The Emotional Roller Coaster That Is Job Hunting
Where do I even begin?
If there is one thing I know about job hunting it's that it can be the most soul-crushing, hair-pulling, nightmare of an experience. Can be. Anyone who says differently ... well, you can go elsewhere. This post isn't for you. This post is for those individuals who have experienced the stress of not knowing when, where, or how the hell they're going to end up. And they're freaking out.
I am only three months out from this, but I feel I might be able to offer some useful nuggets of information. Take it or leave it. What works for me isn't necessarily going to work for you, but I wish I had stumbled across a blog post like this before entering into what can be one of the most stressful, and humbling times in a person's life.
First, we're all undoubtedly at different stages of our lives. Some of you may have already gained that "first job out of college" experience, and some of you - like I was - are coming right out of college, totally unsure of what path to pursue. This post is most tailored toward the latter, but I feel the advice applies to all 20-somethings.
We've probably all felt the thrill of a job lead, the excitement of (what we thought was) a successful interview....and then the blow that always accompanies rejection. You scan over the email, your eyes immediately land on "unfortunately" and "we'll keep your resume on file for future opportunities", and you sit there thinking to yourself, "What in the actual f*ck." We've gotten excited about opportunities we know we'd excel at, but then fall seriously short of expected/required experience.
*Continues to scroll down Indeed, Glassdoor, LinkedIn job postings.*
Eventually, you don't really feel anything. Each rejection email or, better yet, the radio silence, makes you feel a little numb, unmoved, and you begin to completely disassociate yourself with the search. Because it's pointless, right? Well, I can promise this - it isn't!
If I can find a job with zero relevant internship experience in one of the most competitive cities - I swear, you can, too. I am 100% confident in that. You just have to want it enough to experiment with your job search tactics until something gives. And it will give. And before you know it you'll be on to the all-consuming anxiety of "Oh sh*t, I just got the job!? Now what?" phase - which continues well into your first months at your fancy new place of work. See what I mean? Total emotional roller coaster. But worth every bit of stress and uncertainty.
Here is my "brief" spiel of inspiration. I hope that it inspires you, revitalizes the search, or at the very least, gets you thinking about how you might go about your future job search differently. Know that if you'd like to reach out to me with any additional questions, I am always happy to help. :)
1. Be confident. This is key. It is something I continue to struggle with and it always bites me in the ass. Know your worth, your capabilities, what you can provide a company. Not only should you know this yourself, but you'll almost undoubtedly have to articulate it in one form or another during the interview process. It's easy to get down on yourself if you have no confidence in your ability to provide and to learn - which, by the way, is the most important. "You have to be assertive in your position." A co-worker told me. And it's true.
2. Do your research. Many of us don't know what we want to do post graduation. If you're anything like me, you have solid goals and passions, but you're completely unsure of how you'll achieve them. My best recommendation is to make a list of those things you love and even more importantly, those things you will need to learn to be able to reach your goals. Research the positions and companies whose work you can really get excited about. Experiment with keywords when searching for positions you'd be interested in. Mess with word choice, word arrangement, etc. It will make a difference in the results you yield. Make note when you find interesting positions and save the links to the application for the future. Know that when you're ready, you should be applying to as many jobs as you can and be prepared to do so. When I first moved to the Bay Area I knew I wanted to work in a creative, innovative space. While earning my B.A., I wasn't able to fully indulge in my passions of writing, photography, videography, etc., and I wanted to immerse myself in a place where I could do this kind of work. I researched the companies that would allow me this opportunity, teach me to improve in these areas, AND introduce me to corporate life. I needed to gain skills - and some clout - fast. Once I'd made my list of positions and companies I was much more prepared in my search.
3. Network. I don't care what anyone says, this is by far the most important step of all. You might not be fond of the old adage "It's not what you know, it's who you know," but holy moly does it ring true. I'm aware that this is a generalization, so if this isn't true of your situation don't get your panties in a knot. All I'm saying is that almost every single human I know, and have met at my job now, knew someone at the company they later became employed at. So as I've said before, take what I say with a grain of salt. This is just my experience. ANYWAY, you should be devoting a large chunk of your time to networking. Create a LinkedIn, if you haven't already, and make sure you are articulating all that you'd want hiring managers and potentials bosses/co-workers to know about you and your skills. As for how else you use LinkedIn - it's up to you. There seems to be a bit of controversy regarding how to use this platform. In my opinion, though, so long as you're sending along a brief message with your "cold" request, I don't see why you shouldn't be reaching out to recruiters, etc. within the company you're trying to get a job at. I reached out to recruiters, as well as individuals holding positions I was interested in, and I received a lot of insight and advice in doing so. It greatly assisted me in my job search and I recommend it to anyone. Also, utilize your parent's connections, if they have any. Talk to friends. Talk to friends of friends. You NEVER know who someone will know and in reaching out, asking for help, and networking you could cut your search time drastically. I wish I had known all of this beforehand.
