Monday, 2 August 2010

the kindness of strangers

My beau received a lifeline from a very kind stranger. He has been so relentless and dogged about his job search; it inspires me. He started looking for a post-uni job way before I did, while we were still writing and re-writing our dissertations last summer. I was under no rosy impression that we would find work immediately after graduation; he thought the extra letters after our names would hold us in good stead for finding gainful, relevant employment.

We both found work relatively easily, albeit in food service. It was tougher for my partner to adjust to 9-10 hour shifts of serving customers because of the extra effort he was putting into career-hunting, while I'd put that on hold when I first started working at the deli.

He became very skilled in crafting resumes and speculative letters, succinctly and eloquently telling the story of his career to date. He followed up every lead, saved every kind word, and chased every non-response - methodically and with strict dedication.

The energy to keep on going at tasks like these is sometimes incredibly difficult to maintain. He was told by some recruiters that they had received literally hundreds of responses to particular job adverts and he hadn't made the cut. It's hard to know if, in those cases, his application was ever read at all. But still he resolved to keep putting himself out there.

Most of the time job applications (either speculative or responsive) had been sent into the ether with little or no acknowledgment of receipt and certainly no further communication. Again, in those circumstances it's hard to know whether to keep on putting effort into sending out applications when there's no guarantee of receipt. But like a lottery, the odds are better when you participate than when you don't. So he resolved to keep putting himself out there.

Two of the most heartwarming responses he did receive did not lead to jobs, but they have been incredibly important nonetheless.

One was a beautifully written letter from a political representative simply explaining that there were no positions available, but he was impressed by my partner's resume and wished him all the best for his career hunt. It was written in personal, genuine language, unlike commonplace holding letters or rejection responses.

The other was an invitation from a staffer to have a telephone information meeting. The staffer was again impressed by my partner's resume, but explicitly stated there was nothing they could do for my partner, other than to spend some time on the phone to give some practical advice and insider tips on getting his resume noticed in the right way. Had the staffer not been on the other side of the country, my partner probably would have given them a huge thank you hug. I believe a thank you email or two did the trick instead.

Acts like these sound so small and simple (and they are!) but they have been so vital in keeping up my partner's momentum. The disheartening silence that meets multiple job applications can be confusing at best, but even just a note, a sentence or two to let him know he was on the right track, makes it all the more worth it.

So when I received a call at work recently from a girl asking about funding her postgraduate degree, I tried to give her help, even though it was completely unrelated to my job. "I'm sorry," I said, "that's not what we do here, but I totally understand your pain, I finished my postgrad last year. Let me send you some links that I have."

It was coming up for my hometime and I needed to catch the bus. But I didn't mind. "Give me your email address and I'll see if I can find anything that might help you." I said.
"Thanks so much..." she sighed, "I'm going round in circles."

It wasn't much, but I know how much a voice who's willing to help can mean when you're trying your best and seemingly getting nowhere.