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being triggered by jobhunting - help
September 10, 2011 12:40 AM   Subscribe

How do I cope with being constantly triggered while job-hunting? It's severely impacting my ability to apply for jobs.

I haven't been able to hold down a regular job since I finished university in late 2008, and it's been a massive struggle for me (as my AskMefi history would demonstrate). I've had freelance work, short-term work, gigs, spots of temping - but it's irregular and hardly enough to get me through living. If it weren't for my family and my partner I'd likely be on the streets.

My main issue is that I have a bridging visa (I applied for Australian permanent residency in 2009, and at this rate I may not hear an answer for another 2-3 years), which theoretically means I can work anywhere but realistically means that people are reluctant to hire me because they have no idea whether I'm allowed to or not. I've had people claim made-up policies about "no hiring people on bridging visas", and random jobs being classed as "permanent residents or citizens only". Just about every other bridging visa holder I've talked to mention that the visa has indeed been a big hurdle and that once their permanent residency was granted everything became a lot easier. I'm primarily an artist/artsworker - yet the main sources of funding and opportunities for artists in Australia are unavailable to me because they're not open to bridging visas.

There are other issues too - my ethnic/foreign-sounding name (which research has shown can affect your ability to get a job), my degree isn't in something very clear cut (it's a Bachelors in Creative Industries, which makes many people go "eh?") and despite YEARS of experience I tend to be told "you don't have Specific Degree X", having to constantly pop over overseas the last few years for family & bureaucratic hassle on short notice, the places that most want to hire me are underfunded and can only afford volunteer work. Sometimes I get rejected for totally inane reasons that make me wonder if there was some other reason they can't actually say for fear of being called discriminatory ("you didn't label your work experience section Work Experience!" wtf). Most of the time I just never hear back, or only get a form letter.

All this compounded for the past 3 years or so has made job hunting so stressful that whenever I look at a job application or description, even for something that sounds pretty rad, I get physically ill. I feel nauseous, headache-y, stressed, about to cry and break down. It has become such a big emotional and mental trigger that even writing this is difficult.

I know I can do the jobs well, and whenever I have been hired I've usually been pretty good. It's not like I don't have the skills or qualifications. I'm quite well-known within my circles for various reasons - strong Internet savvy, outspoken political nature, excellent research and writing skills, cosmopolitan travelling self-starter type. Yet none of that, none of my initiative or pep or drive or effort or whatever seems to matter. None of it.

I'm sick of hearing "We love your resume!!...we just decided to hire someone else". I'm sick of wondering if I should apply to this or that job now or wait till I come back from yet another short-notice Malaysia trip because they're dragging out my citizenship conferral (that's a whole separate nightmare) and I don't know when I'll be back, and I'm sick of my parents responding to me telling them that my constant uncertain availability is making it difficult to get jobs with "well then just come back to Malaysia". I'm sick of the only places that want me being the places that can't pay me. I'm sick of being so paranoid about racism and prejudice, sadly reinforced when I don't get hired at a strip club because I don't look right, or when I get told that I didn't have the right degree only to have a friend - who doesn't have the right degree either - get the job I was perfect for and then not really do it because she was away so often. I'm sick on having to rely on others because this stupid visa is making it difficult for me to be super-self-sufficient. I'm sick of immigration, sick of selection criteria, sick of conservative hirers who don't appreciate people that made their own opportunities and don't always fit in the box, sick of the stress, sick of being sick.

But I do need to earn money somehow and those job apps are still there.
And I'm considering moving interstate, but am doubtful that my chances are much improved.

How do I push through the triggers and the stressors and get the job apps done? How do I keep writing the same response to the same inane selection criteria without feeling like I want to shoot myself? How do I convince employers that a bridging visa is not a liability, that I'm still useful despite the lack of a drivers license, that I can quickly learn any computer program you throw at me, that just because my job experiences are sorted by skills rather than dates doesn't mean they're not relevant?

honestly i'd much rather be back in the bay area working there for a year or so, but that's a whole separate battle.
posted by divabat to Work & Money (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
You have now tried to get a fulltime gig in your own particular niche and area for a reasonable amount of time.

