It’s Not Me, It’s You


Having received an auspicious suffix about 7 months ago, {M.A., that is}, from a wonderful educational institution, I must confess I am in an entirely different place than I’d planned to be by now: still living at home, and still looking for a full-time permanent job. I seemed to have glided across the graduation stage on a cloud of bliss only to smack face-first into a brick wall. I’ve spent the ensuing weeks reeling from the hit: emotionally concussed, bewildered, and waiting for a Good Samaritan to take me by the hand and make sure I get some ice for that.

In the meantime, I’m spinning around in circles, watching the stars and cartoon birdies whirl round my head.

As the rejection letters amass on my nightstand, I sift through them and think. “Why does this seem so familiar? Why do I feel so prepared to handle all this?” Then it dawns on me, I’ve been there, done that. I’ve heard it all before. I’ve had years of training that has prepared me well for the harsh realities of a recession-era job market.

I’m a professional.

Single.

There’s a reason why there’s something called a Bachelor’s Degree. It takes so much emotional and mental exertion to remain one that everyone who does so deserves a certification of some kind; formal recognition of his or her achievement is in order. And after years of gaining such valuable experience, I’ve noticed that behaviorally, my potential suitors and my potential employers are very alike. And I don’t mean they both look forward to spending all their money on me.

Here are just a few of the similarities I’ve discovered:

Dress and appearance is important and can make or break a situation. Don’t be deceived. It’s not okay to show up for a job interview in your pajamas, and it’s not okay to show up on a first date with a fanny pack. While we’re at it, let’s promise each other never to show up anywhere with a fanny pack. Ever.

There are qualifications that must be met. There are pros and cons. There are deal breakers. Sometimes they are sensible. Sometimes they are arbitrary. But in either situation, they are always there. If you meet them, you are eligible for further consideration. If not, thank you for your time and we wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.

There is lots of initial enthusiasm. You’ll hear things like:

“Thank you so much for coming in today. We were very impressed by your resume.”

“I am so glad I ran into you. We have to hang out soon!”

“We look forward to getting to know you better.”

“This has been great and I’d love to do this again.”

Although this sounds great, don’t get too excited. Or if you do allow yourself to get excited, always keep the next similarities in your mind.

What is said and what is meant are often two completely different, sometimes opposite, things. Just like when generals and colonels use terms like “friendly fire” and “collateral damage”, there is more being said than there appears to be at first glance. You almost always have to do some digging to find the deeper (actual) meaning of certain words (and certain silences). Confused yet? If not, allow me to help you further. Let’s consider some examples:

Your employer says: “We are so glad you are considering joining our team.”

Your employer means: “We say this to everyone and do not know enough about you to know if that is the truth or not.”

Your suitor says: “I’d better be getting home, I have to get up early for work tomorrow.”

Your suitor means: “I’d better be getting home, to be as far away from you as possible.”

Your employer says: “That is an interesting answer.”

Your employer means: “That is the wrong answer.”

Your suitor says: “That is an interesting dress.”

Your suitor means: “That is an ugly dress.”

Your suitor says: “It’s not you, it’s me.”

Your suitor means: “It’s not me, it’s you.”

The final example is applicable to both groups and very common, therefore must be addressed here.

What is said: “I (or we) will call you.”

What is meant: “This is goodbye forever.”

There will be flakes. Promises will be made with no intention of being kept. Communication will break down. You will find yourself at square one. There is simply too much evidence to support this to find it untrue. I came this close just now to using Scientific Method metaphors. I should get out more.

Sometimes the timing is just off. There are those moments in life when everything is right except the time. People (or organizations) may in fact really like you, but they may just be unprepared for the commitment. This is often because of any or all of the following: a lack of financial stability, uncertainty about the future, or the number of other possible options available.

You can tell when it is (or is not) going to work. You may know when the boss says “How often are you available on Saturday mornings?” or when someone looks at you with complete disbelief and whispers “Really? I hate black eyed peas, too!” before he or she smiles and looks sheepishly at the floor. Either way, you’ll know how good of a fit the situation is (or isn’t) for you early on.

The right one is out there. No, really.  At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

This list stopped at a mere eight, but there are many more parallels between the person you may be sharing a cubicle with and the person you may be sharing a surname with. Along with the experiences inherent in searching for a job (or for another), the lessons learned while doing so also have many common threads:

It is of paramount importance to maintain a sense of humor (however dark) in what might otherwise be an utterly bleak situation.

Practical yet sassy shoes are a necessity.

There are about a bajillion “no’s” for every “yes”. {Or a bajillion “frogs” for every “prince”}.

Nothing eases the pain of rejection like prayer, music, retail therapy, and a friend who will join you in heaping verbal abuses on the perpetrators. You should administer Ben & Jerry’s liberally as often as necessary to the rejectee and to his or her support system.

I hate to break it to you, but it’s a rough world in which to be single. Or unemployed. And for those of you dealing with both simultaneously, don’t be surprised when you have to move to a second pint of Cherry Garcia. No one will judge you. It’s for medicinal purposes. Hang in there. You’re not alone. You have at least one commiserate, uploading her resume with one hand, getting a third scoop with the other. Here’s to us. Let’s keep up the good work.

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