Published Monthly

Help Wanted
by Lisa Chauveron

Holiday elf. Backup dog walker. Contributing writer for a New Zealand parenting magazine. And, my personal favorite, Kisser in a kissing montage for an independent film on inter-racial dating. These, ladies and gentlemen, were the offerings of the job market that greeted me upon completion of my Master’s degree. In school, I had tried to put my idealism to work, taking up research on school-based violence prevention programs. When I got out, however, I soon realized that there is more demand for a backup dog walker than an idealist with a degree and 3 academic publications (did I emphasize that it’s a backup dog walker? I guess the full fledged dog walker positions are reserved for Ph.D. graduates).

I got the aforementioned jobs in attempt to stay afloat in an economy filled with increasing numbers of drowners. I, dear reader, resolved to be different; I would be fine, gainfully employed with relative ease and speed. Ah, the foolishness of youth strikes again.

I searched for jobs in my field, but, to no avail. I even turned to the NYC Public School system, foolishly thinking that me, with my Master’s degree in EDUCATION, and they, with their drastic teacher shortage, provided the perfect solution to each other’s troubles. Armed with my government-issued identifications and a big dopey smile, I headed to the Board of Ed with expectations of success, only to be duped again. Never have I experienced more unnecessary, bureaucratically driven let-downs than when I tried to resolve student welfare case issues a few years back. I mean, as a graduate student I was used to jumping through hoops and over hurdles. And when the Board of Ed essentially asked me to hula-hoop blindfolded while hopping on one foot and reciting the pledge backwards, I did it without breaking a sweat. But in the beam competition that followed, the beauty of my triple back flip over a pit of starved gators was apparently lost when I wobbled on the landing. I was disqualified, losing the opportunity to teach full-time. The judges must’ve liked my style though, because I became a certified substitute—whoopee.

Post-snafu, my internal scientist took over. Because the market is particularly tough, I did some research on the best tactics to secure a good position. I read Newsweek, NY Times, and Wall Street Journal articles to guide me. Their authors suggested career shifts, flexibility, and creativity would undoubtedly land me a good job. Flexibility, I thought. Do they KNOW what it takes to walk 15 dogs? Fear not, Bush told me and my fellow unemployed Americans in the State of the Union address, the job market is statistically better. Great—how long until it realistically gets better though? Here in NYC, the City Comptroller said the market has gotten worse since December 2003—that, Mr. Bush, means unemployment actually rose here. There are so many candidates competing for open positions that employers don’t even bother rejecting the unwanteds anymore; they only deem potential employees as email-worthy. As a result, I’ve found myself actually seeking rejection.

With presidential elections nearing, and my eventual eviction impending, I wonder how the next crop of leaders will improve my job prospects. In the words of my Magic 8 Ball, the outlook isn’t good. Is Kerry’s plan truly economically stimulating? Will Dean’s Job Creation Plan really mean full-time employment for me? And perhaps most importantly, if Bush is re-elected, exactly how many ways can Ramen Noodles be prepared?

For now, I revel in the rewards of my 14 years of schooling, and await the phone call where my back-up services are once again required. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, but I’m continuously ready, armed with both my literal and proverbial pooper scooper; I have to be prepared, leash in hand, lest the dogs, ultimately, wag me.

Lisa Chauveron holds a Master of Education degree.


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