What Don't People Understand About Looking for a Job?

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I want to ask you, The Atlantic's audience, for something. But first I want to thank you.

A month ago, I asked readers to tell us what people don't understand or appreciate about their jobs. We were overwhelmed with responses. Hundreds of them, beautifully written, compelling, defensive, kind, sassy, and even inspiring. Here's an example from Lisa, a physical trainer:

I am a fitness professional and certified personal trainer with a college degree. I know what I am doing. I understand anatomy and physiology and biomechanics. Just because you are a big dude who likes to lift heavy weights with bad form and you have been doing it for twenty years doesn't make you right. Just because I am a petite woman doesn't mean I want you to hit on me and make obscene jokes about my profession.

And lastly, if you hired me to help you reach your fitness goals, then please please stop arguing with me about your program.

We've loved what you have to say. We want more. Keep emailing us at aboutmyjob1@gmail.com, or write your response in the comment section below to be published in the weeks ahead.

Now we're launching a related feature. We want to know: What don't people understand or appreciate about looking for a job?

If you're newly out of work, we want to hear from you. If you've been unemployed for months, we really want to hear from you. If you're in a job looking to leave, we really want to hear from you, too! And if you're in human resources or in a position to hire, tell us what you think most applicants need to know that they don't know already.

***

To get things started, here's a beautiful early submission from an Ivy League-educated immigrant looking for work, who wrote to our Tumblr page:

"I came to the United States by my own efforts and sacrifices made by my mother. Every cent I spend sets me farther back from home"

"I came to the United States on my own accord, by my own efforts and the sacrifices made by my mother. I went to an Ivy League school with a full scholarship and a multitude of promises to keep. I graduated a year ago with an above average GPA and fearfully in debt to people I had only met my last year of school. I have yet to make it big. I have yet to keep one promise."

That thought is in the back of my mind every single waking moment. My thought process is stuck in a loop, and I keep renegotiating promises.

Even when I am not bent over my beat-up laptop ferociously working on a cover letter, waxing poetic about my somewhat unique attributes and downright delusional passion for a cause that may not provide me with any spendable income, I am thinking about it. I overhear phone conversations and get emails from concerned family friends wondering why I am not pulling my own weight, implying that someone else might think I am just expecting to be financially supported by kind souls, although of course none of them would ever say such a thing. I have worked all the angles: foreign, alternative, open minded, fashion forward, bilingual, docile. I keep reinventing myself at every interview and cold call.

What other people don't understand about my current job is that it is exhausting and dehumanizing. I call it "funemployment" to try and take the edge off during conversations, for both our benefit. There is nothing "fun" about it. It is a 24/7 position with no benefits or holidays. Everyday I have to go job hunting is one more day I have not been able to afford to go back to my country and see my family, to support them during rough times. I exist hyper-aware of anything that could land me in the ER. I know I am not making any money, and I know every cent I spend is not my own. I ponder whether food is worth the mile it sets me farther back from home. I take nothing for granted. At best I am just treading water, but I swear sometimes I hold on to my neck to just make sure I haven't drowned yet.


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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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