Last September, I added an inspiration to the Amnesty unlawful detention challenge about feeling powerless in my unemployment, and others affirmed these feelings with their own stories and empathy. This was written two months after leaving my summer job in Ithaca— I had just graduated from Cornell University. I felt powerless then, but it would be an additional four months before I would get any steady work.
I never expected unemployment to feel so awful. It seemed impossible and unfair. People would look at my portfolio, comment on everything good about it, and then explain that they couldn't hire me because I didn't have enough experience. I felt like I was doing something wrong and no one was telling me what it was. I wondered how I should be getting experience if I couldn't get hired. My family seemed to think that I wasn't working hard enough.
At the beginning of January, I was finally hired spontaneously by a man who barely glanced at my portfolio (this was both exhilarating and heartbreaking after I had spent 6 months working on unsuccessful applications and perfecting my work samples). I was to work with him for one month. Two weeks into that engagement, he offered to extend my contract until May. Suddenly, it seemed like interviews were coming in left and right from my previous applications. I secured a longer-term position with another company by mid-February, and had to turn down an additional job offer last month. Now, seeing things from the inside, it seems like my company and others are hungry for talented people. So why is it so hard for recently graduated students to prove themselves?
While I was jobless, I appreciated OpenIDEO for this reason. I had applied to IDEO with no success, and I was beginning to doubt that any company would ever hire me, but I knew that I could put my OpenIDEO username on my IDEO application. At the very least, I figured I would have fun, keep my design muscles moving, and maybe generate some useful ideas. At the most, I thought I might be able to point to my participation here as a way for IDEO and other employers to learn more about me— my unique skills and the value I could add to their work.
It would be interesting to think of solutions like this that give newly minted graduates an outlet to practice their skills, while at the same time proving their abilities to potential employers who trust the source.