarding location and major mentioned above apply to graduate school as well. You can use graduate school to relocate and enter a different field. Unless you are a business or prelaw major, only get a graduate-level degree that COMPLEMENTS your undergraduate degree.

If you go to a top 10/20 undergraduate school, your graduate school should be in the same tier otherwise your skills and aptitude will be questioned. If you attended an undergraduate school that was not ranked as high, attend a graduate-level school of a higher rank to increase your options. Especially, now, doing so will make you appear wise, as it will be assumed that you attended a lower ranked undergraduate institution to save money and that is one instance where what you do in your personal life matters for your career. You will also appear to be a hard-worker who persevered despite less opportunity, etc., etc.

 

So, to wrap this up, college is not about you finding yourself and exploring your interests, it’s about being employable. Some people are lucky enough to go to those places that allow them to be universally employable, but if that is not you, you’ll still have to strategize to make sure that you are employable locally. You’ll need to look a college as a business and adjust your mindset. My “friend” called me a “free spirit” because I said I was moving again even though I said I was moving for a specific job. I was offended, because I think that all she hears is that I am traveling to another location, not relocating to work. But, she was probably right. I had dreams like her and was going by my feelings, which led to ruin. She was the smart one who had dreams and married up. Being practical is all there is, and dreams will follow, maybe. That is the status quo. That’s what people understand. Accept it, and move on.

Foreign Language Fluency vs Excel Proficiency

Which takes longer to do: become fluent in a language or become advanced/proficient in Excel?

The other day I went to practice Portuguese and was asked by someone who insists on giving me employment advice despite having been out of the job search game for a while, you can’t find anything better to do?

A few days later, I went into another depression as I began to start another week of sending out applications and hoping that someone would take me, and called my mother to share my woes. She reminded me that I can’t change the past and should look forward. She said I made conscious decisions to focus on learning languages. (FYI: my degree is not just in languages/linguistics) Shortly after the conversation with my mother, I perused LinkedIn to see how my profile stacked up against those in my chosen fields. I came across GPA’s that blew mine out the water, and then I wondered again why has my overall GPA remained consistently in the range of 3.2-3.4 since high school and my concentration GPA stayed closer to a 3.7?

One obvious reason was that I had issues with some teachers/professors. One high school teacher lowered my grade because of several absences, which she knew was due to my digestive issues, which eventually resulted in the removal of my gall bladder, but she could care less. (True story). Another obvious reason, is that school was hard, I guess, but my grades always fell after the first year, so I guess I just got bored.

The only time I was really excited about school was in high school and during the summer language programs. I liked my college, but I was raised to view college as a requirement, and after having spent time abroad I was just focused on getting a job so I could go back to traveling and was uninterested in the college social scene. And I knew that to be able to live and work wherever I wanted, I needed to know at least one other language other than English, and decided to master most of the UN languages.

So I made language fluency my goal, but now employers are saying I need a degree in Economics to do what I want. I could’ve majored or minored in Economics in college, but at that time I thought I was going to work for the Foreign Service or some non-profit agency. Living in DC soon helped me re-evaluate those desires and come to grips with my place in the hierarchy. However, alongside the econ requirement are language requirements. But do these people want someone with an economics degree, or just someone who can do financial modeling, VBAs, and pivot tables at an above average level? I’d say it’s the latter.

Learning those econometrics skills is a challenge, yes, but one that can be overcome with a simple course. For that interview with the home furnishing company, my mother taught be how to create pivot tables before they flew me out for the final interview. You can’t learn Portuguese that quickly, which is probably why some employers have decided to indicate native proficiency to weed out those people who think taking one course in a language makes one fluent.

Lower Your Expectations

I did some promotional modeling on the side and worked with a girl who was had a connection to the CEO of Carnival, or so she said. I had told her that I was relocating to the Miami, FL area and she told me to send her my résumé and she would pass it along. I did, and have yet to hear anything… Today, I came across a Black Enterprise magazine with the CEO on the cover, so I thought I would pick it up and take a look. Inside, I found a list, “The 10 Wealth for Life Principles,” in the Frugal and Fabulous section. Not surprisingly, I take issue with numbers 1 and 2: I will live within my means, and I will maximize my income potential through education and training, respectively.

