I'm in an unusual situation and it's proving extremely difficult to change things. Short version: I've been out of work for five years mostly due to severe depression, anxiety, and an abusive relationship, and have been trying to establish myself since recovering with no luck. I'm a bookworm with a degree who seeks an entry-level publishing position, but will take other (hopefully related, but not an absolute requirement right now) positions in the interest of establishing a recent job history for myself. (Extra long version inside...)
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (36 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I graduated magna cum laude several years ago, but initially, my attempts at finding a job in my industry of interest at the time (advertising) didn't work out. Part of the problem was my lack of formal experience, and the other was that I was trying to enter into a creative position, when few of those are advertised. Those that are advertised are difficult to get without a portfolio, and I didn't have one at the time. I've since learned how to use Photoshop, ImageReady, do webdesign, and other sorts of transferable skills. I did not spend the last few years idly.
I'd suffered from some form of depression and anxiety for some time by then, but it hadn't affected my success up until that point. After graduation though, I slipped further and further into it, became isolated, and to the point of being suicidal multiple times. I had intense social anxiety for some time then too. To the point that I was afraid to go out places or even to do simple, everyday things such as ordering from a food menu or making phone calls to just about anyone. What didn't help matters was entering into an ultimately abusive situation with someone I'd dated. He physically, verbally, and sexually assaulted me. That sort of thing wrecks the old self-esteem, and mine was already wrecked from the start.
I got out of that abusive situation about a year and a half ago, and have not only recovered since then, but totally changed. As of last fall or so, something clicked into place and I felt like a new person. I'm in a much better place now. I'm supported and loved, but more importantly, I've gained this love for myself, and real confidence for the first time in my life.
As for employment, most people won't give me the time of day, especially given the almost total gap in my resume between college and now. The only thing I've done since then has been minor freelance writing in the form of letters for a friend of the mother of my abuser.
I've called temp agencies, only to be given the run-around, being told "we'll call you", and of course, never being called and never even being asked to come interview.
I don't have any references. I've had a total of one formal paying job - just over a year of office work in college. Part of the reason for this was having to put in long hours commuting to school, not being able to take jobs without possibly affecting some government payments one of my parents was receiving, which would have led to being cut off and possibly not letting us afford to eat if it came to pass, and graduating early.
The depression, isolation, and social anxiety, plus lack of money made volunteering not really an option (I couldn't even make phone calls. I was so deathly afraid of phone calls that I'd leave mine occupied or off the hook for significant chunks of the day), so no references from that either.
I've got a degree in literature, a solid minor, a great work ethic, and lots and lots of desire to work in publishing. I did a whole lot of research and soul searching and I've decided that I want to be an editor of trade books. I've been applying to editorial assistant positions and rotational type gigs, but only one has responded. I interviewed for that position last year and did not get it.
At this point, I'm extremely poor, in debt, in need of a new wardrobe after losing a whole lot of weight (came off with the emotional baggage), and simply need a good job to get me started, even if it's not an editorial assistant position right away.
Most editorial hiring managers won't even look at me. I've attempted to get into some of the companies and present myself as a candidate, figuring if they met me and I could answer some questions, it might make things a bit easier and make me memorable enough for follow-up. I tried calling HarperCollins and they "don't do" informational interviews. How do I get to know anyone there? Or at other companies, many of which are similar?
I know that most editorial assistant ads are considered to be entry-level, and also that it's nigh impossible to land one without tons of internships. But it's not totally impossible. I've read of editors that took chances and of people whose first jobs in publishing were steps up from entry-level. I know that I can shine if someone would just not write me off into the black hole of HR immediately due to a gap in my resume.
I'm no longer a student, so many internships are off limits, and anything I do get has to be paid, or at least offer a stipend that I can combine with part time work.
As far as part time, retail work goes, I've tried going that route as well. The local video store, supermarket, Macy's, and other retail outlets have decided not to call me. Some people have told me that perhaps they saw my degree listed and felt I was overqualified, or that I'd leave soon if hired. I apply to office positions often as well.
I also never quite learned the art of networking. I was so cripplingly socially anxious and depressed during college that it probably wouldn't have made much of a difference if I had, and so I don't really have any professional contacts, and not many personal ones left either. My family doesn't know anyone in publishing either.
So mefites: Please offer me your best advice on becoming employed in NYC with such a history. I'll be commuting, but that's not really an issue. Extra tons of bonus points if anyone has advice for breaking into publishing as a non-student with only a clip or two (one from a journalism-related program ten years ago), a literature degree, lots of desire, drive, passion for books, a good (albeit outsider's) grasp of the industry, a lifetime spent as a grammar nazi, and acceptance that I'll have to work my way up.
Please understand that this is an extremely frustrating situation, especially now that I've recovered and am filled with such energy and drive to just get out there and establish myself already. I've had one too many virtual doors slammed in my face and I'm sort of at wit's end.
Apologies for my inability to be more succinct, but I thought it best to try and include as many details as possible due to this being an anon post.
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Thank you for any advice that you guys might have.