Most girls that are twenty-four are more interested in a free drink at a club than a new lead in a sales position. Most of them are anxious for the weekend come Monday morning as opposed to kicking off a great work week come Monday morning. And many of them are experiencing love, lust, heartbreak or all of the above.
I’m not like most twenty-four-year-old girls.
Not to say that I didn’t have my share of fun; I was a social butterfly in high school and a Theta at Michigan State University. Shortly after I graduated, Warner Brothers hired me and I lived on my own in Chicago’s Lincoln Park area. I now reside in Chicago’s Gold Coast with two best friends and couldn’t ask for a better living situation.
My job situation, however, is not so secure.
I quit a job at Warner Brothers in 2008. I quit because I “wasn’t happy.” I was naïve enough to actually think that any job position I took (while I had much less than the average requirement of seven to ten years of professional experience) should make me “happy.”
Ha! If only I knew ...
The most unhappy and disappointed I have ever felt is how I feel now: unemployed for twenty-one months with a daily fog in front of me. The fog prevents my happiness. It’s filled with repeated thoughts, like, “You’re not needed there,” and, “The biggest mistake of your life was April 11th, 2008. You should’ve never quit,” and of course, “Everyone’s unemployed!”
I’m not everyone. Just like I’m not like most twenty-four-year-old girls. The painstaking amount of effort I put into getting back into the career path is unfathomable for most. Anyone who knows me is well aware that I spend every single day, for hours on end, applying to relevant jobs, networking, brushing up on my portfolio, reading trade publications and more. I’ve made my own job hunt a full time career. Most days it’s blood, sweat, and tears. On the good days, it’s just tears.
Time and time again, I’ve been labeled a complete and utter workhorse, the poster-child for the Type A personality. That said my life has always been motivated by measures of success. Even my emotions are usually directly related to my success in the corporate world. It began as early as third grade, when I silently struggled with ADHD to keep my grades up with everyone else. Things were easier for other kids; I didn’t know why. I worked so hard and beat myself up all too often for having a hard time with my studies. Still, I made the grades. More than that ... I never missed an honor roll, excelled in honors level courses and participated in AP level classes.
My life in business and networking then began with my first internship as a college freshman. While in college, I used to come home from Michigan to attend CAF and PRSA conferences here in Chicago. I earned high enough grades to be picked for a selective Study Abroad program where I furthered my Public Relations and Broadcast Communications studies in Italy for a summer. I attended the world famous Cannes International Advertising Festival in. I will never forget the presentation that Howard Draft eloquently delivered about DraftFCB and Consumer Marketing. It was like a thirteen-year-old girl getting front row seats at a Jonas Brothers concert.
I’m remarkably fortunate that my parents can support me while I work myself sick to land a great job and break into financial freedom again. Not earning a living, for me, means that some part of this machine is malfunctioning. It means that all the hard work I’ve completed up until now isn’t sufficient. Regardless of the fact that these allegations aren’t quite true, they float in my mind day in and day out.
Fun, for me, is no longer clubbing or getting a date. It is, in fact, a very far fetch from that lifestyle that Carrie Bradshaw so proudly displayed in Sex and the City. Fun, for me, is healthy energy and intellectual stimulation. The things in my life that provide excitement are potential opportunities for jobs and the sound of my alarm at 5 a.m. every morning, which signifies a couple of hours of guaranteed structure in my life: intense workouts at the gym.
The security of having a job and the daily assurance of being needed somewhere is unmatched. I’ve lived without that feeling of worthiness for almost two years now and I’m proud that I continue to push on and have hope with current job opportunities. Most importantly, after all this time unemployed, I know what not to take for granted. Employment, to me, is a direct response to the effort and dedication one has for challenging his or herself. It goes without saying that current American workers who take the liberty to complain about their jobs aren’t only unprofessional but also inconsiderate, egocentric and frighteningly immature. Those who take their careers for granted are, in fact, the most unprofessional people in the industry. A scary number of American lives have deteriorated due to unemployment and those who are fortunate enough to continue earning a paycheck should be grateful every single day. To have a job is an honor that one should be proud of and comes with responsibilities that one should fulfill with maximum effort. Had I not been unemployed for the past year and a half, I might shake that statement off. Being a part of an organization and completing tasks as needed, however, is an unparalleled state of happiness and belonging. I miss it dearly.
I’m not sure where my next road leads, though I’ve certainly got hope for where it might lead me. But I am sure of one thing after these past, exhausting twenty-one months: the responsibility to serve an organization willing to pay one for his or her talent is one that provides the innate human needs of pride and security.
Unlike most twenty-four year old girls, I don’t seek validity through men or drinking until 5 a.m. Instead, I know that I’ll add value to a company that validates my hard work and brainpower.