High unemployment causes worry, stress

“So, what are your post-graduation plans?”

Since when did this question become accepted as appropriate small talk?

To me, asking such a vulnerable student about his or her future should be stored with the likes of asking women their age or asking your cousin how his colonoscopy went.

You avoid releasing the question from your lips, no matter how much you may be wondering.

If your aunt really wants to tell you about her face lift, she will.

And trust me, the second I receive a call from Ira Glass telling me he wants me to be a producer on “This American Life”, you’ll know too. There will be no need for questioning.

Then again, I may be biased. I don’t have any plans to brag about. Maybe if I did, I’d be begging for someone to ask me, not wanting to gloat without an invitation to brag.

When relatives who I haven’t seen in years ask me the inevitable question, I reply with a quiet, slightly embarrassed “No plans right now.”

I’ve reached that time of incessant breakdowns. I think about my future more than I think about what my next meal is going to be.

I’ve applied for more jobs than I can count on my hands. I’ve filled out applications to be a public affairs specialist, human resources assistant, air courier and researcher in West Africa.

I’ve applied to work for the government of the United Kingdom analyzing U.S. media, the U.S. government organizing trade in France and the French government teaching English in lycéés.

So far, the teaching in France seems the most promising, despite the fact I’ve never created a lesson plan in my life, and my French is hardly even intermediate.

A few weeks ago, I received not one, but two rejection letters from a health systems company I applied to do communications work with.

Should I mention this during small talk?

Talking to friends, I hear similar stories.

I-Link is bookmarked under their favorite sites. They get excited when they have a 30-minute break, so they can update their resumes. When they receive a rejection email, they take a deep sigh and continue searching.

Hardly any of us know where we’ll be a year from now.

But with the unemployment rate for those between ages 16 to 25 at 21 percent, according to the “Bureau of Labor Statistics in January”:http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/21/opinion/21klein.html, we’re all a little afraid.

The consensus at this stage has come to this reality: We’ll just be happy to have a job that allows us to feed and shelter ourselves.

If we can say we enjoy what we’re doing too, well, hey, fly us to the moon.

Maybe the incessant pestering about my career plans is just the motivation I need. So come this May, I had better be prepared to have a good answer to compete with the kid that is already listed on Forbes for the start-up company he began as a junior at Stanford University.

As for now, I know this: I’m searching every day. It isn’t easy. At certain points, I’m applying for unpaid internships in an attempt to make myself more marketable.

The juxtaposition of choosing between higher wages, but unadmired work and penny wages alongside that dream opportunity makes it worse.

In fear of growing a mental malignant tumor composed of “what if?” statements, I’m applying for double the amount of careers — those that would satisfy my paycheck standards and those that would cure that “what if?” tumor.

When I find that career that encompasses both, then I’ll really be waiting for your question. But until then, just know I’m searching. And no, it still isn’t easy.

_Rebecca is a senior in LAS._