To the women who are still figuring it out
By Julia Krebs-Moberg, WEN member
I am unemployed.
I had a plan and now I don’t.
I want to offer you a counter-narrative to the stories of career success, joyful promotions, and robust professional networks that you may feel inundated by.
I think we often hear of the struggles of the successful once they have either reached their achievements, risen to the top, or become great.
This narrative is not that. I have always been the type of person who wants to be fully prepared, even over-prepared, before attempting anything. Full disclosure, I acknowledge I likely developed this trait because I am a woman and I’m working on changing this mindset. I was overqualified for my “reach” college and up until this year, I had received an offer from every job I had ever applied for. Currently, I am unemployed and I am sharing my story with you from the trenches. So how did I get here?
Environmentalism has been my passion since I was 14. My world changed forever after an environmental seminar course in high school. I decided to pursue an environmental degree and I would then go on to “save the world.” Whilst in college, I learned about the Peace Corps. The opportunity to do environmental development work abroad while integrating into a new culture enthralled me, and I set my sights on the Peace Corps after graduation – my first step to “saving the world.” In keeping with my fully prepared nature, I was all but fluent in Spanish when I applied for the Peace Corps, though they only required a basic handle on the language, and in September of 2019, I packed my bags and moved to Paraguay to serve as an environmental Peace Corps volunteer.
The pandemic changed things. Like so many others, my life was upended last March. I was evacuated from Paraguay, given just 24 hours to pack my bags and say my goodbyes. In a matter of days, I lost my job, my house, and my host family. My tidy little plan of attending graduate school after gaining a couple of years experience in the Peace Corps disappeared. I spent a few months at home in North Carolina, trying to pick up the pieces, then made the impromptu decision to stay with a friend in California. What was meant to be a short stay quickly evolved into making the Bay Area home. Definitely a far cry from my fully prepared tendency.
For the first time in my life, I’m applying to jobs I’m not quite qualified for and not hearing back. This is to be expected, I went to school on the other side of the country where the bulk of my professional network lies. I’m sending cover letters to HR Directors I’ve never met, messaging strangers on LinkedIn, and seeking out groups where I can find connections with like minded individuals. I’m building my community from the ground up. Hearing that you are going to be successful from someone already there sometimes feels a bit ingenuine. I am here to tell you all though, we are all going to get the job. That success is not only probable, but certain, for anyone who dares to want it.
I’m writing this to the members of WEN who are just starting out, and those who haven’t quite made it yet. To the women who may have lost their jobs and those who are seeking a career change. I’m writing this to those of you who, like me, moved to California on a whim and are now attempting to perform magic by pulling a career out of a hat. I’m writing this so we can all feel a little less lonely and isolated as we continue to figure out our paths forward.
There have been so many moments during my job search where I have questioned the path that I am on. Should I give up on a career in environmentalism? Should I make this a side-project, a passionate weekend pastime? Should I shoot for an industry with more openings and higher entry-level salaries? I have had plenty of time to ponder these questions over the past year, as I’ve oscillated between bartending, retail, and unemployment.
The conclusion I have arrived at is a resounding “stick with it!” If I don’t believe this is possible, how am I ever going to convince anyone else to believe me or believe in me? I am all in. I’ve got my patience, my sheer grit, and my determination. I’m trusting the process. I am trusting that soon I will have a robust network of professional (and personal) acquaintances in the Bay Area, that I will get the job, and that in a few years, I will be called upon by other women for informational interviews to share my career path story. We’ve got this.
Julia Krebs-Moberg was born and raised in Asheville, North Carolina, where she earned her B.S. in Environmental Science and fell in love with the outdoors. She’s thrilled to be living in the Bay Area where she can hike, bike, and camp to her heart’s content.
All photos courtesy of Julia Krebs-Moberg.