What You’re Worth

For what it’s worth.

Like every college student, second semester senior year was a both exciting and terrifying time for me. I can honestly say that I was ready to leave USC behind me. I got everything I wanted (and some things I didn’t) from my college experience, that lack of regret made it an easier transition for me to leave. That was the only easy part of the transition.

After a series of serious curveballs, I finally received my diploma in August and I

Me with cap and gown copy

started the job search. Given my extensive unpaid internship experience (slave labor), I was sure that all of the work I put in while studying would pay off. Immediately.

Being an active member of my sorority in college, I met some amazing women. Women, who even before graduating, were making great career strides. One of the older girls, who just shined talent, is in the Forbes “30 Under 30” this year and, damn, did she earn it. I didn’t realize just how much she must have worked until I entered the job market. If I had a full page of experience and decent grades, I can’t even imagine the work she did to get where she is now. I looked up to these women and naïvely expected that once I was available for full-time work, companies would line up like frat boys at the campus bar to hire me. Wrong.

My dad has always said, “You know, Hannah, this is a process.”

I was so sure of myself and my skills, that I just took this saying to be one of his famous dad-isms, nothing I needed to worry about. Lo and behold, months went by without a whisper from jobs I applied to. After quite literally 100 applications, things started to come through. I had received offers from a grand total of three companies. The first company came quickly, but like many other Los Angeles-based firms, they offered me an unpaid “fellowship,” a position that would last 90 days, 5 days a week, 9 hours a day. The other, a job that paid $9 an hour at 50 hours a week. I am very, very fortunate to be supported by my parents and I know that my situation is not the norm, but these offers were almost laughable. How could these companies possibly think that any person could live, let alone thrive, with little to no pay? Aside from my parents saying that this was a waste of time, I knew this was a waste of time. How could such a company take such advantage of eager graduates who are desperate for work experience? Sadly, this is the norm. After declining that, there were weeks of silence. I was going nuts. I spent my days and nights scouring the Internet, following every lead, and applying to just about everything on LinkedIn.

I have always thought that I wanted to be in marketing. That is, after I gave up on the world of politics. I figured, “if I can market myself, I can definitely market for a company.” As time trickled by, I started to doubt myself. Maybe I can’t market myself. The support from my parents never ceased. Both the financial and the emotional. No matter how low (and believe me, it could get really low), my parents were the first people to push me back up. They would give me a grace period of two days to wallow in my self-pity when another interview would be followed with the dreaded “Sorry, we have decided to go with another candidate…” email and then we’d refocus and change up the game plan.

At this point, my parents insisted that I do something other than just apply to jobs. I was pushing myself to the brink, and even from Chicago, they could tell. Like all twenty-somethings, I loved reading BuzzFeed. I read BuzzFeed every day, multiple times a day. Then a light bulb turned on upstairs. I am funny. I could write these. And so I did. They had a fellowship starting in Los Angeles in January and damn it, I was going to apply, but this time, with a plan. I started writing a community post every day for a month. A lot of them got promoted and people loved/hated what I wrote about. I didn’t care, finding cute pictures of corgis and watching my analytics go up day after day boosted my dwindling self-esteem. I got the call offering a paid (OMG I know right?) fellowship with the one and only BuzzFeed the day before Thanksgiving. The house rang out in cheers. I had never been so excited for something since I got accepted into USC.

BuzzFeed Status

My family is the best support system in the world. I hear about other people not getting along with family members or even hating their relatives, which I can sympathize with but not relate to. My sisters are my best friends and, honestly, my parents are too. Their triumphs are my triumphs and vice versa. My sisters were the first to break the news on Facebook because they were so excited for me. True and proud big sisters.

I excelled at BuzzFeed and I had a hell of a time doing it. The people I met, the skills that I learned, and the articles I wrote are things I will look back fondly on. When the program ended, I crashed back to square one, where I was just months ago but somehow forgot how painful it was. The shame of having to tell everyone you were jobless yet again, applying to multiple jobs a day, and praying that someone would just give you a chance.

Again, my parents were ready with the encouragement. Some days were harder than others, but Me mary and Emilythey never wavered. I think the biggest pushes came from what I saw from my sisters. Emily, just about the most inspirational person I know, managed to overcome the hardest challenges, challenges I can’t even imagine, to get her degree and finally get a job she really loves. Her history didn’t define her and she didn’t let it. She is worth more than that. Her job reflects that. Mary, the smartest person I know, also struggled. This put things into perspective for me. Mary, a cum laude graduate from Northwestern University, was as anxious as I was. For the first time, my selfishness broke. I could see that others around me were facing the same struggles that I was. I mean, Mary is a genius. I will probably slightly hate her forever for taking all of the genius genes from my lawyer parents, but when she got a job at a great school teaching a subject she loved, my heart burst. She is worth more than just being a debate coach, she is worthy of being (and will be) one of the greatest math teachers in the continental US. She is worth that.

It’s been a rough couple months. Being back where I began has been harder this second time around. I always talk to my parents whenever I get an offer or interview, because I know that I will take just about anything to have the validation of being gainfully employed. It takes them to bring me down to earth, to remind me that I am worth more than a lot of the offers that I have gotten. They know more about my worth than I do. Slowly, I am starting to, too. I find myself really reassessing offers that I previously would have jumped at because I deserve better. I don’t really know my worth yet, but like my dad said, “It’s a process.”

What do you think?