Overall, I thought it was a good article with sound advice, and I really liked how the author mentioned that saving has become hard for those that are unemployed and underemployed. However, items 1 and 2 are vague, and the assume a return on investment, that is no longer guaranteed, and further the two can conflict with each other.

If I were to have lived within my means, I should have gone to state school and not Duke University. I should have also never attended graduate school. I wanted to go to Duke because of the work hard/play hard philosophy (people at Duke do not take themselves too seriously), and the opportunities in international affairs. I also applied to Boston College, Tulane, American University, the University of Miami, Wake Forest, Yale (I felt obligated to apply to at least one ivy), and Furman University. Duke was my first choice, followed by Wake Forest and the University of Miami. My mother thought that at least BC would offer me money, but no one did. However, had I scored just 10 points higher on my SAT, I would have received money from UM, and I occasionally wonder how my life would have been different. So, because no one offered me money, I got into my first choice, which was recommended by my mentor and also out-ranked the other universities (I did not get into Yale, but someone would have had to force me to go if I had), Duke is where I went. Interestingly, one of my good college friends turned down Columbia for Duke because Duke gave her a full ride, and she was very bitter about this for quite some time.

I honestly don’t regret attending Duke. I’m disappointed, or rather go through bouts of depression thinking about the $160K+interest I owe, but there is no other place I wanted to go. And I do believe, that had I, being who I am, chosen to go to a lower ranked school my prospects and earning potential would have decreased significantly. So, as for wealth tip #1, sometimes you have to live above your means for the sake of #2.

#2 Should specifically reference college education. I think that’s implied especially since I am finding that in some areas an advanced degree has some sort of unattainability and prestige attached to it, which I believe is unwarranted. Also, one cannot just get an education or training form anywhere, with any sort of degree and expect a return on investment, and despite people saying that attitude and passion are a factor, not so much. What affects the value of the college degree: name, type (BS vs BA), major, GPA, internships, and location. Basically, if you want to work in the high profile areas in banking and consulting, where the money is to pay off your loans, this is what is important: name, BS, (quant field or economics), 3.5+ (3.7+ preferred), and relevant internships (with a higher GPA, internships are less important, with a lower one, they become more important). In this instance location is irrelevant. If your GPA is lower, then you actually compete with people who graduated Phi Beta Kappa from lower-ranked schools, but good for them, and not good for you. They’ll still have more hoops to jump through, but then that makes you wonder if paying for the name was worth it when you could have gone somewhere else and graduate summa cum laude.

Location is another important factor because of school recognition nationally (FYI, I’m just focusing on US markets). With more recognition you and your degree can generally move more freely from one place to the next, but there are also some less high profile areas that prefer their own kind and stick with the regional schools. Another important thing to consider is what jobs are available in an area, and what degree is required for that job. This is exactly why I went to graduate school in DC: to work in DC and belong to one of the schools that I thought the actively recruit from. Now, however, as I leave DC, I face the challenge of being overqualified and even pricing out of jobs because recruiter think they know what I’ll ask for. This one person assumed that I should get 70K easily with a MA. We were the same age, but I knew about those other factors mentioned above. It’s really frustrating to think that the people that review my résumé have that same simple-minded understanding of the value of a degree and applicant expectations.

This brings me to two other articles I read on résumé review practices: How Recruiters Read Résumés in 10 Seconds and Five Résumé Red Flags. Because of where they’re published, they’re not the most credible, but considering that I keep being told that my résumé is impressive, while not receiving any offers for full-time work, what’s written makes sense.
For the first article for #1 Location and #7 Turnover, screw you recruiter. The author says that many companies don’t want to pay relocation in this economy, but did they ever think about how many applicants would relocate themselves because of this economy? I’m hoping that the people who reviewed my résumés and were impressed enough to write back, but still turned me down, followed this logic because then it was obvious we’re not a good fit if they’re unable to look at both sides. Those companies that are intellectually-challenged say on the postings that they will only consider local candidates. More astute companies will just say that they do not pay relocation expenses.

