Here in Washington, DC, one’s profession is not merely a description of who you are but an identity in itself. If you do not work in this town, you do not exist. Until I get hired, I’m a ghost.
It is a very odd thing to cycle from interest to hopefulness to fantasy to vague concern and finally despair, because that is what is to engage the process of application.
I scan the job description and the requirements wondering which ones are essential and which would be considered merely “pluses.” I make a quick personal assessment and wonder whether it’s worth sacrificing the time to study the website, to compose a cover letter squeezing my personality into your idea of the job as if I’m trying on a new pair of trousers–I think to myself, they’ll feel better after I break them in.
By the time I hit send I’ve convinced myself there is no way I won’t be hired, because my will to succeed is genuine while all the other applicants are selfishly motivated by ambition alone. Of course that will come through in the letter, which I’ve taken care to make not so long it will be skimmed over, and not so short that that it will be an obvious template and generic illustration of entitlement that will be read as a shrug. None of that: I’ve written the Goldilocks cover letter.
And the resume? Can’t miss there. It’s all on one page, all ten years of my professional energy. No one can economize space like me. The headings are boldfaced. The highlights are accentuated. My resume is professional as fuck.
I may as well parade Northwest DC wearing a Christmas bow on my head. I’m taking offers ladies and gents.
Thus begins the fantasy stage. I imagine thrilling my new employer. I imagine revolutionizing the business. I imagine glory and fame and record-breaking sales and sweeping victories on election day.
But then I don’t hear anything and I figure they must just be backed up over at human resources. I figure I’ll move on to the next prospect, and start the cycle over somewhere else, just to keep myself busy.
A couple of weeks later I remember that job that was going to change my life and I realize I haven’t heard anything. A feeling creeps over me, that “Did I forget my phone?” panic. I fire through my inbox. Did I miss a reply? Wouldn’t that be something coming from the guy who claimed “attention to detail!”
Maybe something went wrong with the email. Maybe…they deleted my application by accident. Nope, I’m not the right fit. I’m not even a round peg in a square hole–I belong to another set altogether. Not even worth a formal rejection. Despair.
Ah! But what about those other applications that are still burning with hope in your consciousness. Those will see you through the night. This spark perpetuates even more new applications. I press on.
One day something will interrupt this cycle. I’ll be in the midst of one of these stages of coping when the phone will ring and someone will call me in for an interview and THEN I’m totally out of the woods.
No one else stands a chance.