Now you have a quandary and a decision to make:

1. Do you want to stay on in Australia?
2. You need income.

Are you seeking jobs only in certain industries and descriptions? Or are you looking for just jobs themselves, regardless of it being in your area of interest but instead fitting in with the qualities you describe:

strong Internet savvy, outspoken political nature, excellent research and writing skills, cosmopolitan travelling self-starter type

such as in social media, marketing and promotions (general not interest or arts specific), blogging etc?
posted by infini at 2:22 AM on September 10, 2011


I'm asking because my logic is going so:

1. Now try to get job (without it being strongly related to who you are and what you do)
-- this is not a sell out, its a strategy
2. Use job to build income, get visa related stuff sorted out
3. Continue personal interest areas on the side
4. When you have the visa and income part settled (PR or citizen) then go back to fulltime being creatrix etc jobs

Right now, you're raising the barriers very high for seeking visa supported income generating employment in a foreign country by being very niche as well. Continue to build brand but seperate the bureaucratic needs from the personal/professional needs in the short term.

Its hard enough being foreign and female and seeking immigration.
posted by infini at 2:27 AM on September 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Send me your current CV and couple of jobs for me to evaluate - you have my email.
posted by infini at 2:28 AM on September 10, 2011


You're looking for work in a niche field, in a state with a tiny arts community, in an industry where it appears that you need to have a working visa. I would say that even if you had residency, you would find it challenging to find work where you are. One of these has to give. In your shoes, I would be prepared to look outside my field for work, just to pay the bills and/or potentially move to somewhere where the market was bigger - it seems like you're considering that already.

Sometimes you don't get everything you want all at once, you have to compromise and give it time until your visa comes through. Good luck.
posted by Jubey at 3:27 AM on September 10, 2011


I don't have any answers for you, but I want to offer some consolation (when I started typing this infini hadn't posted--on reading infini's comments in her first and second posts I agree with them, and she has put it lots better than I could have). I'm white, male, Australian (though I don't live in Australia) and I was born in Brisbane. I also know (or knew) a bit about Australian immigration law. IANYL.

First, the whole point of a bridging visa is to keep your presence in Australia lawful until some other event--in your case that's the decision on your application for a permanent resident visa. Until that happens your presence in Australia remains lawful unless (for example) your deportation is ordered by a court (which normally happens only if you are convicted of a crime). You obviously met the "time of application" criteria for the PR visa when you applied, otherwise your application wouldn't have been accepted. I assume you meet the "time of grant" criteria now and will continue to do so, and that any other persons whose applications depend on yours meet the secondary criteria. As long as that continues to be the case and no decision has been made you will not be removed (as distinct from deported). But you already knew all that, and so do the people who have "no bridging visa" policies.

There are no racist elements I know of in the visa criteria (except positive ones in cases of visa classes designed to cater for refugees from particular conflicts or regions--I don't know if there are any such visas currently open). On the other hand, Australia used to be an officially racist country and there are doubtless places where the old prejudices run strong. Brisbane may well be one of them. I still love Brisbane but I don't know how I'd go living there if I weren't Caucasian. The further north you go in Australia the more noticeable the prejudices tend to get, except possibly for Darwin. I know you felt that changing cities wouldn't help but if it's not too disruptive in other ways I'd give it a go.

Once again I agree with infini (and jubey). Get a job--any (respectable) job. (Can I respectfully suggest avoiding working in strip clubs, even if it's legal? There's a million stereotypes twitching right there. And you'll never know what the boss has going on the side. Last thing you'd want is for the place to get raided because of some racket the boss is running. Even if you're not involved it looks bad.) It will at least give you some breathing space to get yourself sorted out, and some income. If you have access to a publicly funded legal advice bureau that does immigration, it's worth asking if there is anything you can do to speed the application process up, but don't expect any miracles. The Immigration Department grinds slowly and tends to react badly to any perceived attempt to game the system. Consider why you went to Australia in the first place--is that reason still valid? Regard Australia for the time being not as "the place where I practise my profession" but as "the place I have chosen to live in".

I also agree with you about how trying to respond to inane selection criteria makes you lose the will to live. I told a recruiter once that I wasn't interested in doing another selection process and that that was reason enough for me not to be interested in his pitch. I stopped applying for jobs a while back and just worked the network to get my previous and current jobs. But I work in a very small specialised field where people know each other and this might not be viable for you.

I realise you think your situation sucks, and yes in many ways it does. But it really isn't entirely bleak. Get away from publicly-funded jobs and you'll get away from those bloody awful selection criteria, and you may also get away from questions about what your degree is actually in.
posted by Logophiliac at 3:46 AM on September 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Have you thought of working with a temp agency? You don't say exactly what line of work you are in but a lot of different sorts of jobs can be found through one of the agencies. Or if you have even half way decent computer skills you can bluff your way through the tests.

This would be a help because a group that basically hires people for a living would have more idea of the legal ramifications of a bridging visa. The people you go and work for would then have no idea what your visa status was at all.