4. Scrub your social media pages. Okay, this should actually be step one.... so hopefully those of you reading this do so in its entirety before diving straight in. Anyway, I swear to you - people are going to look you up and go through anything Google spits out. I have assisted many hiring managers in combing through social media pages of potential hires. I promise you the dudes and gals posting photos [and videos] of themselves chugging beers with friends, playing beer pong, drinking and driving, etc., etc., never fare well. Before embarking on any job search journey I find it best to do a social media run through and get your sh*t in check.
5. Revise cover letters and resumes. Hopefully at this point you've received some precious insights after your networking stint. I'd bet you also acquired a fresh set of eyes [or two] willing to look over your cover letter and resume. My biggest bit of advice here is to make sure you are addressing all parts of the job application. If you have the skills they are looking for, SAY IT. Similarly, if you're lacking in one or two [or three or four] areas, explain to them how this is an achievable, exciting challenge rather than a reason they should pick someone else for the job. You should appear interesting, professional, and knowledgeable. Prove why you're the best person for the job. What unique attributes do you possess? Run with those. Also - and I know it sucks - but you'll likely be applying to several different jobs at several different companies. Try to tailor your documents to fit the specific company/job you are applying to. I know it's tempting to simply send out generic documents, but taking the extra time to modify when necessary could be the difference between employment and unemployment. Try to stay motivated through this phase. I know first hand how exhausting it can be.
6. Job applications. Take your kick ass resumes and cover letters, retrieve the list of job applications you made earlier on in the process, take some sips of your coffee, and get ready to submit those applications. All your hard work will lead you to this point. Make sure you've fine-tuned and addressed all aspects of the application and that you've said all you wanted to say. Then... submit. And don't think about it again until - IF - you hear back. Sure, you can follow up here and there, but don't get hung up on just one application. You should be sending out dozens, because odds are you will hear back from a fraction of them. When you do gain some traction with a specific job, don't slow the search. Continue to apply to other positions and schedule other interviews because should one lead go cold you're not going to want to be left with nothing.
7. Take care of yourself. Your two Skype interviews in, they say they will reach out about an in-person interview... and nothing. Someone reaches out to you on LinkedIn or Indeed, you follow up a week later asking if the position is still available... no response. It's down to you and one other applicant, but they decide the other individual more suits their needs. At this point, you don't know if you should pull a Chris McCandless, set your sh*t on fire, and walk out into wilderness never to be seen again... OR try again. I'm going to guess the first option sounds a lot more exciting... Try to remember that you really, really shouldn't beat yourself up when you're giving it your all. This is a part of our lives that we will go through not just once, but several times. Though this first round might be daunting, you will be learning so much about yourself and how to overcome one of life's biggest obstacles. Try not to get so down on yourself. Doing so affects every aspect of your life. Your relationships, your confidence, your sanity. I know it did for me. Seek support when you need it... and then know when you need to tune everyone out. While we all know people's intentions are generally good, sometimes we just need to be with our own thoughts, trust our gut, and do what we feel is right. At the end of the day, you know yourself and your needs best after all.
8. Repeat steps. I hope you don't have to... that you get lucky this first go-around... but you'll likely go through many iterations of this. Modify aspects of the job search process where you see it, and make note of what works for you and what doesn't along the way. Good luck!
Here are some final thoughts. Reach out to anyone that is interesting to you, even if it's just to chat. Treat the search like a class; start with inspiration, lots of conversations, brainstorming, prototype by experimenting with different portfolios, resumes, etc., then submit your final. Always pursue something that you are interested in - or a position that exposes you to things you are interested in so that you are continually growing and learning. Be excited. Work towards an end goal. Go for what feels good, not what looks good. Remember that when you are being evaluated, people are trying to determine if you are going to make a difference quickly - you need to be willing to jump into your job and the culture of the company as soon as you get there so that you are making an impact as soon as possible. That's what makes finding a place you are passionate about working at so important. It isn't just a job. It's your life. And you should wake up most days, if not every day, excited to contribute and learn.