Columnist Johanna Buoniconti: Looking for a job is akin to selling your soul to strangers

  • Joanna Buoniconti FILE PHOTO

Published: 5/1/2023 6:36:08 PM
Modified: 5/1/2023 6:35:42 PM

Ever since I was a little girl, I have had these life goals instilled in me: to go to college, graduate with a high GPA and find a job. It’s hard to articulate how completing these milestones has been tied to my sense of self-worth because they have been my goals for most of my life. But if I had to guess, I would say it stems from my inheriting my mom’s work ethic, one of the many qualities I inherited from her.

I can recall being very young and my mom telling me stories about her college days and, more specifically, how she had multiple job offers upon graduating with her master’s. Even then, I remember being highly impressed by the fact that someone could graduate from college with an array of skills so incredibly marketable that multiple companies would want to hire them. And it was at that point that a part of me subconsciously decided that would most certainly be the case for me, too. And at the naive, tender age of 6, I had no reason to believe that similar doors would not open for me.

However, little did I know that the job market would be incredibly different in the climate that I would graduate into as a result of an ongoing global pandemic, along with my choice of field that would prove nearly impossible to break into — crumbling my dreams into dirt.

Given that I held onto these ideas so tightly, it should have come as no surprise to me that I hit a pretty substantial mental wall when I graduated two years ago with no job prospects, never being called in for a formal job interview. On so many levels, that was devastating for me. It felt like I had failed to reach a milestone for which I had spent my entire life preparing, even though everything else had fallen into place. I maintained a strong GPA throughout my undergrad experience while accruing multiple internships. I knew that I had marketable skills for the part of the writing industry that I was hoping to go into.

Yet, in spite of probably applying for more than 50 internships and jobs before I had even received my diploma, I could not get in the door anywhere. Part of me suspected that my disability was presenting another barrier in the few interviews I was able to get after graduating, but for the preservation of my own sanity, I had to choose to believe not every employer would be prejudiced against me.

It was maddening, and I felt incredibly alone in my inability to find a job. The majority of the friends I had made while at UMass seemed to find work fairly easily; therefore, for a period of time, I had resigned myself to the fact that it was just me who was struggling. But in the two years since I graduated, I have come to realize that was not the case at all.

In fact, it seems more realistic to say that the anomaly was those who were able to find jobs quickly.

Several weeks ago, in one of my classes, a discussion erupted on this topic. One of my classmates was pitching a story idea about whether, in her case, her choice to pursue her master’s was her version of an “academic safety net” before going into the job market. This conversation got me thinking about why I made the decision to pursue my master’s for a reason vaguely similar to hers. This got me then recalling the number of classmates I knew from high school who are pursuing higher levels of education as a way to hone their skills within industries that are notoriously challenging to break into.

And if this is becoming a new trend among the Gen Z generation, as I suspect it is, that we are having to pursue graduate degrees to be considered for entry-level positions, what does this say about the current state of our job market? That it is an abominable and soul-sucking monster that we are all going to have to come head-to-head with at some point?

Speaking as someone who re-entered the job market several months ago, upon the conclusion of one of my internships, I’m inclined to believe that it is.

Because let me tell you: the amount of time and energy that I have spent perfecting my resume and cover letter, in order to not hear back from more than 95% of the places to which I’ve applied, does real wonders for my ego.

But what’s the alternative? Not to try at all? I would rather try and have faith that all of my hard work and effort will be rewarded someday.

I can only hope I’m right.

Joanna Buoniconti is a freelance writer and editor. She is currently pursuing her master’s at Emerson College.



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