My Borderline Unhealthy Obsession With Job-Hunting

by Lucinda Beeman

My mom has a saying: Be hopeful, not desperate.

It’s simple enough, but there’s one element of my life where it never seems to apply. When it comes to job hunting — from smashing out covering letters to final round interviews — I reek of desperation every single time.

It doesn’t even matter if I really need a job. Naturally I accepted the first thing that came my way out of grad school (I made my debut in recession-era London, where the job market for journalists was basically the Hunger Games), but I’m on the prowl for a new role even when gainfully employed. Often, after a long day at work, I scan job boards while my actual hobbies languish. I don’t have time to follow a crime drama or read a novel: I’m too busy pounding out follow-up emails, updating my LinkedIn profile, combing through my resume on a quixotic hunt for typos.

When all of this desperate energy yields a result I jump for it. My five-year plan? That’s out the window the second an offer call comes through. I was in my second job for just nine months before accepting my third. I love it, but at the same time I’m living in fear of FOMO.

It’s almost as if I think of job hunting the same way I think about online shopping. I look every day, like a ritual. I save opportunities to my favorites list. I obsessively imagine the possibilities. When payday comes — when the offer comes through — a couple of clicks or a cheerful, “Sounds great!” have bought a whole new lease on life. A few weeks later, the rush having worn off, it starts all over again.

But there’s something else at play — something deeper. Some days I wonder if the take-no-prisoners job market of recession Britain and America didn’t drive me a little bit crazy.

I’m so used to waking up to headlines screaming that people like me — the twenty-something with a B.A. in poetry and tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt — will never succeed that jobs even remotely related to my interests seem mythical. Nobody is getting these, I think when I see one. Take it and run. I live my whole life in the gray area between terror and hysterical excitement.

I spend as much energy on my employability now than I did when preparing to graduate into a recession. I do this despite the fact that more of my friends are trading espresso machines and call centers for full-time positions in their industries every year. I do it knowing full well that I’ve been incredibly lucky in terms of opportunities and timing. Those jobs I call my career? I owe all three to the recovery.

Maybe someday I’ll actually let the growing optimism that surrounds me sink in. Until then I’ll be here, spell checking my CV. You know, just in case.

Lucinda Beeman is a journalist living in London.

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