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 Katelyn Orenchuk, a 23-year-old Canadian -- she moved to Houston 12 years ago -- who graduated from the University of Texas in 2008 but still hasn't found a job.
I had a bit of an idea what I wanted to do when I started school. I was a communications major for the first year, then my interest shifted and I ended up majoring in French and anthropology, because I had the French background. I wanted to go into medical stuff or forensic anthropology, but going out to find jobs with just a bachelor's in anthropology is not the easiest.
I moved back to Houston from Austin in September 2008. I started looking for jobs, but I didn't really have any success. I was fortunate enough to be able to move back in with my parents, which can be a good thing sometimes.
I started looking for things just in my field. When I realized I wasn't going to find what I was interested in here, I started applying for anything. I've applied to do work in hospitals and things like that, and tech areas and admitting patients and things like that. I've applied for jobs in retail and not had that much success either.
I haven't received any call backs for anything. I've gotten e-mails saying, 'No, we're rejecting you,' but they don't really contact people anymore. A lot of stuff I got back was form letters.
I've gotten really good at being rejected. I've been rejected from every type of work. I've been rejected from things where you only need a high school diploma.
I did not think it would be this hard. When you're in school, you have the feeling of, 'I'm in school, I'm doing really well, I'm learning things, somebody will want to hire me.' Then you get out and you start getting rejected. And you get rejected from jobs that you know you're qualified to do, and that's not fun.
My favorite (worst) rejection was when I applied to Lone Star College to work at any of their desk positions. They want you to know Access. It's not hard to learn Access or any Microsoft program. So I decided to fill out an application anyways and see if I could learn on the job. It's an electronic application and they ask you point blank if you know it. I didn't want to lie, so I said no. Immediately, they say, 'Thank you for applying, but we're not going to look at your application.'
The worst part is feeling that I'll have to settle for being less successful than my parents. Every generation is supposed to feel that they're going to do better. I don't want to be a burden on my family, but feeling that I am somewhat of a burden right now is kind of hard. They want me to find something. It's hard for them to be able to afford things for us.
I've started to apply for things in retail. I will work anywhere, I just need to make money. You have aspirations to do more, especially after you go to school, you want a job that isn't just a job that you could've gotten otherwise. The ones that just require a high school diploma, I'll do it, you just kind of wanted more.
I do odd jobs every once in awhile. I was a scorekeeper for little kids' football games, which sounds okay, but it's not fun. I don't know anything about football, so having to keep score and keep track of time, I don't know how to do any of that stuff. So it was kind of a nightmare. But I do anything to make the odd bit of money here and there.
There were times when I wasn't feeling that great about myself. Now I've been rejected from everything, so it's not so bad anymore. After your 12th rejection letter, there's nowhere to go but up.
I started volunteering at City Hall, in the mayor's Office of Special Events, at the beginning of the month. It's really fantastic there. I don't make any money, but I'm learning a lot and that's what's important. Most days I'm there for four hours, about three days a week, but I go in as much as possible.
Got a tale to tell about being Young & Recessioned? E-mail Paul Knight at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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