It’s 9pm on a Wednesday and I am in bed. Sons of Anarchy DVD cued (what I would do for a Harley and the life of an outlaw), pajamas on, teeth brushed- it’s a school night after all. Digging through my old documents on my computer, I found something a wrote almost a year ago. At that time, I’d been looking for a big girl job for almost six months. Reading it now- 10 months into the one I landed and to be honest, searching for another one, it was interesting to take another read at my perspective.
The Job Hunt
My friend Sparks and I met my first year of college when I joined the rugby team. A year older and a year wiser, Sparks took me under her wing not only to school me on rugby regulations, but life as well. It had been almost two years since I had last seen her on the patio at our favorite Chicago bar before we went our separate ways. After graduation, I had taken off for Europe, spending 2 months with a backpack, a map and good faith before moving to Washington DC. Sparks had set sail, spending the last 2 years working on tall ships sailing around the East Coast, The Bahamas, Mexico and Florida.
Two years out and none the wiser about what we wanted to be when we grew up, we went through the list of potentials: law school (for her), grad school (for me), Peace Corps, Americorps (not in a million years), Teach for America, a real job. Both of us had recently been offered staff assistant positions in our various fields. She was debating a move to Maine, while I was coming to terms that if I accepted the job, I was stuck in DC for at least a year. Neither of us knew what city we want to live in, what we want to do or any idea where we saw ourselves in ten years. After hashing out our options until last call and the bar turned their lights on, I solicited advice from my cab driver that night about what to do. He told me to follow my dreams—seemingly excellent and clear advice, but I wasn’t sure what my dreams were…or are, for that matter.
Six months after I graduated college, with a 2 month whirlwind tour of Europe and 2 month spent on my mother’s couch under my belt, I moved out to Washington DC to work for the Close Up Foundation. I knew 4 people in the greater DC area all over the age of fifty, had convinced two girls in Friendship Heights to let me move in sight-unseen and hopped on a plane. Landing at National on the 1st of the year, I watched my luggage circle toward me and considered crying.
Moving to DC was a series of small victories and missteps. I had to make friends, navigate a new city, learn new rules and expectations, figure out the metro schedule, buy khakis. I suddenly lived in a place where people wanted to you to answer the question what do you do? As opposed to what are you about? There were many things I hate about DC—and still do. I have yet to find more than a stretch of 4 days where I am in love with the city. But I love how everyone is from a different place and we are all mashed together. There is something phenomenal about getting lost and winding up at the Lincoln Memorial, watching the 4th of July fireworks on the National Mall or having friends whose parents hold fancy positions in the US government.
I jumped ship in July after being in DC for seven months. I was recently laid off, homesick and had seen the expected high temperatures for the rest of the summer. I stole away to my mother’s cabin where I laid on the dock, read books and spent time with my family. Each morning I would awake with a panic attack forming in my chest and the thought of being unemployed. It took until almost noon to unclench my jaw, a glass of wine before dinner to relax my shoulders and by 8, I would be comfortable with my situation.
I have always been a planner. I knew I went from high school to college, what assignments were due next week, exactly how many days I had before I ran out of clean clothes. I was organized, could multi-task and rarely dropped the ball. Yet, I never planned for after college. I never thought about it because in retrospect, I couldn’t rationalize the end of college and that lifestyle in my mind. When people ask me—well, what did you want to be when you grew up? What did you see your life as? I don’t know, I respond, but surely not this.
I am 22 years old, a year and a half out of college. I have essentially have no viable skills or natural talent, had no idea how to even go about getting a job, a degree that cost well over $100,000. After being in DC almost a year, I have learned things, tricks of the trade if you will. Through trial and error, I figured out how to write a cover letter, how to improve my resume, how to expand the truth. I now excel at awkward situations—also known as networking. I collect business cards like old men collect stamps, go on informational interviews, can hold conversations with relative strangers and pretend I care.
I nanny to pay the bills, volunteer on the weekend, intern at a healthcare lobby shop (unpaid of course) to bolster my experience—an internship I got after 3 glasses of wine at a reception my mother dragged me to, work for a foundation that teaches at-risk kids how to snowboard on the weekend. I am consistently doing things that will make me more marketable as a candidate. I feel hopelessly straddled on the fence between education and actually using my political science degree. I don’t know if I can see myself in a traditional classroom setting but at the same time, I don’t want to be one of those K Street stiffs—besides, I still feel like a little girl trying on her mommy’s clothes every time I put a suit on.
I have finally become comfortable being a second class DC citizen working as a nanny, as opposed to some fancy job on the Hill or one of the departments—Treasury, Justice, etc. The stress of being a big girl had subsided, I was comfortable trading my dry clean only pants for blue jeans. I was going to stick it out with my 4 year old Sage until June and then come hell or high water start some sort of teaching program whether it be Teach for America or a Fellowship program.
And then came a phone call at 4:30 on a Friday. I was halfway through my work day with my Sage, stirring homemade spaghetti sauce in the kitchen at what my friends had dubbed “the big house”, the dog walker had just shown up with their seven year old Veshla who was vying for dinner, Sage was demanding cranberry juice and then my phone rings. “Can you come in for an interview?”
The call came from a company my aunt had submitted my resume to over a month ago. They were hiring for a staff assistant position—fancy DC speak for making coffee and answering the phones. The following Monday, I put on my business suit and marched down to K Street (ironic, I know). Two interviews and an hour later, I was out the door. I handed over my references, waited outside a busy Panera during lunch time the following afternoon to have a phone interview with the CEO and president and a mere 3 days later, was hired.
I suddenly had benefits, a job that required me to dust off my black slacks and high heels. I made a solemn promise to myself to erase “potty” from my vocabulary, make a solid effort to control my unruly curly, red hair and declared myself a grown-up. I was no longer a second class DC citizen. I had a job with a retirement plan, health insurance and stress. I was a big girl! Wait, I was a big girl? What. The. Fuck.