Thursday, May 27, 2021
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Job hunting sucks, whore yourself’

In May, I will leave UMKC for hopefully greener pastures, but more likely very desperate, underpaid pastures. I’ll be graduating with an English degree.

If you’re like me, you’re unimaginably bothered by the language you see other people using to market themselves on career sites such as LinkedIn and Indeed.

It’s not that I don’t know what I want to do. I know exactly what I want to do. But being an editor at a literary magazine is not an entry level position. So, I’m resigned to searching jobs online that have even an inkling of connection to my major. I’ve made my profiles on career sites by posting a flattering, conservative photo of myself, answering questions about my past jobs, what “skills” I believe I have to offer and posting my résumé. And I hate it.

When I think about career sites, I imagine a very tall, fit, ideal man in a stunningly clean and stylish suit pinching the last piece of food in the world and holding it above a crowd of some 100,000 people just too short to reach the food. The ideal man is smiling and the 100,000 people are all shouting out phrases like “formulated strategic plans to effectively and efficiently evaluate” and “coordinated and implemented an analysis of quantified research” trying to convince the ideal man that they are most deserving of and qualified for the foods.

The language that I am competing with on these websites seems to me to be increasingly seductive and untrue. Should I be in the position to hire a person for a job, I would ask the applicants to describe their skills in the shortest words possible. If you can say “knows how to use a copy machine” instead of “am cognizant and capable of the necessary knowledge to operate a papyrus duplication device” then do.

It’s not that I don’t know and cannot use these elevated, $5 and $10 terms. It’s that they feel false to me. I could tell you that I have experience with observing diverse market demographics and engineering verbiage that will influence the behavior and decisions of a wide client pool, or I could, and perhaps more accurately but less impressively, tell you I know how to say what people want to hear.

I think the root of my disdain for this career dance is that the similarities between selling a cheap plastic toy and convincing someone I’m a smart, capable person are too similar.

I don’t want to “sell” myself or “promote” myself. I want to have an informal conversation with someone over a beer and talk about doing some work for him or her. I realize, because while I am idealistic, I am still not insane, that my desire for an uncompetitive job market is never going to be.

But like many other graduating seniors, I will continue to participate in this humiliating race for a job. Perhaps the best advice I’ve received on finding a job after college and behaving strictly how I think others want me to, was from a friend who graduated two years earlier and now has a great job in a field he loves.

He told me, “Job hunting sucks,.Whore yourself.”

bhoffman@unews.com

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