Want Fries With That Frustration?

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

When I was turned down for a purely administrative job at a nonprofit because the other candidate had a master's degree, I knew that there was something very wrong with the economy. Since reading the Jan. 21 front-page story "Highly Skilled and Out of Work," at least I know that there are others like me.

I moved to Adams Morgan in October convinced that my stint studying al-Jazeera in the Middle East as a Fulbright scholar, my internship at the White House, my public relations experience in Kuwait and my Ivy League education in government and international relations would give me an edge. Yet after months of searching for a job eight hours a day, every day, my savings are gone, I cannot pay the rent and I cannot afford to eat anything more elaborate than fried potatoes ¿ la Tabasco.

Frustrated with the r¿sum¿-eating abyss that is USAJobs.gov, I sought out career counselors, who advised me to go to the offices, r¿sum¿ in hand, and introduce myself to potential employers. They didn't warn me, however, that Brookings Institution security guards would throw me out of the building for not having a job number on my r¿sum¿. I learned the hard way that Washington does things a little differently.

I worked my way to Dartmouth College from a Kentucky public school, where one of my advisers told me that a private school was a waste of money because "women only get married and drop out." I ignored that advice and tried harder, working my way to and through Dartmouth. So it's hard for me to ask for help. After a month of heartbreak and frustration, I finally decided to suck it up and ask my contacts for assistance. They tried, but to no avail. I then asked my White House intern friends for help, but since I had changed political sides after my internship, they were not willing to help me.

Looking at my Dartmouth investment banking and consulting friends, I am starting to think I may have made the wrong decision coming to Washington as an idealist. My dreams of someday starting a nonprofit to foster Western and Middle Eastern cultural understanding and to reform public diplomacy through media -- maybe those are dead dreams in this city, especially in this economic slump.

I scored a temporary job long enough to pay my phone bill. Tired of potatoes and fearful of eviction, I am waiting to see whether Borders thinks I'm qualified to work as a cashier. Next on the list are Starbucks and McDonald's. The next time you are craving fast food, keep in mind that an Ivy Leaguer might be asking, "Would you like fries with that?"

When I was turned down for the administrative job, I seriously considered standing at the top of the Farragut North Metro Station during rush hour in a suit, r¿sum¿s in one hand and a poster listing my qualifications in the other. I haven't done it, but like the economy, I haven't reached rock bottom. Yet.

-- Jennifer Krimm

Washington


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