SARAH VERBIEST

Looking Forward , Sarah Verbiest, founder of Every Woman Southeast, reflects on the new year and what it holds.


I’ve heard this phrase many times when describing my current situation.  I’ve just graduated from UNC Chapel Hill with my Masters degrees in Social Work and Maternal and Child Health.  I’m finishing up my internship at the UNC Center for Maternal and Infant Health, and am in the process of house hunting, job hunting, and moving out of state.  While this time in my life is certainly exciting, it’s also mildly terrifying. 
The job search is currently occupying most of my thoughts.  News outlets have been warning me for years now that my generation will have more trouble gaining employment than any previous generation.  They assure me that my competition is expertly qualified and that there are simply not enough jobs to go around.  If this is true, what does it mean for my job search?   
I’ve been listening to any and all the advice people have to give about getting a job—and there’s a lot of it out there.  I’ve found information that ranges from completely obvious to totally ludicrous.  One website warns interviewees not to show up with a drink in hand because, amongst other things, you could spill your drink on your interviewer. There seems to be a business in this kind of interview-related anxiety. There are books published on how to dress and sit, how much to smile and how to talk about yourself (a recent study shows that people with narcissistic personality disorder are disproportionately hired over those without the diagnosis, so apparently you’re supposed to speak pretty highly of yourself).  I wish I could roll my eyes at all of it, but I understand the worry.  Job interviews are one of the few interactions in which both parties involved openly admit that one is judging the others’ abilities, intelligence, and likability.  If having these tips makes people feel more confident in job interviews, then they’ve done their job.  Many professionals agree that confidence is the most important quality in an interview.
Most people encourage me to network, network, network. So far, this has been pretty successful.  For the most part, people in my field are eager to help in any way they can, especially if we have a personal connection in common.  I’m thrilled to be making connections with professionals that are doing amazing work, but I can’t help but be reminded of how privilege plays into every aspect of our lives, and the job search is no exception. Many of my connections have come through my parents’ friends (or my friends’ parents). Networking within my social network has allowed me access to a unique group of people, many of who are quite successful in their field. It is a constant reminder that becoming successful in this country is so much more complicated than simply “working hard,” it is inextricably linked to do with who you know, and what those people have access to. 
The past few months have felt like a lot of “hurry up and wait.”  Possible future rental properties and employers have told me that I should just wait a bit and be in touch soon.  While waiting patiently has never been my forte, I’m glad to have the opportunity to slow down and enjoy this time of exceptional change. There are certainly lessons to be learned from experiencing and reflecting on this transition and the new situations I’m finding myself in. After all, it’s such an exciting time.
   
Alisha Wolf, MSW, MPH
Note: Alisha would love to find a job in Baltimore and can start on October 1st – let us know if you have any connections! 

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