#7 I applied to a well-regarded company in home furnishings and wasn’t invited to an interview until I became angry and called back. I wasn’t rude, but just explained very directly how I met all the qualifications mentioned in the job posting, and some. I think I did an online assessment, and then had a brief phone interview with someone who was clearly reading a script. (I hope to God she was new.) Foreign language ability was a requirement, and she just asked me about my skills, but didn’t test me; that and all the other questions had been answered on my résumé. There was no room for dialogue, so it was pretty pointless. I was mostly shocked about not hearing back because not many people want to move to that area for work, let alone those who with the needed language skills, who could probably barely be counted on one hand. This interview was in early 2013 and I had graduated in May 2012, and this person asked about my switching jobs and not staying in one place for too long. I wanted to ask her if she could read, but I just said I was in school and those were temporary positions. So from that experience, I guess I need to include temporary next to the job title/company name, which is valid, but I can’t make the font any larger to help them read the education section.

#7 of the first article relates to “Employment Gaps”, the first item in the second article. The same recruiter with reading challenges, asked me about gaps in employment. I was also asked that when I was being interviewed for my Secret Clearance, and they could tell I was annoyed, but alas, they were both following the script. My answer: I was in school. Them: and then? Me: I was in school. Them: Oh. Me, to myself: stupid. So after that home furnishings interview, I tried to fill in the “gaps” in the employment section to limit confusion.

My mother tells me to stop calling those people stupid. In person I humor them. That makes me think of when I did a French speaking test with NDI and was basically talking to myself because they person on the end couldn’t follow. Hopefully she recorded that to share with someone else who could actually test me. They were offering a whopping $12/hr for DC, for me to move back from Boston to DC. It would have been different if it was just part-time, and I thought about getting a second job, but I would’ve been overqualified…

Throughout this job process, I have expected employers and recruiters to review my résumé and cover letter against the job description and the overall mission of the company. I expected the job description to be accurate, but in my cover letter I would address how I could assist them beyond what was in the description, so the accuracy of the job description itself wasn’t a big deal unless it was far off. I expected job descriptions to not have typos. I expected companies to want to best candidate, not the cheapest, while basing the salary requirements on their own assumptions without negotiating with the candidate. Yet, from this process I have learned that those expectations are too high, or maybe they’re just too high for most people and I am just waiting for that diamond in the rough. After all, all my credentials landed me a temp position with a company whose name makes people oooh and aaah (smh). I was just a temp position though. I just need to find normal people, companies, recruiters, who don’t have to be dropped on their head to recognize a quality candidate, and can put their ego aside and not be intimidated.

From Then Until Now

So many things to say, but where to begin… I just could not bring myself to write for the past month. I had thought I was doing well, but today, with so much on my plate between housework, job applications, and planning for an upcoming trip, I’m feeling a bit unmotivated.

In the past month, I’ve had two jobs and started taking anti-depressants, the social worker I’ve been seeing says that they help to level out my emotions/feelings. I have been using what I learned in AP Bio to process what’s happening to the neurons and I think they have helped. I think with the medication I was able to get out of my head and focus on other things, be happier about life, and be able to encourage others. For a while I did not have crying spells, I cried a little today, but nothing near like what happened before. That reminded me too that the pills cannot solve everything. What they have done is help me to be more open to and accepting of life. I was even able to have a spiritual breakthrough and am glad to report that I no longer have thoughts of suicide. But now where do I go from here…

Now, it’s just a few days over a year since I graduated with my Masters degree. I was actually looking at some pictures with my parents the other day, and we were all so happy. I’m grateful for the accomplishment, the experience, and the people I have met, but I had hoped it would make it easier for me to get a job, which it has not. Statistically speaking, it has made it harder. I have a specialized advanced degree and at most 2 years experience in a market looking for more experienced workers, or people with just a Bachelors. That’s frustrating, and causes some anxiety, but because of the pills, my reaction is more mellowed out.

What boggles my mind is all the steps I took to ensure that by now I would be gainfully employed, with benefits, preparing for another trip to Brazil, to only be at this point and see that those steps taken were in vain.

My senior year in college, I was so sure that I was going to graduate school that I did not start looking for full-time jobs until around March. My peers had interviews setup in the fall and by spring knew where they would be working full time the following fall, with benefits. Most of them went into investment banking and consulting, where they are now, and then there’s me.

I had gone to career fairs on campus since my junior year, maybe even my sophomore year, looking specifically for internships. My senior year I went back to the fair and was just focusing on finding an internship for the summer. So I got a head start on the job search, and was on LinkedIn by senior year if not before, but then I got the graduate school rejections, the scholarships rejections, all at the same time. This was March, and I started looking harder for jobs.