You can get experience in areas you are interested in so when you're on a residents visa it would help you find a full time gig in your area. Also it is waaaaay easier to find a job if you are already working in the field you want, even if its just some schelpy job to start with. I have worked with 3 different temp agencies when I worked in Australia and while this was 5 years ago I was having to turn down work.

If it makes you feel any better I am currently waiting to hear back on my 10 year residents visa in the USA (Green Card) I entered 2 years ago and only got a temp visa and have found people just as hesitant to hire me because they did not understand the nature of a temporary visa. I still haven't found full time work but do some temping over here (though the temp pay over here is no where near as good).

Also have you considered maybe investigating moving to another city. Brisbane is a beautiful city but not the largest and if you are working in a more obscure field that alone would decrease your chances significantly.
posted by wwax at 4:43 AM on September 10, 2011


You've gotten some good advice, particularly looking outside your field for the time being.

("you didn't label your work experience section Work Experience!" wtf)....
... just because my job experiences are sorted by skills rather than dates doesn't mean they're not relevant?


This sounds like it might be a sticking point for employers. They want to see how long you will stick around. Your unwillingness to show duration at each position is going to reinforce the concerns they have due to your immigration status.

Many arts-based or grant-funded positions are temporary in nature, related to a project, and it sounds like that's what your official work experience reflects. That's ok, and you don't need to hide it. In fact I'd suggest structuring your resume the way employers want to see it, and addressing that issue directly in your cover letter: "I have been fortunate enough to work on some challenging short-term projects, which allowed me to broaden my experience and skill-set, and I am now seeking a more permanent position where I can put those skills to good use."

How do I keep writing the same response to the same inane selection criteria without feeling like I want to shoot myself?

I hope you're not rewriting it every time, just copy/paste it.
posted by headnsouth at 5:22 AM on September 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


First of all, hugs. I know how it feels (note *feels*, I fortunately haven't had to be on the sharp end of racism and immigration issues so I don't know what that's like, but do I know what it feels like to be desperate and getting rejected all the time).

Number one: get any job. Anything anything anything.
Number two: are you on LinkedIn? Use that to raise your profile and maintain your network.
Number three: keep trying. The only way out is through. You will figure it out, but you gotta keep trying. My favourite quote: "spectators don't win fights, and the one tactic that I have never seen fail is just to keep getting up." (Andrew Vachss)
posted by tel3path at 5:34 AM on September 10, 2011


I'm sorry you are having such a tough time.

Seconding everyone who says to apply for any job, not just jobs related to the arts. What if you made it a bit of a mind game for yourself: Tell yourself that after 1 month, you are no longer accepting any funds or gifts from your parents, your partner, and so on. If that were the case, would you be making different decisions? Finding work applications to be more palatable? Spurred with new motivation? You don't have to cut off your lines of support, but you can reflect on that scenario to push you forward.

In some areas, it is a time-honored tradition to work in the service industry while waiting for a big break in the arts (for example, wait staff/future actors in California). Taking any job would give you the self-satisfaction of supporting yourself, and also show a trend of permanence on future job applications and residency applications. Who knows, maybe it can even add a new dimension to your talent, as you learn more about how "the average Joe" lives. You can still pursue your interest in the arts in the hours outside of work, and ditch the drudgery work as soon as your big break comes.
posted by Houstonian at 6:04 AM on September 10, 2011


Sometimes I get rejected for totally inane reasons that make me wonder if there was some other reason they can't actually say for fear of being called discriminatory ("you didn't label your work experience section Work Experience!" wtf)

In the US, when there are a bunch of applicants, basic formatting shit like that is a common way to weed out applicants, for what that's worth. It's kind of shitty, but it's a great way to reduce a huge stack of applications down to something manageable, because so many people don't follow the instructions. And on a related note, at many employers (such as my own), an application that does not state explicitly how you meet the minimum qualifications won't make it past HR. They won't dig into page three of your resume to look for those qualifications -- they either find a bulleted list or a paragraph about how you meet them, or they toss it. Again, it's shitty, but it's function is to simply reduce large applicant pools down to something workable. My point being, if you make sure your applications fit the required format and include the required information, at least you won't be filtered out at that first cut.

Anyway, people have been giving lots of advice about the job search itself, whereas I read your question as being more about the stress and unhappiness of the search. Sort of the job search version of writer's block, or stage fright. This is not actually uncommon; there are therapists and "life coaches" who specialize in exactly this. (I put life coach in quotation marks because it's one of those amorphous fields, totally unlicensed, that includes a lot of variation and people label themselves using different names.)

