Posted by: joha5 | August 2, 2010

What it’s Like to be an Over-Achiever at All the Wrong Things

I was recently denied an unpaid internship position to which I had applied. I could probably just leave it at that – a sentence that sums up my notion of self-worth, which has been severely damaged in the recession of the past 2 years or so.

Normally, I would have accepted defeat, disguised as a considerately worded e-mail, which stated that I “was not a good fit” for the organization. But I couldn’t. I’m not sure if it was my outbox stuffed full of cover letters and resumes from a yearlong search for work. This was one rejection I was unable to process. Why had years of over-achieving translated into unemployment?

I abandoned my passivity and responded to the e-mail. I asked why I was denied a position for which I was clearly qualified given my photocopying prowess; all I saw was an opportunity that required the minimal effort of ten hours a week.

Surprisingly, I received an e-mail back that same day, openly explaining why they chose another candidate. It turns out I was not only a terrible fit for them but that it was also apparent that I had not thoroughly researched the organization enough before applying. After approximately thirty seconds, it dawned on me that I wasn’t any closer to having that elusive entity known as a ‘job’, despite my aggressive emailing. And then I experienced an epiphany, though not a necessarily unique one: work plus education no longer equals a better life.

In today’s world, one must add connections to this formula to be successful. As a big-city boy from Washington, D.C., I was consumed by the original version of it, the one that supposedly had proven results. Without believing in that formula, I wonder if I would have cared as deeply as I did about becoming the president of my class at college, or taking those SAT prep classes, or even doing two Masters Degrees – a flurry of achievements that I was told would end in triumph with a great job, propelling me toward my real life…

…whatever that means.



  1. it’s true that the recession has turned over previous norms…even in Asia..connections are everything. They are way more important than qualifications or experience and sometimes that just sucks.

  2. It’s just so difficult to try and change your strategy with the tides of the economy. One second the water seemed total fine and then it got all rocky and there is no precedent for you to find your way and what was up is down and what is down is up and the whole thing is a huge mess. All I am doing is holding on as best as I can and hope that I will be able to rescue myself soon enough. It’s incredible to think how things are comparable the world over.

  3. I am just hoping we don’t go into a double dip recession or stagflation for years. The unemployment situation really takes a toll on self esteem, so it’s great to be in a writing community that understands the trials of it all.

    • Do you know of any other people or other bloggers/writers that are chronicling their experience as well? I can’t wait to read your soon-to-be post telling us all about your brand new and amazing job that you get. I know that I can’t wait to write that very same post myself!

  4. A+ would read again

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: