An Open Letter To All The People Who Sent Me Job Postings When They Were Employed And I Wasn’t

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Hey,

How are you? I’m sorry I’m two years late in writing this, but I promise, the knowledge I’ve gained in the last two years has helped me verbalize what I’ve been wanting to say since I graduated. In the 10 months after I graduated college, and didn’t have a salaried job, not a week went by when I didn’t get an email, Facebook message, text, or telepathic communication from a friend whose company was hiring.

In fairness, to the friends who worked for companies I was interested in, or had leads in the industries I was pursuing, this is not directed at you. The helpful leads, the emails that weren’t condescending, and the genuine offers to help me if I needed help, were very much appreciated. Thank you for the relevant job applications, and to anyone who tried to connect me with someone who could legitimately help.

This is directed to you, my casual Facebook friends who I hadn’t spoken to since three weeks before graduation, and who reached out in somewhat condescending ways. You guys never failed to drop me a line saying, “Hey, heard you were job searching. You should check this out!” [Insert link to a job posting from Media Bistro, or Monster.com, or any of the sites that I’d already spent hours on.]

First, let me tell you that I had already seen the link to the job at that company, and dismissed it, not because it was below me, but because I truly was not interested. If you work, for example, in sales, I am allowed to admire that, and support your job, and simultaneously not want to work in sales. When you send me jobs that I am not qualified for, and am likely not interested in, it’s almost as if you’re saying, “I know this isn’t what you want, but it simply must be better than what you’re doing now.”

So much of my insecurity about “not having a real job” came from the fact that it seemed like everyone was trying to bail me out, or send me a lifeline. If you are going to try to help a friend, sending random job postings isn’t always the answer. I needed help dealing with the professional world, but I didn’t need help finding job applications. Trust me, I had plenty. I get that you might get a financial incentive from your company if you refer me to HR, but honestly, I might be a terrible fit, and I wouldn’t want that to reflect poorly on you. And sending me a job application because you see me as “unemployed” when I’m actually working three jobs that are just not full-time career jobs, is insulting.

Honestly, I know you meant well. Really, I know you weren’t sending along those job postings to be demeaning, and I do appreciate the thought. But it felt like a slap in the face. I’m sorry, I know that wasn’t your intention, but when someone who deems themselves more successful than you sends you a job posting, it feels shitty. Even rephrasing your note might go a long way in terms of making it well-received. If you had said, “I feel like you’d be a great fit in this job,” and meant it, that would have been more productive.

Sometimes I still feel like I’m the girl two years ago who is getting Facebook pings about new job postings. Sometimes people take “freelance writer” as “always looking for work” and text me to tell me that their friend just started a website and needs some writers. And it almost puts me back in that same post-grad slump. It makes me feel so undervalued to have worked my ass off, and still have friends put me in the “looking for work” category. Yes, I’m freelance, and I love to stay hungry for new work that excites me, but I’m also incredibly busy. This month, for the very first time, I had to tell a client “no” and put them on hold, because my workload would have been too large otherwise. I have full work weeks, and am lucky to have projects I care about a lot, and when someone 80-times removed from the writing world shoots me a line that says, “Hey Maya! Figured you were probably looking for some extra work,” it still breaks me.

Because whether you’re saying it explicitly or not, the message is loud and clear: “Hey Maya! I assume you don’t have enough work, or you aren’t making ends meet, so here’s a favor.”

Here’s the thing about getting job postings from the people who had full-time jobs when I didn’t: even though it really was kind, it made me feel behind. It made me feel like I wasn’t amounting to something, when you were. It made me feel pitied by peers, and that is so much fucking worse than feeling pitied by your parents, or your professors. To graduate with someone, and then have them throw me a bone shook what little confidence I had. It felt like someone was deigning to send me an invitation to a party that I hadn’t initially been invited to.

It’s entirely possible that I took the job postings gesture the wrong way as a shaky post-grad, just because I lacked confidence. I was so miserable about not getting a job that I was probably responding immaturely to people trying to help me. Regardless, if you don’t actually have a job that is in any way relevant to your job-searching friend, there are more productive ways to help than sending a Monster.com posting. Call them. Ask how life is going, as opposed to how the job search is going. Have coffee with them. Be supportive about what they’re doing, because they might like their current job more than you think they do, and you need to respect that. Be open to talking about resumes, but don’t push the subject.

In the end, I guess I can look back and appreciate the gesture of you sending me a job application. But I didn’t need you to light a fire under my ass, and I hate that you thought I did.

Thanks so much,

Maya

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