The Catch-22 of Finding Employment

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We’ve all been there. That moment when school ends and we’re suddenly thrust out into the real world of employment, bills, and (for some of us) having to repay student loans. Two years ago, I was almost in this situation, but then decided to continue my education. Now I’m graduating from a Master of Arts program and find myself facing that scary place again – the real world.

Like every other university graduate, I had great expectations for what my degree would eventually do for me. I’ve wanted to be everything under the sun at one point or another. When I started my undergraduate degree, I wanted to become a high school teacher. Then I wanted to be a journalist. Then, I had visions of myself as a Bohemian poet living in a trendy apartment somewhere. Yes, I’ve been reading far too much Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway lately. Now, with (almost) an MA in English Literature, I’m technically qualified to teach community college, which has been my career plan for the past two years, but I’m lacking the one thing that will get me experience in this field: experience. The great catch-22 of recent graduates: you need experience in order to get experience.

Sure, I have some experience. I’ve worked odd jobs throughout both of my degrees. One summer I painted houses, which doesn’t really count as “experience” when it comes to teaching. I’ve worked as a tutor, a research assistant, a member of an editorial team for a small publisher. In fact, my CV has become fairly long with conference presentations and publications. But I have never had the opportunity to teach, and that is the one experience I need if I want to gain experience in the field of education.

Recently, my career goals have had to change, since this catch-22 is standing in my way. Now, I see myself as a barista at Starbucks, publishing poetry on the side, and I keep hearing my best friend’s voice in my head, repeating the question she asked me so many summers ago as we sipped our iced coffees and sat by the river back home: “How do they expect us to ever get experience if they won’t give us a chance?”

How have you managed to get past this conundrum of needing experience in order to get experience? Leave a comment at the end of this post and let me know how you found experience in your chosen field. We’ve all been there.

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