And that's my suggestion: to find a way to reach out for that kind of help, both on the therapy front to deal with the stress and freezing up part and on the life coach front to get serious feedback on how you are approaching the whole endeavor. Your approach right now is unfocused and diffuse, and you are struggling with the "how do I market myself?" and "how can I network myself into a job?" questions, especially. Trying to do it all yourself isn't working; I am suggesting finding people to lean on and give the help you need right now.
posted by Forktine at 6:39 AM on September 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I should add that I've been looking at jobs across fields, not just the one in my industry. If it looks like something I can do I apply for it.
posted by divabat at 12:20 PM on September 10, 2011


headnsouth: This sounds like it might be a sticking point for employers. They want to see how long you will stick around. Your unwillingness to show duration at each position is going to reinforce the concerns they have due to your immigration status.

Many arts-based or grant-funded positions are temporary in nature, related to a project, and it sounds like that's what your official work experience reflects. That's ok, and you don't need to hide it. In fact I'd suggest structuring your resume the way employers want to see it, and addressing that issue directly in your cover letter: "I have been fortunate enough to work on some challenging short-term projects, which allowed me to broaden my experience and skill-set, and I am now seeking a more permanent position where I can put those skills to good use."


Yup - not so much unwillingness, just that I'm not quite sure how to organise the information because they're short but recurrent, or I return to the same organisation to do different things each year, or so on.

I've tried the temp agency route but asides from childcare I haven't actually gotten anything else.

I do have a LinkedIn, which is how I got some jobs - I'll try again on there.
posted by divabat at 12:27 PM on September 10, 2011


Can you collaborate with some like minded colleagues/friends to offer services as a team? That may take the pressure off a single name/visa ?
posted by infini at 12:33 PM on September 10, 2011


infini: interesting idea, though that starts going into running a biz, which isn't too bad - I do similar - but would seem to also be mostly patchy and non-regular.
posted by divabat at 12:36 PM on September 10, 2011


Maybe you've got gigs that you shouldn't be including on your resume -- as irritating as it is, most companies and offices really don't want someone who is super creative and unique and has done 8000 interesting little bits in the past and include all sorts of past experiences in challenging the status quo, whether through gender or race or sexuality or whatever. Sometime's it's just ignorance or bias or preferences or whatever. But even I've had experiences with trying to work with folks who are perpetually trying to show their uniqueness, and it's exhausting and not very useful in terms of the given task at hand. People like that *can* be little special snowflakes, which are a nightmare to train, retain, and manage. You want to show someone that you have good ideas, but that you're also completely able to do the job being offered, and know how to get shit done, and well, and quickly.

Who has given you advice on your resume? Have they been people in successful positions? In the field of the jobs to which you are applying?

You should research the idea of "informational interviews." Seriously. They are not for actually getting you a job, but they do help you network, and find out the unspoken requirements for types of jobs, and what kinds of personality quirks work best in a given situation. Meeting folks in that kind of professional situation is very different (or can be) from meeting someone at a bar, or through some other social situation. By that, I mean prepare for the meeting with very good questions, that are not passive aggressive attempts at getting hired by them, at that moment, but about getting an insight into that industry or line of work. You can ask them to look at your resume, and suggest ways of organizing it and highlighting your expertise and experience. Be very respectful of their time, come prepare with both general and specific questions, don't overstay your welcome, but tell them you're really trying to get through this time, and would appreciate any leads or advice they can offer.

I don't have the time to find the older threads on informational interviews, but there are a few in the archives if you want to look through them. There are tons of sites that explain the concept and good practices.

Perhaps the informational interview is a completely crazy notion in Australia, in which case, perhaps you can find an American in a similar position. It's a good way of getting out there, and getting advice from the folks on the ground. Maybe you don't have to call it an "informational interview" -- just say that you admire their success, that you're having a tough time breaking into the land of the gainfully employed, and would appreciate any advice they can offer. Send them your job letters, your resumes, and where you've been looking for jobs.

Right now, think of the 4 most successful people you personally know, in any line of work that sounds interesting or appropriate for you. Have a friend help you craft an email to them, explaining that you are having a hard time on the job market, and would love to have a quick chat with them, and ask if they could read over your resume for advice on how to redo it.

Good luck!
posted by barnone at 1:22 PM on September 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


If you keep going back to the same place to do work that counts as one job with many tasks over an extended period of time - I've spent the last two years doing that so I've worked for them for two years. When you write a CV it's about presenting information in the most easy to understand way for the person who is reading it. If your CV is too long or bitsy think about how you can group things in a way that makes them seem stable and straightforward. And even though it's a pain all CVs should be tailored to the job you're applying for.
posted by mleigh at 1:41 PM on September 10, 2011


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