I was saddened by the rejections from graduate school, and especially the scholarship rejections. At this point, I feel like I’m glossing over some things, but I just don’t want to dwell on that time anymore. I didn’t read the fine print on some of the applications that said don’t apply for a Masters in Latin American Studies if you already have an undergraduate degree in Latin American Studies. I was mostly agitated by myself for missing that when I’m usually very good a spotting the fine print, and wasting my money, or should I say opening up a credit card just to pay for those applications. So then I was finally wait-listed at one school, accepted, but broke. I got money for a summer study program, and actually got money for that, and then found out I got a part-time job by the end of that program to help pay for expenses in grad school, so that was definitely the silver lining. At this point, I was definitely optimistic about my future despite the other rejections I had faced. I had more than managed before, so why not now?

I was determined to do better in graduate school: higher GPA and have a jump on the job search. I had a job in government and a 3.5 GPA at the school that waitlisted me. When I graduated and my GPA dropped to a 3.3 because of administrative error and over-ambition on my part, I found out that most of my peers had 3.8 GPAs. What did I do wrong? I took Arabic, a summer course, and worked full-time, and also trusted the wrong administrative person. Some people can juggle a lot of responsibilities, but that is not me. But looking back, it’s kind of funny how the thing that I enjoy, languages, has also led to more anguish. I don’t know if I have already mentioned this, but I have approached the CIA and the NSA, and they are not interested… despite the languages.

But going back to graduate school…

I started looking for jobs either the summer before my last year or the fall of my last year. If it wasn’t the summer, then it was definitely the fall. The big name placed I applied to are: CFR, Brookings, NDI, and the Woodrow Wilson Center. I applied to other places as well, well over a hundred since then. I applied to places that showed up on LinkedIn, and I networked, or tried to network through there. It does irk me when people my own age don’t respond, but then again, they are gainfully employed… And probably not the best people to network with anyways because they have little pull. I got no response from CFR or Brookings. Oh, and I applied to the Freedom House and got no response from them, ever. I found out that they’re a sucky place to work at though, and pretty homogenous for a group interested in equal rights and opportunity, as is the Center for Global Development. I applied to them more recently. The World Affairs Council is also another place that does not respond to people. My thing is, if I can get to the president of a top 10 university, and get a letter from the NSA or JP Morgan saying they’ve picked another candidate, why can’t the World Affairs Council or the Center for Global Development do the same? Limited resources, maybe, but it shouldn’t be that complicated to send a group email.

So the time I spent with NDI was interesting. They contacted me for an interview while I was in Cuba, and then was just after submitting my application online, no networking. I said I was in Cuba, and we set up another time to talk when I got back to the States. My first encounter with them was for an internship just after college. I got to the second to last stage, and they decided to go with someone else. I was cool with that. I ended up studying a language over the summer, and then later getting a job, or jobs, that paid more and lasted more than a summer.

So I interviewed with someone from NDI for a full-time position around January/February of my last year in graduate school. There was a portion in Spanish. Easy. They asked what my availability was, and I said I was writing a thesis, so part-time until May. They said we want someone full-time now, and decided to move on to other candidates. I reached out to that person again when I saw other openings a little before I graduated, as she said I should, and no response. And then I applied for an internship for the fall, in addition to a full-time position. Again, no networking. I got an interview for the internship only.

I saw the interview more as practice, and after conversing with one person in French, I saw it as a joke. My French is advanced and has been better, but the girl who interviewed me, I’d probably put her at intermediate, and she was supposed to judge my ability. I did not trip her up intentionally, but I tend to speak more formally in my interviews and I could tell she was having some challenges. A friend of mine joked that she would intentionally use more complicate French just to get the interview over with. Wow. So I got the internship, but I was waiting to hear back from another job, and I also would not be able to afford rent with what they were providing, it was mostly the later, so I turned them down. I have not looked back. After 2-3 years I’ve had enough of them and other similar international non-profits like Freedom House, and those other two in NDI’s cohort.

So, of course the other job I was hoping for I did not get. I actually ended up connecting with the person who did get it on LinkedIn, before I knew she got the job. They actually changed the title around. She’s a native Chinese speaker too, so I can’t compete with that. I’m being serious here. I had no hard feelings, disappointment? yes, but no animosity. I was still in good spirits and thought I’m good at finding jobs that pay, not the most enjoyable ones, but I can get by, so I went door-to-door and dropped off cards, resumes, and applications.

