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OpenIDEO & My Unemployment

Last September, for the Amnesty unlawful detention challenge, I wrote about feeling powerless in my unsuccessful job search. Now I'm gainfully employed and it seems like everyone is looking for talented new people. Where is the disconnect?

Photo of Alix Gerber
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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.

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Photo of Tom Hulme

Congratulations - we have shared your story among the whole OpenIDEO team as a reminder of why we're all doing this! Thank You

Photo of Tamar Lasky

Yes, and I think platforms like OpenIDEO help overcome some of the isolation that accompanies unemployment, and helps maintain energy and motivation.

Photo of Francesca Barrientos

I like this because we all have to find the motivation to use our skills even between jobs. Other people may have self-motivated side projects, but I find it hard to design without a real world problem that matters to other people. OpenIDEO is great for that. And it's a way to feel a little better in very difficult circumstances.

Photo of Arjan Tupan

Great to hear you found a job! I remember your story. And I think in some ways, platforms like OpenIDEO can help people in skill development (and showing them off). On top of that, there's a lot one can learn from all the great contributions here, and working together on concepts.
Thanks for sharing.

Photo of Paul Reader

Well related Alex!
There are several tensions in the job market - skills vs experience, mobility vs stability, various forms of discrimination, lack of loyalty on both sides - do you know how your original employer's business is travelling? Your experience would seem to illustrate how important are the so-called 'soft' skills, not just for potential employees but also employers.

Photo of DeletedUser

DeletedUser

Congrats and thanks for sharing!