The need to not be alone: a learning experience.

alone for blog

It wasn’t long ago, I can still recall the excitement of knowing I was successfully concluding a period within one of the most important parts of my life: education. I was –again– going through the final stage of writing a thesis, wrapping up some last-minute experiments, having to deal with writing conclusions and discussions, gathering data and justifying how everything made sense. Nothing new to all science grads. However, at the back of my mind I was twice as happier for realizing that a new time in my life had finally come. After almost 8 years in academia and a diploma in each hand I felt –and still feel, with some differences brought about by reality– I was ready to start living out the dream. Once more life has shown me things don’t always go according to plan.

Looking for jobs, doing interviews, reading dozens of books about resume writing and cover letter mastering, learning the thousands tricks they recommend  to be savvy about, etc. I knew it! I knew I’d have to go through all this. Let’s be clear, I was not a complete naive dreamer expecting things to happen magically over completing a degree. I followed the situation very closely, I was aware of the great difficulties in landing a first job after graduation and I had examples of colleagues and friends having to go through such process too. However, it’s hard to realize how serious it is until one is actually experiencing it. How do we cope with the hundreds of applications sent and the almost non-existent responses? How to deal with the embarrassment of saying “none” when a hiring manager asks “how many years of experience do you have in the industry?”? We’re recent grads, we will have very little chance to gain any experience at all if we’re systematical and repeatedly denied the chance to start – from the very deep bottom maybe, but at least take the first step. I am not in possession of national statistics –for Canada– about employment rate among youth, though it would be very interesting for everyone to realize the high percentages of recent grads who struggle so hard to land a position. Sometimes not even in the exact area of their expertise but something close enough to let them at least be in the field.

Not long ago I read two stories which I felt entirely and sadly identified with. One was from a grad student from University of Victoria, BC and also a columnist for the Canadian job hunting engine Workopolis. In her article she described the enormous frustration her friends felt for not being able to land any other jobs that working at bars and restaurants with the majority of them holding Bachelors as well as Masters degrees. She mentioned the embarrassment of these young people when asked what they do for living, and ended her article with a pledge to all employers: “Grad students are out there waiting for you, hire them!” I could not agree more. The second story was from a Spanish student who’s currently living in London. He holds two undergraduate degrees and a Masters and is cleaning toilets in a famous and luxurious coffee shop. The level of disappointment he expressed in his writing was such that the story became viral in a few days spreading to most Spanish-speaking media.

Both are extremely touching testimonies for all those who are in this situation. We know what it feels like to devoting such huge amount of varied resources to a career that seems to only leave us with minimal-wage jobs. I won’t say there are people to be blamed about this, what I know though is that we live this reality and it’s ruining young people’s dreams and life expectations from the get go. I may be an idealist, but I would like to find the way to help people like the ones in these posts have real possibilities of pursuing better and more consistent careers, doing what they’re good at. This is because I believe in the need of not being alone, of counting on colleagues and mentors who boost our will and make us aim high, no matter what the challenge might be. Even when the economy is tough, and even if the system fails to include everyone, I am down for looking beyond and overcome these problems. There is a need to support each other, and it is a need that implies learning. I ask myself, are we ready for this?

So, my final conclusion will be a sort of a question. Do you know of other young professionals in other disciplines who are facing the same problems? Is it just as hard to land an entry-level job as an accountant or a graphic designer or an IT person? From personal experience with acquaintances and friends I don’t think so. It’s far more difficult in the science field. If others are living in the same world and still finding it less hard to get similar things, shouldn’t we learn something from that? What do you think? I would love to hear your opinions and perspectives on the subject. I hope this discussion helps us understand what we need to do from now on in order to change our reality. Not sure up to what extent, but something is better than nothing.

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7 thoughts on “The need to not be alone: a learning experience.

  1. Tanaia says:

    I can completely relate to this article. I graduated in 2005 with a chemistry degree and found it very hard to gain the experience most companies are asking for, but I always ask how can one gain experience if the opportunity is not given. It is now 2013 and I am working on my second degree in criminal justice and I am finding difficult again. I ask another question why is it whom you know and what you know?

    • HDelVe says:

      Hi Tanaia! Thanks so much for the comment! That’s exactly how I feel right now, and that’s why I have turned to writing about it, in order to collectively gain more knowledge from others’ experiences. It’s extremely hard to deal with a situation like this. An believe me, from all the comments and stories I’ve received from the blog and LinkedIn we’re not alone in such a problem. I was reading about statistics Canada yesterday about unemployed recent grads and employers, and basically the conclusion was that employers prefer to leave some positions vacant before hiring people who have exactly the profile they’re looking for. This means, jobs are out there, but they won’t give them to us, even at the cost of having to leave it empty. It;s ridiculous, and sad to know that. Anyway, my hope is that we can maybe connect a lot of fellow grads who are suffering the same problem and get all together to try to build an online platform to help each other with landing us a job. Thanks again for your input!

      • Brian Kerns says:

        It seems to be the same frustration felt in all disciplines. My thinking is because that is the way it has always been and employers are reluctant to move out of that comfort zone. The 40 year plan is dead! That’s then one our parents had and retired on 40% of their income after working for an employer.

        40% of

  2. HDelVe says:

    Thank you so much for your input Brian! I agree with you. The old way of getting and keeping a job nowadays has dramatically changed from our parents times. We need to be in the new trend of adapting to new job hunting strategies, social media interacting for recruitment and interviews, and also being willing to change directions of our careers in our lifetimes. I think that’s our biggest challenge, adapting and succeeding.

  3. Hamza says:

    Wow I can definitely relate to this. I’m hoping to finish up my master’s soon and judging from everyone’s experiences I, too, might be getting very disappointed pretty soon! I have started networking and meeting people in places were I’d like to work but the hardest thing that I find is: how do you go from that to actually landing that job you want? Do you just wait it out and see what happens? Sounds depressing to me. Seeing that you posted this in November 2013, have you had any luck yet?

    • HDelVe says:

      Hi Hamza!! Thank you for your comment! I understand your feelings, and let me tell you it’s something that many of us are going through, and there aren’t many ways to tackle it directly, but plenty to circumvent it, though that may imply having to change gears and head to different directions. Landing a job professionally is quite hard in any field, but science poses a bit more restricted situation since it’s so specific for what you’ve learned academically, and if you don’t have more experience than the academic one then it might be pretty pretty hard cause every employer wants to find the perfect fit and the less they have to train you the better. They want people who practically know it all from the get go. And regarding the stringent budget they are operating on they are pickier than ever, sadly. And recent grads are the most affected by this.
      As for my luck, I’ve been lucky to get myself some other interviews which unfortunately didn’t come to be the right opportunities, though considering how tough things are just getting an interview is a battle won. Seeing it all in perspective it hurts to realize we’re such smart and educated people -no bragging intended- and we’re being kicked out just because of that, cause to a money-driven society we’re not “productive enough”…
      When are you finishing your Master’s? What is it on? That also influences a lot your chances… I dont mean to bring you down or anything, however by sharing my story I would like everyonw like you and others to realize that the “dream of a secure future after graduation” they sell us at universities is not as simple as it seems…
      Thanks a lot for your contribution : )

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