I interviewed with G by Guess which I was very relaxed about, it was a group interview and I was asked about how honest I was. I have a clearance and my fingerprints are on-file, I will be found out. I interviewed with Sunglasses Hut, the guy was nice, but the interview was poorly structured. I had a great interview at Victoria’s Secret and then worked there for about 3 months until I had enough money to get by and couldn’t deal with it. None of my experience transferred, I was hoping for at least a supervisor position especially given the quality of some of the supervisors and managers there, and there was no room for even just a little growth. I also had interviews coming up for full-time jobs that I had hoped would amount to something, but they didn’t.

After Victoria’s Secret I lived off of some money I earned translating, and then went back looking for a right now job. Wow, that wasn’t really too long ago… I went on LinkedIn and looked for internships, I applied for a MA in Economics at two schools at the last minute. I had to take the GRE again and ended up missing the first one because I tried to cut myself the day before and was taken to the emergency room and was still trying to recover from that on the day of the test. It was after I tried to cut myself that I started seeing the social worker.

I went to visit my brother for a little bit and applied to this contracting job I found on LinkedIn. Thankfully, and to my surprise, I was hired within a week. It’s in management consulting and the company’s actually kind of a big deal, which I didn’t know until after I started. Since it’s contracting though, there are no benefits and I’m hired when there’s a project available. I panicked when I didn’t hear anything for two weeks and took another dead end job. I had to wear a uniform. Most of the people i worked with were nice, but there were some I could do without. Also, there was too much down time, and some silly formalities. I would motivate myself to go to work and then about the perks, but at the end of the day I would just cry as I drove home. I would then sit in the car for a little bit and just cry. I would think about driving off the road, or into a pole, and just cry some more. I should also say that I was misinformed that there were opportunities for growth. They also messed up my paycheck and tried to say it was my fault, after I had left.

I couldn’t get out of bed one day, so I called in a quit. That is not my nature at all, but I had to do it. And then the next day I heard from the management consulting firm and also realized that I should have just called the staffing agency back.

When I couldn’t get out of bed the day I quit my last job, and then was just rocking and crying in my room the next day, I called my doctor’s office to talk about anti-depressants. We had talked about it before, but I just felt that all of my feelings and thoughts were out of control. There was nothing I could do to make myself go numb and just stop feeling, stop hoping, and stop dreaming, so I had hoped the anti-depressants would help to keep me at a more steady state, which they have.

I am in a better state of mind. No more suicidal thoughts because the medication allowed me to be open to a spiritual breakthrough. I had my hopes up over the past few days about jobs I saw, but later found do not exist, and cried just a few hours ago, but I can feel sad. Now, I can also move on. Why? Because life just is. Right now it mostly sucks for me, especially when I think about where I used to be, but there’s nothing I can do about it. I have a trip coming up that I can focus on, and then a 3 week job, and then after that, who knows. I’ll have to do something because I’ll run out of money again, but that’s my life now and I can accept it without breaking down into tears. People are always looking to hire people on a daily basis for less than they are worth, so I can go to the staffing agency and work for anal, incompetent managers stuffing envelopes while making $11/hour. I live with my parents and don’t pay rent, I’m far from my friends, and my loans are in deferral, so I don’t really have any additional expenses. My credit cards will never get paid off though, but that’s more a nuisance because I don’t need the credit right now. And as far as the management consulting job goes, it’s a lot of cold-calling, which I’m not really skilled at. I have tried, and done well at times, and they have been patient with me, but it is not a good fit, so I’m not sure how long it will last. Either way, I have a trip to focus on a maybe meet someone who can rescue me from this, and I’ll just try to get more skilled at living day to day.

The “About Me” Post

Who am I, what have I done, and who do I hope to become?

Now that I have introduced my blog, allow me to share a bit more about my educational/professional background and my career expectations:

My field is international affairs. I know it sounds broad, and I mean it to be.  I chose this field precisely because it is broad and can involve pretty much anything, but with an international focus. In college and graduate school I tended to focus on politics, social issues, and economic development. For my future career, I would prefer something that emphasized research, analysis and writing, and the use of foreign languages. Again, I know, very broad, but that should be that I have a wider range of opportunities… but I guess only in an ideal world.

