Educated and Unemployed

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College was finally over. Time to get a job and live my life. Oh if only it went that way!

Since graduating with a degree in film making, in 2002, I’ve had some interesting treks down the job hunt trail. Like most graduates, I was highly optimistic that I’d get the job of my dreams and would begin a solid, love affair with work.

There will be companies just begging for me to work for them, I used to think. I worked so hard in college to keep a high GPA, and with the internship at MTV, I was a shoe-in, right? I mean, how could I not be?

So there I was, June 3, 2002, at the New York City Career Fair, waiting in line for the recruiter from the company, *Old Time Cinema. All ‘bright-eyed and bushy-tailed’ was I. The recruiter perused the contents of my résumé for a minute, as I waited for her to grab me in excitement, saying, “Amazing, when can you start?”

To my surprise, she returned my résumé saying that they were only hiring persons with film experience. Confused, I quickly showed her the numerous film internships I had, and the last one with MTV. “C’mon lady; it’s MTV,” I thought. She looked at me, with almost pity in her eyes, and said, “Oh honey, things have changed since 9/11, an internship is not seen as experience anymore. As far as your résumé goes, you have no experience working in film”.

I was completely stunned. She frankly reiterated that she couldn’t hire me since, in her view, I had no experience, and in moving onto the next person, she ensured that I felt the anguish every new graduate feels about the harrowed “you need to have experience to get a job” diatribe. That was the very moment when my rose-coloured glasses slid off my face, and finally broke.


‘That was the very moment when my rose-coloured glasses slid off my face’


Sure, there were many jobs in my field, but they all required the ‘E-word. And no experience meant no job. No job meant no experience, and so the cycle would continue. There was no safe haven of college, with its tests and scholarships to protect me. The world had changed.

Since then, I have to admit, it seems that the only way to get work or to build an actual career is by networking. Networking is the only way I am surviving, now that I’ve returned to Trinidad. Are other people feeling this way? How are civil engineer graduates doing in terms of starting their career here in Trinidad? What about lawyers, or the infamous doctors who almost every parent dreams their child will be? Are they one step away from opening up their living room into a small practice?

I will be honest. Sometimes when I get a temp job, it frustrates me that I work for the same salary or sometimes for less than some of my friends. *Jennifer has no degree or any of the credentials that I have. But she has a skill that puts her in great demand in her industry. My specialities are writing and directing, but it almost seems as if they remain useless in an industry that appears to ‘give a bligh’ to ‘who knows you’, before searching for real talent to step up to the plate.

It’s not about which schools you’ve attended so much anymore, or how great your scores are. Going to college or attaining the coveted bachelor’s degree is now translated to mean: “Hey, I can take tests and sit in a class room for hours at a time”. Experienced professionals may also tell you it simply means “you can be trained”. Talk about being slapped into reality.


‘It’s not about which schools you’ve attended so much anymore…’


Don’t give up just yet though. Use those research skills you learned in school, and find different ways to get the job you want. If you’ve got the brains for the job, surely you can find a way to get the career kick-start you need. Here are some tips for determining your strategy to exit the world of unemployment.

1. Determine what kind of job you are looking for? Applying for everything only wastes your time. Get focused.

2. Establish the job stages you’ll need to go through to get where you want to be. You may have to start with an internship or a job in the your industry that pays less than you want to work for, but which, ultimately, will put you on the career path to get your dream job.

3. What type of environment would you like to work in? Always in the office or loving the outdoors? Creative or conservative? Remember too, sometimes you have to step into the conservative role before grabbing that uber-creative position you’ve been salivating over.

4. Position yourself for the right time, and be persistent. After the interview, send a thank you note, and if you’ve won Soca Star or found a great temp job since then, follow up a month or two later to inform them. That way you’re building a relationship and subtly letting Human Resources know that you’re still interested in their company.

5. Sit back and wait. I know it sounds like pretty lame advice, but if you did all the legwork above, trust me, ‘something going to happen’.

It’s easy to become desperate or depressed when you’re employable, yet find yourself unemployed. A little patience and dedication will go a long way. If you’re having difficulty getting the sort of job you want, you may have to consider one that is a bit left of your field (hey, you do have bills). However, to ensure that you’re still getting some relevant experience, you could volunteer with an NGO or community group, assisting in your field, whether it’s public relations or accounts.

Don’t view unemployment as an obstacle, but as your opportunity to create the dream career of your own. Be your own boss, or be a temp while you develop your skills. Look for job opportunities on Facebook (groups like Ignite are very helpful).

These tough times are pushing me to be more creative and bolder. Getting a job requires much more than just sending out a résumé. It’s also a test of ingenuity, and persistence. Like me, you’ve got to take off the rose-coloured glasses to navigate the waters, and, hopefully, with a bit of persistence, you’ll find your way to shore.


Author bio: Karen ‘Phoenix’ Francisco is many things. A writer, singer, songwriter, actress, filmmaker, image consultant, and motivational speaker. Back in Trinidad since leaving New York City where she earned her Bachelors Degree in Film Production and Screenwriting at Brooklyn College, you can always find her at any popular karaoke/open mic, singing her butt off.



Karen Francisco

Karen 'Phoenix' Francisco is many things. A writer, singer, songwriter, actress, filmmaker, image consultant, and motivational speaker. Back in Trinidad since leaving New York City where she earned her Bachelors Degree in Film Production and Screenwriting at Brooklyn College, you can always find her at any popular karaoke/open mic, singing her butt off.


  1. Ibrahim Gorib

    June 28, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    “Its not what you know, its who you know”. My mom always use to tell me this. I knew that although I was smart, there were a million other people smarter than me. So in order to get the job I wanted I’d have to make friends with the boss’ daugher or son or even seek out the boss and work out with him in the gym. People feel alot more comfortable working with someone they know. And remember its not how you got the job…..its what you do with it, when you get it.

  2. sjohnson

    June 28, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    Unemployment is a very humbling but at times very depressing and even painful experience. Many of us have experienced this drought at some point in life. In a world with millions of companies, there must be a smart manager, supervisor, producer or CEO who realizes that we have to start from somewhere in order to gain experience. We can do our part also.

    I always remind my students to make sure that their career path is marketable. One 18 year old student wanted to be a rocket scientist, I applauded him for such a unique and exciting career path, only to be later informed that he had no intention of going abroad. Career guidance workshops have helped many to realize their true potential and to make them as marketable as humanly possible.

    If you are staying in Trinidad, make sure that your career is marketable in your country. Your skills, abilities and talents must be in demand.

    However you do not have to limit yourself. If you have a love for a career path and you are willing to put up a fight, then do just that! You may have to work harder, broaden your scope, sacrifice and travel but in the end, it will be worth it. It is also important to have a back up plan.

    For those who are unable to travel, your passion does not necessarily have to be your first career, it can be the one you do on evenings or even weekends. Where there is a will, there is a way!

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