Young & Recessioned: Haley Knight -- Forwarding Phone Calls Kinda Sounds Like "Communications," Right?

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The Big Recession may have hit the rest of America harder than it has Houston, but that doesn't mean we're not feeling the effects. Especially the youngest people in the job market -- whether it's twentysomethings trying to start their dreamed-of career or teens looking to begin making money on their own, a lot of people are finding themselves having to settle for less or fight harder than they imagined to get a leg up. In the bi-weekly series Young & Recessioned, we'll be talking to those on the front lines, about the frustrations and, too, about strategies that have worked and might help others.

Today's installment features Haley Knight, a 23-year-old Texas A&M grad who majored in communications and works a job as a receptionist that gets her down.

I always knew what I didn't want to do. That was the main reason I went into Communications, because it was so broad. I'm a really big people person, and I'm really good at planning and organizing. Not even necessarily a "nine to five," I just didn't want something so incredibly structured. Not sitting behind a computer and being confined to a desk.

I started looking [for jobs] that entire semester [before I graduated], I knew it was coming up, and I needed to find something. I didn't really have any other options, so I just thought I have to go with it.

I got called back on quite a few jobs, but none of them ever ended up working out. It was always, 'Oh, it's between you and one other person, and we're picking the other person.' I was like, 'Was that really necessary? Did you really need to add the One Other Person part?'

I live with my parents right now because I'm broke. I just got out of college so I don't have money. I could live on my own, but I would be so broke that all I could afford to do was live. I couldn't eat.

The job market is so limited. Looking for stuff online, which is primarily what you have to do if you don't have any options in terms of having business contacts, online is all that you have. You have to know exactly what to look for, and if you don't, then you're kind of screwed.

I have so many friends who have graduated and they still didn't have any jobs. No one could find jobs. You just kind of take what you get.

I know a lot of people who majored in business, specifically marketing, who it took them a good seven or eight months [to find a job]. I knew people who majored in engineering who, whenever the job crash happened, they all lost their jobs. They started, they hadn't even graduated yet and had jobs, but as soon as everything started going downhill they lost their jobs and have been out of a job for almost a year. And they have engineering degrees from Texas A&M. I know a lot of want-to-be teachers who can't get teaching jobs.

I'm a receptionist. I knew that I was settling and it wasn't what I could be doing, just because of other things I'm interested in and other things I'm good at. I did feel like I was settling but I didn't feel like I really had a choice.

It's more the type of work that's frustrating, because it's pretty much the same kind of work I had when I was an undergrad. I was working for a law firm in College Station. I feel like I'm entirely too qualified to do this.

Someone in our office was going to have to go give a speech at a seminar, and so our boss asked if anyone would like to help. I was like, 'Yes, I would love to.' That's what I love. I love to watch people get up and talk or do it myself. I wanted to help out, in terms of delivery style, the way you should be standing, the way you should be holding your hands in front of your face, because I lived that for four years. But I was immediately shot down.

A normal day for me is that I answer phones, I answer all the calls that come in, I get the mail, I sort the mail, I put stamps on the mail, I send out the mail, I make a lot of copies, I send a lot of faxes, and I keep track of stuff in a database. I guess you could say that talking on a phone and passing along a phone call does count as communicating, but not necessarily.

My advice for anyone who's in school right now is stay in school for as long as you can.

Got a tale to tell about being Young & Recessioned? E-mail Paul Knight at paul.knight@houstonpress.com.

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