Let’s face it, as a generation of recent college grads, we’re smack dab in the middle of an extremely difficult situation. With continuous news of the declining economy, unemployment rates at the highest rate they’ve been in decades, and no clear light at the end of the tunnel – remaining optimistic seems almost impossible these days. But, it’s important to maintain that, as a member of the Gen-Y community, we bring a work ethic, passion, and tech savvy that is unmatched by previous generation. Sure, we do get a bad rep sometime because we (stereotypically) have higher expectations and aren’t as willing to do ‘meaningless’ work (we want everything to matter) – but the pros FAR out-way the cons, I honestly believe that, and you should to.
I wanted to take some time to share my story – how I graduated, went through the job hunt, and through the ups and downs actually ended up with a pretty sweet gig. I’m here to tell you that while it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, all hope is not lost, and there are still a ton of opportunities – it’s just about getting yourself out there, promoting who you are and what you have to offer, and (maybe most importantly) maintaining a postive state of mind and remaining optimistic through it all.
I started college in 2004 not knowing what I wanted to do (at all) with my life – so I started as a Mass Communications major. After a year and a half, I still had no clue what path I wanted to go down, so I made the ‘safe call’ and switched my degree pursuits to marketing. By the time I was ready to graduate, what I wanted to do was still pretty much up in the air – but I had some solid experience under my belt. 5 years of retail, 2 years clerical work, some (minor) experience with an internet startup, and some work with the web and ecommerce. While the experience may not have taught me what I wanted to do with my life, I was clear what I was good at, what I wasn’t, and what I didn’t want to end up with.
So graduation came and went and I had no prospects lined up. I sat in my apartment wondering how I was going to survive with my current part time job – but then I got proactive. I got some advice from a good friend and gave my resume a complete overhaul. I learned that a resume needs to be more than just a summary of experience, it needs to be a summary of who you are – your outstanding qualities, and your passions (easier said than done getting it all to fit on one page). Once I had ‘optimized’ my own personal media kit – I started sending it out, and man did I send it out. Every ad agency, design company, and marketing firm within a 50 mile radius got a phone call, an email, and a copy of my resume. The initial response wasn’t great – to those companies I called, the overwhelming direction I received was ‘send us an email and a copy of your resume and we’ll review’. So I sent more emails, and followed up until I got responses, even if they were ‘We aren’t hiring’ – I wanted a response from everyone so I could know where I stood. I networked, went to local events, blogged, researched companies on the web, and finally, my persistence paid off.
I had two interviews – one with a smaller agency – a company that I really loved and could have seen myself at right away. The interview went well, but in the end, they wanted someone with more career experience, something I couldn’t offer no matter how hard I tried. My second interview, with a large agency – didn’t go as well (in my mind) but I held true to who I was and impressed my interviewers enough to get a job offer. I can’t tell you the sense of relief and pride I felt getting that phone call. I must have sent my resume to at least 20 companies, only to be rejected over and over again, but I remained persistent (maybe because I had to for survival) and my efforts paid off in the end.
So what’s the moral here? My tale isn’t one of suspense and drama – I don’t have a story to write books about – but what it does (hopefully show) is that the opportunities do exist, it’s just up to you to find them. It also shows that all hope is never lost – and that if you hold true to who you are and remain diligent in your pursuits, the payoff (sooner than later) will be huge. You’ll all get the phone call that affirms all your hard work.
Here are a few things I have learned in the past 10 months, and some advice for those of you who are in the hunt, and may be feeling a little disheartened by the cynicism and pessimism we are force fed daily.
Establish your online legacy: As Bob Dylan so aptly put, ‘Times they are a-changing’. We live in a digital world in which potential employers are a mouse click away from learning all about you. This can be either an extremely beneficial thing for you, or it can destroy your chances at getting a job. Thus, it’s important to keep that ‘everyone is watching’ mindset in your online activity. I always like to say that every blog, every comment, every ‘tweet’, every photo you upload – it all contributes to a person’s online legacy. And it comes down to what you personally want that to be, and how you mold and shape it through your actions on the internet.
Start a blog: If you aren’t already immersed into the blog-o-sphere, what are you waiting for? A blog is THE best way to let people get to know you and to share ideas that you’re passionate about. Depending on what kind of blog your writing, it can give potential employers incredible insight toward what you might add to their company. Write smart, write about topics that are not only interesting to you, but that connect with you readers and bring to light relevant issues. Update consistently and keep things fresh. A blog (can be) an intimate portal into who you really are, and in the end, should make you stand out the rest. Getting noticed is half the battle.
Harness the power of social networking: Most social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, & Myspace) are used for maintaining already-established connections – which is great, but when your on the job hunt, it’s all about reaching out, building your network, and forming new bonds. I recently jumped on board the Twitterbandwagon and am now a huge proponent for what it can do and the opportunities it presents. Sign up for a Twitter acccount, do a little digging, find some people with similar interests, and jump into the conversation. The key here – build relationships with people who have more experience than you. Don’t hesitate to ask if they’ll meet up for coffee, let you conduct an interview, or would be willing to author a guest post on your blog. People respond when you reach out – so don’t hesitate to do so. You’ll most likely learn a lot and you’ll automatically establish credibility for yourself within your community.
Be You: This is the most important advice I can give. I know we all hear it all the time and sometimes it’s easier said than done – but it’s absolutely critical. As we look for jobs with different companies, it’s easy to alter who we really are to meet, what we think, are the expectations of the interviewer. If you take this approach, yes, kissing ass might land you a job, but once you start working there you may realize that you don’t relate well with the companies culture – which ultimately will lead to unhappiness – and while quitting after two weeks might feel liberating, it won’t do anything for your resume. Be yourself, and someone WILL like you for you. That’s the type of interview you want to walk out of: Regardless of the outcome, knowing that you gave it your all and you held true to your own identity.
Get a Job:They always say it’s easier to find a job when you have a job. It may not be your dream gig – but you’ll gain valuable experience that you can somehow relate to the job you really want. Even at the most ‘meaningless’ of jobs, there will be something you can take from it. Example: At 15 I worked at a grocery store bagging groceries - I hated it, but instead of being completely miserable every day – I embraced the fact that I was 15, just starting out in the workforce, and in some way this would help (aside from just getting paid). What I realized during my employment here, is that I loved connecting with people, communicating and forming relationships – even if they were two minute relationships while the person was buying their groceries. I became self-aware of the influence and impact someone, in this case a 15-year-old grocery bagger-could have on another. It translates directly to the work I do today, and the work I want to engage in moving forward.
Most importantly, Don’t give up: It’s so easy to get discouraged while you’re on the job hunt – but know that with the 20 ‘No’s’ there will be a ‘Yes’. Don’t fall to the side of cynicism and pessimism. Stand out from the crowd and be the exception to the rule. Be innovative, remain vigilint, stay proactive, get yourself noticed, have patience, and be yourself!
Where are you in your career pursuits? What advice can you give recent or soon-to-be graduates? Share your story and words of wisdom below.