Help Wanted: being overeducated and underemployed

I graduated with my MSW (Masters of Social Work) this past May, and even though I’ve only been searching for a job for a short time I’m already starting to feel discouraged. Yesterday I burst into tears after my best friend told me she was so upset because her job search felt like it wasn’t going anywhere. I started crying and it wasn’t even about me, but it reminded me that my job search wasn’t really going anywhere either. Before you suggest I’m unemployed because I’m an idiot or something equally mean first I want to say I graduated from my graduate program with a GPA of 3.75, second I made a personal choice to go back to Texas for a few weeks for the birth of my nephew. So even though I graduated on May 30th I can’t start working until June 27th. I understand this complicates things a bit but I also figured this was the last chance I would get at a real vacation for a few years and I wanted to meet my first nephew (if you think this was a bad choice that’s fine, I think that sometimes, too. But I also realize that in 30 years I probably won’t regret starting work a month later but I would regret missing out on my nephews birth). I’ve also been taking this time to apply to jobs at least a few hours a day. You might be thinking but you just graduated last week and you’re already discouraged? And you have a point, I’m getting ahead of myself a little; however, I have been applying to jobs and attending job fairs since April and not much has come of it. Also this is a big transition and its a little daunting. I am also more worried than others because I live in New York, about 2,000 miles from my family, meaning moving back in with my parents when I can’t afford rent really isn’t an option. So the lack of parental safety net, daunting rent prices, measly savings account, and student loans are all adding on the pressure of finding a job and soon.

I know I’m sounding whiny or like I’m fishing for sympathy, that’s not my goal or intention. 80% of the time I feel great about my job prospects, I have a master’s degree, two social work internships, part-time work experience, and an abundance of volunteer experience under my belt, it just takes time. Then 20% of the time I freak out reading the statistics and wondering why I didn’t work a year before my Master’s program so I could get full-time work experience, and reading news articles about recent graduates not finding jobs or working at Starbucks (not that there’s anything wrong with Starbucks).

I feel like in social work the only people getting hired have past full-time social work experience or speak Spanish fluently. I lack both of these skills, but I have a lot to offer a future employer. I am smart, quick witted, a problem solver to the core, have a heart that is overflowing with passion for under-served populations and social justice issues. I get angry at the hurt my clients feel and I focus that anger on solutions and healing. I am a people person and build solid relationships of trust with clients. I understand human behavior and development theory and apply it to my practice. I don’t have a lot of formal experience because I am only 23 but I have been volunteering with social service organizations since high school. My heart is bigger than my hands; I get fired up learning about the problems with our health care system, with our education system, with our immigration policy, and my head starts swimming with ways we as social workers can change policies, and advocate for unheard populations to make our country not only better, kinder, but more functioning.

I look at jobs and get excited about the job description then I see something that bursts my bubble; for example phrases such as: bilingual Spanish required, at least 4 years experience in mental health care, or the job will be thirty plus days old and will say application deadline April 1st. Sifting through all the available jobs and finding the ones I’m eligible to apply to is harder than actually applying, and that gets discouraging.

I know it will be okay, most days. I sympathize with the discouraged unemployed. I’m also a pretty positive person so when people ask if I’ve found a job yet I just say “nope but I’m not really worried about it”, fake it til you make it people.

Leave a Reply