by Steven Chaitman, Social Media and Digital Communications manager at the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago and an OSRUI Alum.
When I graduated college, I really wasn’t ready for what would come next.
I entered the University of Missouri in 2005 eager to be certified as a professional writer by the best journalism school in the country; I left Mizzou in 2009 with as much a sense of direction as the struggling field I was newly qualified to work in and hoping to find a job just months into the worst economic downturn since an era I had to read about in history textbooks because my grandparents were barely old enough to remember it.
I had also made entering the prospective working world as challenging as possible. I didn’t have a clear idea of what I wanted to do or where I wanted to work. I was neither picky about the details nor certain of them. I saw myself happy in a lot of different jobs and my experience reflected someone with diverse interests but no clear focal point.
Covering collegiate women’s tennis, criminal justice reporting, my movie blog – I enjoyed all of it. But in a job market that demanded a concerted effort and one’s best foot forward, being happy to wander in any direction wasn’t going to get me anywhere.
Why? Because this is what I saw on job postings:
“The ideal candidate has 2-4 years experience working in [insert niche field]”
“3-5 years [insert niche field] experience preferred.”
“Knowledge of [insert software or specialty skill].”
And these were listed as “entry level jobs,” which I soon realized were creatures of 20th-century working world mythology; if they appeared or were reported to exist, I never saw the evidence. In an industry with way more writers than writing jobs, employers had a range of experience to choose from. When I applied for these jobs anyway, namely when I had connections on the inside, I found myself turned away each time because someone else always had that niche experience.
I was left in a desperate state. I had gotten some freelance work, which would keep me writing and my portfolio fresh, but would not allow me to save up. So I looked to my other niche experience and turned where I had always turned when I needed work: the Jewish world.
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