FastWeb Column: Looking for a Job (And Preparing for the Worst)

This story was published in 2007 for FastWeb, an online education resource and scholarship search engine.

I’m a good person. I’m nice to children and old ladies; I don’t kick dogs or cats. I try to eat right and exercise. I always use the correct amount of postage. I don’t pay taxes, but if I did, I’d pay them on time. No, ahead of time!

All of this serves to highlight the absurd fact of the matter – I can’t get a job. I’m not talking about internships or career opportunities. No, I’ve had more of those than you can shake a résumé at. I’m talking about good, ole, retail, waitressing, babysitting jobs. It seems I have to live my college life entirely unhirably.

Many college students view breaks from school as money-earning periods along with relief from homework. This sounds great, especially to your tired, professional wage-earning parents. The problem arises when high school whippersnappers sneak in and steal our jobs before we get home from school! Yes, my collegiate friends. We are being stabbed in the back by our younger brethren! Stab, stab, they go, until every last paying place is taken.

Fine. That’s not how it happens. But kids who worked jobs during the year stay on, and every parent in their right mind shouts at their offspring to sign themselves up before the college kids get home. It makes us sound like the plague.

I have never held a part-time summer job, but the summer two years ago was my worst experience yet. I was interning as a reporter for, an online newspaper based out of – you guessed it – Richmond, Virginia. I worked from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. five days a week, and during those steamy late afternoons, I was bored out of my gourd.

I went to every place I’d like to work and applied for a part-time job. No dice. The next week, I applied to places I didn’t think I was right for. I remember one store devoted entirely to vintage Christmas décor. It was August, but I rosy-ed my sweaty cheeks and ho ho hoped to get the job. Needless to say, by the time I reached my third round of applications, I was getting desperate.

“I want to work long hours,” I yelled. “Pay me badly! I beg you!”

Then I, a 15-year vegetarian, decided to work at a fast-food joint. I shuffled into a Burger King, Wendy’s, Hardees, three different McDonald’s and an Arby’s. I filled out the paper saying I was free on weekends and the late shift July 4th. I shuffled out of a Burger King, Wendy’s, Hardees, three different McDonald’s and an Arby’s. I was a little dissatisfied, but I knew I’d soon be getting a paycheck.

No one ever called. I was not hired at any of the fast-food places. Now, I’m a U.Va. student with a 3.4 GPA, two majors and a minor and … well, it’s unimportant. The real message I’m trying to convey is that just because you’re qualified, doesn’t mean you’ll get the gig.

The way to prevent this situation is to get the ball rolling early – we’re talking April – and you’ll save yourself rejection later. Take a spring weekend and go home to beat the rush. Tell them you’re coming and have your stuff together. Also, send word through your friends and family that you’re looking for a job. At least if none of them have an offer, they can keep their eyes open on your behalf. Look for seasonal jobs as well – winter-time ones would be things like stacking wood and summery stints include mowing lawns or washing cars.

Finally, just try to be a good person. And prepare for the worst.

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