So, I hold a Bachelor of Arts, as I mentioned before, from a top 10 school in the U.S. (I think top 14 globally), where I double-majored in International Studies and Spanish and minored in Political Science, and graduated with honors in my first major. I earned a Master of Arts in International Affairs, also from a top 10 school, in the U.S., in International Affairs (see fpa.org), currently not worth the paper it’s written on. I say it’s not worth the paper it’s written on, because it has yet to be a factor when I have applied for jobs and actually gotten an interview, and then I have left it off my resume, and limited the descriptions of my jobs, and managed to at least get hired for part-time work in retail and entertainment.

In addition to the cheap paper with fancy words on them, I attended the Sorbonne in Paris so I actually speak French unlike the people who claim to when they don’t (I’ll address this later, what happened was amusing… after). I studied abroad in Ecuador, Brazil, and Cuba where I also did thesis research. (On my resume I say “sanctioned study abroad in Cuba” for people who want to ask me if I went through Mexico or Jamaica). I also attended Middlebury College (Middlebury, VT) on two separate occasions for Chinese and Portuguese.

More recently I have worked for the federal government and an international development organization. I didn’t apply to unpaid internships in college and graduate school except one that I unfortunately accepted, which was with the Department of State (I’ll explain why this was unfortunate later). I didn’t apply for unpaid internships because (1) I couldn’t afford them, and (2) I don’t really think I “needed the experience” and the latter is the only argument those hiring for unpaid internships lead and close with.

The first job I ever held, that wasn’t babysitting, was with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts picking up trash when I was 14 years old. And up until I graduated from graduate school I had always held a job except when in high school (not including senior fall) and then the two summers I was at Middlebury College when it wasn’t allowed. The second time I did attempt to work at the supermarket though because I was required to use all the money I had left in my bank accounts to attend.

So what led me on that path of international affairs?

My mother would say things to me in French and Spanish when I was growing up and I happened to be around the Spanish language and Hispanic people a lot, so I got this crazy idea to be fluent in Spanish and French, specifically by the time I finished high school. I also had a dream of living in France when I was 7 years old I think. So I made a plan.

In sixth grade I decided that I would stop taking Spanish at my new school and take Latin so I could learn other romance languages more easily, switch back to Spanish in high school and then start French in as soon as I could. This is what I decided in sixth grade in addition to deciding when I was in elementary school that I was going to live in France. As far as my plan for the languages, all that was accomplished including fluency, despite being told to take more history classes and physics. I never took physics. I pursued my dreams instead. And as for living in France, that kind of happened by accident. I had an opportunity before the Sorbonne and remember being so mad at my father when he wouldn’t let me go. The reason was valid though, because we did not have the money, but I was very naive then. It was in France that I decided to major in international affairs in college, again pursuing my dreams.

Why no unpaid internships?

In Massachusetts, you can (or at least could back then) work at 14. So, my parents said you can work, so work. They were not going to have me being idle over the summers. The job available then was “groundskeeper”, i.e. picking up trash in a low-income area. I am an excellent swimmer, so when I was 16 I started lifeguarding. From 14 years old on, I paid for my own clothes and entertainment, unless my parents decided to give me gifts. And boy was I shocked in college to hear about people getting their first job the summer after their freshman year in college. And now these people are in consulting firms earning a nice chunk of change or complaining about how people like me are unemployed or underemployed simply because they didn’t do the work. I knew the meaning of work long before them an can explain it in 5 different languages. (I can say it in seven — add Italian and Arabic).

So in college, I took that work ethic with me, and plus I had to pay for incidentals, and ideally start saving to pay off my loans, which didn’t happen. (I do admit that I could do a better job at saving my money). I worked while in college, not as much as others, but more than most. And like those putting in the max hours, I did it not for my resume, but for my wallet. That’s ironic because society now favors the brown-nosers and the resume fillers, but I digress…

Loans:

First, I’m disappointed with how little people actually know about loans. In brief: You do the FAFSA you get an EFC (expected family contribution) number, you now how much you can apply for in federal loans. Low income families qualify for federal loans. For the rest, particularly the middle class, how much debt you have and how many children you have… no one cares. I know, I know, those things are within their control, but were they within mine as the child? (in reference to the debt) If you have good credit you can get a private loan (yay!). Also, you can drive an expensive car, i.e. Benz, Jaguar, and still receive aid. Also people were all excited about need-blind admissions in 2005… that was not a novelty.

