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Looking for work can be a full-time job

The psychological labour in finding a career.


Ainslie Moss is every hackneyed positive adjective you’d use in a cover letter. Stationed in Halifax, she writes, works and researches theories of immortality.
  • Ainslie Moss is every hackneyed positive adjective you’d use in a cover letter. Stationed in Halifax, she writes, works and researches theories of immortality.

It starts, at least for me, the night after I send off my cover letter and CV. I rest my head on my pillow and—even though I know I shouldn’t, and I tell myself to stop—I can’t help but begin fantasizing about what my life would look like if I actually got the job.

I nail the interview, of course (in this fantasy, I don’t get visibly, excruciatingly nervous before interviews). When they offer me the job, I tell them I can start immediately. I think: the commute is longer, but that’s OK. I might finally be able to afford a car. The hours are fixed, which will be an adjustment from my current erratic schedule, but wouldn’t it be nice to have some consistency? Maybe I could finally get that puppy. I start to imagine the clothes I’d wear on my first day, and from there it’s all downhill into a fully invented non-dreary dream-world where I feel, you know, fulfilled.

Instead, here’s more or less how it actually goes: I spend hours obsessively scouring every category on every conceivable job search site, until I finally find one that excites me. I agonize over my cover letter for an afternoon (More formal? More casual? Do I even give a fuck anymore?), update my CV and send it along. I follow up. I follow up again.

I usually don’t hear back.

I repeat the process, and start to consider applying for increasingly impractical jobs. Could I scam my way into becoming an orthodontic technician? Do I have the mental wherewithal to be an “energetic and dynamic tour guide?” (No.) I rule out the more soul-sucking options because I’m fortunate to already have a job that pays me enough to survive, so I can afford to apply some rudimentary criterion to my search (full-time, salary, benefits; something creative maybe, something challenging).

When I do actually hear back, I get ready for that interview, determined to leap that last hurdle between me, loungewear-clad and perpetually broke, and my awesome new job. I look good! I feel prepared and confident! I’m not even sweating very much!

The person interviewing me inevitably says to me what can be paraphrased (a little bitterly) as follows: “Thanks for your interest. We offer minimum wage for this job for which four years of post-secondary education has qualified you. We’re really looking for someone who will throw their heart and soul into this. It’s a lot of long and thankless hours, but it’s spiritually fulfilling work if that’s what you’re looking for. We sort of have a benefits plan, but it’s not very good.” Don’t get me wrong: I want those long, thankless hours. I want something to throw my heart and soul into. I just also want to be able to make payments on my student loan, afford rent, go to the dentist without having an anxiety attack and adopt that damn puppy.

That hasn’t worked out for me yet. It’s not so bad though, I mean, I have a job. I am, technically, one of the lucky ones. So in the meantime, I’ll keep writing cover letters and fantasizing. I’ll keep making my own work and trying ludicrously hard to save money so I can abscond to somewhere warmer and go back to school.


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