It is commonly accepted that the whole “job search” thing used to be easier. It simply had to be, because as far as we can tell, Grandpa only had to walk up to the CEO of a major corporation and say something akin to ‘You darn well know I’m the right man for it, so you’ll find me in my office!’.
We repeat these stories with a kind of fun, flirty fatalism that infects the humor of our generational cohort, a cohort who feel as though they live in apocalyptic times. Behind the sarcasm is a painful truth. As more and more people in Generation X and the Baby Boomer Generation still continue to join the labor force, the share of jobs available to Generation Z grows smaller and smaller. Due to the pandemic, nearly 10% fewer recent college graduates are able to find jobs, and even summer employment for teenagers has seen a sharp decline. If this doesn’t comprise a hostile environment for trying to enter into regular working life after college, it’s hard to tell what would.
Even so, these concerns are only secondary compared to the unique toil and terror that can only be inspired in a student applying to internships and entry level positions. About three times a year, in the lead up to the fall, spring, and summer semesters, everyone is suddenly swamped by a dreaded affliction known as application season. The exact timing and nature of the sickness usually depends on the hopeful’s particular poison (dream job). We apply to five, fifteen, twenty-five positions, and then wait by our inbox like hopeful puppies, slavering at any reply to our queries at all, even if they are only auto-responses indicating that our message was, indeed, received. Myths—or perhaps they are fables of warning—circulate, telling of some recent grad sending up to five hundred applications in one of these accursed seasons. Though the ending varies, I like to believe at least one got back to them.
And that, dear reader, is the crux of the matter; it feels as though perhaps only 1% of applications sent get any response—including rejection—at all. Someone applying to a job which, these days, requires a custom cover letter, multiple references, statements of interest, and any number of associated documents, deserves some sort of reply. I speak for many when I say that I would rather my email be flooded with messages of rejection rather than something that is inherently terrifying and perhaps even cruel: crushing silence.
It’s this silence that is killing us. For some, it is practically a cycle of constant cognitive dissonance, in which they get excited at the prospect of being hired, send in a flawless application, waste months feeling intermittent anxiety wondering what they did wrong, come to the sickening realization that they will never even contact you at all, and immediately start all over again with the excitement right before or a little after starting the next academic semester. This is cruel and highly unusual self-punishment. Being outright rejected is much preferable to a prolonged suffering, in the same way a quick death is better than torture, if one must choose.
Are we, as students and young professionals, not required by unwritten law to monitor our emails at all times, responding to anything that deserves it? The expectation of constant vigilance is the same at places of business. This perhaps indicates that we young laborers are the only ones who receive this kind of treatment. This is a byproduct of the new tech landscape, as all problems seem to be. One can assume that the act of physically going and submitting your resume, or whatever they did during the Victorian period of yesteryear, at least meant that you knew someone received it. Now not even a tearful request for an unpaid internship deserves a confirmation email. This is an injustice that affects everyone at some point in their lives, yet is in no way necessary to the proper functioning of our economy; therefore, there is no reason why such treatment should continue.
This trend of increasing degradation will only continue, if history is to be believed. I posit that soon these faceless suits will start making their contempt for us known. They will grant our wish of actually hearing back from them in the most malicious way possible. It may be an ad absurdum scenario, but what else would the next step be? Below is a sample of the automated response one gets upon sending in an application for an internship where you actually pay the extremely-full-of-themselves-company to be there, in the year 2025.
It has come to our attention that you, of all people, decided you should try for a chance at one of our valued internships. Well, I can tell you right now you rat-like little miscreant, you gremlin spit, no-good, brainless slime, that it’s not happening. You are perhaps the least qualified person to ever darken our digital doorstep. In fact, you should consider never applying to anything again. There are several jobs in cleaning up after animals or doing dishes that I can recommend, if you are interested I can send you a special pamphlet with exceptionally simple language.
If you must know, I am more than happy to tell you all the reasons why you stood no chance at this job. First of all, your GPA is a laughable 3.75, which would simply never cut it here considering we have weekly GPA comparison meetings that you would be unable to participate in. Secondly, your experience is simply worthless. A two semester gig at the State Department may impress some, but you don’t fool me you little twerp. Finally, you mentioned on your resume that you are involved in Blue & Gray. That was, of course, a mistake; I did nothing of the sort in college, and therefore could not care less. Your statement of interest simply does not bear mentioning, as you well know.
One day, I hope you look back on today as a lesson. Remember this miserable attempt at entering the workforce alongside America’s finest men and women. Remember that you are simply not worth our time.
Thank you for applying! We hope to hear from you soon.
A start-up think tank with an unclear purpose”
As you can see, the future is dire.
The problem underlying the difficulties students and recent grads are seeing is a complete lack of respect towards applicants. It is incontrovertible that every person, no matter their age or relative inexperience, deserves a baseline level of dignity. This dignity is denied when a place of business doesn’t even send a response to an application that is the product of hours of work.
It is hard to imagine what might be done to ameliorate the situation. A boycott of all internships and entry level jobs is impractical, yet this treatment should not be accepted in any form. What us young professionals need is a sense of unity; after all, we are quite literally the future, without us these businesses will wither. So keep applying, put your best foot forward and give it your all everytime. But, if a friend tells you they never got a response from a job listing, consider it a black mark against that company, and really think about whether that is the kind of place you want to work. Your value is inherent, so don’t let anyone treat you otherwise. Happy hunting.