I applied for scholarships for undergraduate school. Didn’t get any. I wasn’t smart enough. Had I gone to public school I might’ve been. I had gotten straight A’s until I switched to prestigious private school where I got a quality education but no perfect GPA. Makes me wonder what would’ve happened had I gone to a public university… who knows. I could’ve been more stressed out by the SAT, more interested in school rankings, financial offers, but no, I wanted to chase my dreams and my high school guidance counselor wanted to maintain the numbers.

Where I am now:

So thankfully my parents have good credit, mine right now is decent, frankly considering the amount of loans I have, I don’t see the point in trying. By the time I pay off my loans, especially at this rate, I’ll be able to improve my credit maybe two times over… But my parents used their good credit to get me private loans for college. I think I am a co-signer (I don’t like to look at the statements too often), and I do believe that I should at least be helping to pay them off. Considering all my education and experience, I thought I could be doing that by now. So that’s about $33K x 4 years, you can do the math, plus interest. It should be $40K but I did get a $4K scholarships, to be used for the four years (the scholarship was disorganized so it was discontinued), and then $7500 in Stafford Loans that I took out on my own. My parents have been paying off some of the private loans already because they just can’t move into deferrment and forebearance like those federal ones.

For graduate school I owe the government about $115K. So no, that’s not the $32K average the media likes to throw out there. Nor is it the debt that my peers talk about when two years after college they post on Facebook: “I’ve finally paid off my debt!” I had listened to them gripe in college and thought we had shared pain… they don’t know what finally is, just like they didn’t know what work was. Had I had this in credit card debt, I could declare bankruptcy… And this is why I say my Masters is not worth the paper it’s written on. It has not expanded my options, it has actually made it harder to find a job, two years there was more than two years at my undergrad institution, and I think my graduate school actually over-charged me. They have over-charged me before, which I addressed.

*****

So that is a bit of my back story and why I started this blog with “A Dream Deferred.” I started out with dreams, a plan, and thought I did all the right things. I have been told I have an excellent resume, but… I find myself wearing a cheap uniform to work while showing guests to their seats, and working for Victoria’s Secret and being told I’m not qualified for supervisor because I don’t have the right experience… (To press buttons at a cash register, really?) I find myself making just above minimum wage, right back where I started when I was picking up trash. So, what then was the point of my education? I used to go to work and talk about international policy, Chinese investment in Latin America, and now? I work alongside mostly college drop-outs, without a plan, who don’t know how to dress for an interview, and focus on spending the little money they earn on fixing up a cheap car and alcohol at the club. What separates me from homelessness are parents who despite being more conservative than I am are not so conservative that they believe all children should be put out at 18.

I believed in education, I especially believed the mantra of “think of it as an investment in your future.” What future? To address what I alluded to in the first post, I have contemplated suicide, but to be truthful, I had thought about it before college, although with my current situation the thoughts had become more frequent. I do consider myself a rational person though, and I weigh the pros and cons of situations, and currently there are more cons for suicide: the financial and emotional burden on my family, plus the fact that for a number of reasons I can’t kill myself although I do think about the relief that death would bring to me… For a couple of days now, I haven’t thought about it though. When I don’t go into work, and when I don’t think about the over-priced paper I bought, I think that’s really when I can live day to day. It might also help that as I was writing this I realized I know where in this world to go to not be found, and I could survive there. I could give my parents the money they needed for my undergraduate education and forget about graduate school and its uselessness… I mean, up until now I have done what I was supposed to do, and it has been said “to do the same thing repeatedly and expect the same results is insane.”

“What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore and then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?” – Langston Hughes

This is my first post after months of procrastination. I am 25 and jobless. I have been for almost a year despite having a Masters degree from a top 10 school in international affairs, a bachelors from a top 10 school overall, being fluent in four languages, and having had various jobs from groundskeeper to consultant since I was 14 years old. I feel like a failure and think that employers look at my application and wonder what is wrong with me because I have yet to be hired.

Since this blog is an opportunity to explore all those issues, those that myself and others are facing, I won’t address them all right now. I feel the poem above summarizes my emotions throughout this never-ending journey as at this point it’s not a matter of if, but rather when I will reach my breaking point…and I have come close.

Dream Deferred