Guest Commentary

Three degrees, a lot of experience, only one unsuccessful job interview

To say it's a war out there is an understatement.

As a holder of three college degrees—one from the University of Arizona—I am a little more than unnerved that I can't land a job, let alone get at least a few interviews in this town. My curriculum vitae reads like a fine wine list, but no company is bellying up to my tavern.

I had arrived in Tucson after a year-long contract position in San Diego, and being a native Tucsonan, I thought smugly that I was crazy like a fox, because I had just escaped one of the nation's most recession-afflicted cities. More than 100,000 residents fled California in the last 18 months; how could I go wrong in returning to my own hometown?

I was warned by a close friend of mine in Tucson that I was coming back to a ghost town. Deep down, I was concerned, maybe even borderline alarmed, but I reflected upon my solid education, my glowing work experience and the words of many of my last company's top executives, who told me that I would have no problem landing a new job anywhere I landed.

To my dismay, I had only one interview in more than a month after my return. Despite my optimism that I would be one of the two (out of the five candidates) to be hired for the position (which, by the way, only required a high school degree or equivalent education), my phone never rang, nor did my inbox ever receive the good word.

My days are spent searching all of the major job sites; I sit behind my desk like a worn refugee, my fingers numb from the multitude of tailored cover letters and polished résumés blasting through my Yahoo! account. Head hunters (agency recruiters) have been in hot pursuit, contacting me from other states, eager to help me land a job—and, of course, put some bread on their tables with a percentage off the top of my pay. They're quick to shut down communication and lose my number as soon as the job doesn't pan out. Human Resources etiquette seems nonexistent; despite my fervent attempts to apply to various companies, aside from that one interview, I have only received one response to an application—a "thanks, but no thanks" e-mail. At least I could cross that company off of my list. Common courtesy goes a long way. Has professionalism become extinct, with applicant masses so overwhelming that companies just can't keep up with the high demand for jobs?

The silence is panic-inducing, especially when my bank account is inching ever so close to going into the red. Unemployment horror stories are rampant, burning in my ears and making me all the more terrified that I'm going to end up at the unemployment office (where the employees, ironically, are now suffering through budget cuts and layoffs just like the rest of us). I have a friend who took on a job as a server at a new bar and grill. To her chagrin, 600 other applicants applied for the same position—including a multitude of hopefuls down from Phoenix. She beat out the competition and landed this highly sought-after serving job, only to be laid off within weeks due to a lack of business.

So what's a girl to do? I made a joke while on a date the other night, saying that maybe I should wear bells and dance in the streets while panhandling for a living. My date told me he had a homeless sign in his car. He had found it abandoned in a parking lot, on cardboard, misspelled and ready to be used on the streets again.

Somehow, in that moment of nervous laughter, I couldn't help but wonder how close to the truth we really might be.