Back in my May favorites post, I mentioned what a hectic month it was. And I can definitively say at least half of this spring’s craziness was due to the job hunt. For some background information: I graduated in May with my bachelor’s degree in economics. And I didn’t walk across the stage with a job in hand. However, I’m thrilled to have accepted a job offer two weeks ago! I’ll be right in the city in a position where I really get to use my skills, degree, and do work in a field I enjoy. While I’m excited of course, it certainly didn’t happen overnight. I spent countless hours researching, writing (and re-writing!) cover letters, waiting in anticipation, and more, much of this spring. Throughout this process, I learned quite a few things so for this week’s post I thought I’d share some of the lessons I learned job hunting. I hope this provides some insight from my personal experiences to my readers and a little inspiration!
9 Lessons I Learned Job Hunting:
Take your time.
Perhaps this may seem the most counter intuitive idea. Personally, I think it’s better to send out 5 quality resumes and cover letters to places, than 50 carbon copy ones. Taking time to personalize a resume and cover letter to a position’s requirements/ideal qualifications shows hiring managers you’re invested in the position. It varies from person to person, but it took me about an hour for each application. Thus, I sent out about 4-5 a day.
Tip 1: Create one master resume of all your work/internship/organizational experiences. Put as many bullet points that encompass what you did, and don’t stress about its length. Now, you can use this as a base for personalizing your resumes, by pulling what fits with the position and eliminating what doesn’t.
Tip 2: In our era of technology, many companies use programs that search for key words in applications. To combat this, print out the job description and highlight what skills seem most critical. Then, appropriately address them in your resume.
Be open to opportunities.
One thing my readers don’t know is I worked in alumni relations for 4 years. (If you know me in real life obviously this is not breaking news). That means I talked to thousands of post-grads over the years. And I can tell you, oftentimes what your bachelor’s degree is in or first job is doesn’t dictate your entire life. If you studied in a liberal arts major in particular, you posses many many skills beyond specific courses in one field.
As a graduate of economics, let me tell you 95% of econ majors don’t go on to be economists professionally. Most of us end up in fields like research (me!), consulting, finance, business operations etc. The options are quite broad! In fact, I applied to some donor development positions, having done that kind of work for my campus job. While I didn’t go into that, it never hurts to explore positions aligning with skills you have, but may not necessarily market yourself with initially. Case in point: look for jobs/positions with an open mind, rather than by name alone.
Ask for help.
As The Beatle’s once sang, “I get by with a little help from my friends.” Truthfully, no person got to where they are today without help. Perhaps this is one of the biggest lessons I learned job hunting, as a sometimes stubborn Capricorn, that I’m taking with me. Don’t be afraid to network and use your connections. Rather than marketing yourself as desperate, use your connections to get feelers out indicating what you’re in search for. Friends, family, school services (like the career center), recruiting services, etc. can all be invaluable resources.
Compromise…in the right ways.
Whether it’s negotiating a salary or finding a middle ground with what you want to do, compromise can be a wonderful thing. While morality varies individually, and I’m not here to tell you how to live your life, remember who you are as a person and what you stand for. Think about where and who you want to work for. Did you spend 4 years studying environmental science but an anti-climate change organization is touting super high paying positions? Now, I’m also a believer companies have many facets so my point is not to attack anyone or specific industries here. (Although climate change is real people. Just using an extreme example.) What I’m saying is, while your work doesn’t have to be saving the planet or eradicating malaria to mean you feel good about it, ask yourself if it’s something you can stand behind at the end of the day.
(Disclosure: I understand there’s some inherent privilege in what I’m saying in this. I fully recognize I’m lucky to have a home and family that understood sometimes it takes a little time to get on your feet. While it was only a couple weeks, I understand not everyone has the support to where post-grad unemployment can be more of a choice. My main point here is it’s important to remember your values and who you are in this whole job process.)
Know your worth.
I think as graduation at the end of May approached, I felt the most demoralized about it all. Not that every friend had a job or a plan either, but it felt like I had to hit the ground running with one. However, looking back, I’m glad I took the time to apply to positions I felt excited about. Jobs I genuinely wanted to do. This doesn’t mean be snobby or think you’re above a job or position. Rather, remember job hunting is a two way street. Another one of the major lessons I learned job hunting is you are also adding value to a company. I saw myself as an applicant, not a potential asset, for much of the process but it taught me a lot in remembering my worth in this context.
Sometimes, I found myself refreshing my e-mail a 100 times a day and having weeks where there was absolutely nothing! This process taught me to be more confident in myself and my goals in the career world. I’m extra thankful to have friends, family, and wonderful people at my previous job to lift me up when I forgot it.
Don’t take rejection too personally.
Truthfully…rejection hurts. Whether in relationships or the job hunt, no one wants to be rejected. (In fact, my friend has compared dating to job hunting which in a funny way, isn’t that far off of a comparison.) But it’s going to happen. If you put your best foot forward in the application process, that’s all you can do. Sometimes qualifications don’t match. Sometimes there’s more qualified people in the competition. And sometimes it’s just, for lack of a better word, fluky. Companies hire internally, some candidates might have an advantage to get in, etc, but all of that is out of control. It’s only a shallow blow…keep searching!
Social media = not real life.
It’s easier than ever to compare ourselves to our peers. And believe me- I was 110% happy for all my friends and classmates who landed full time jobs before me. But it’s always a little ding to the self-confidence seeing 5 Facebook statuses a day about someone’s new employment status. Remember it’s not always indicative of real life. While you’re competing with people in the job market, every person’s skills and background are unique. Don’t feel guilty for taking a few days of social media detox either.
Prepare. Take a deep breath. Prepare.
Preparation in the job interview process is so so key. Before interviewing, make sure you fully understand the company and position. Read about the company online, and know what parts of your work experience best match the position. Personally, I found the application process more difficult, but once I got in the interview conversations usually flowed well because I could speak to my experiences.
Tip 1: Standard interview questions are standard for a reason. Make sure you can do that 30-second “tell me about yourself” elevator speech. Know how to address strengths, weaknesses, and potential situation questions.
Tip 2: Be honest. Don’t say your biggest weakness is perfectionism. (It’s really fake sounding). Be honest with interviewers in answering questions, but always make sure to spin your answer or situation in a positive way. Remember to have questions on hand to ask. Ask ones you really want to know: What does the day to day role look like? Does it involve teamwork or more independent work?
Don’t give up.
This process takes time. It takes effort. But I’m a firm believer people end up where they’re supposed to be eventually. We are so ingrained with this linear idea of how life is supposed to be (high school, college, job, grad school, marriage, etc.) sometimes we forget life has funny ways of working out if we let it. Ultimately, we’re all just in this sort of crazy boat of life together, trying to figure things out. It’s so important to take care of yourself, keep at it, and know positive things do happen! It might be the next time you refresh your e-mail, it might be next week. Trust the process, don’t give up, and embrace what opportunities are headed your way.
Bonus: 10 “Feel Good/Pump-Up/Inspirational” Job Hunting Jams:
~ Because sometimes you just need a solid mix of pop, oldies, pop punk, and electronic music to get by ~
- Not Afraid– Eminem
- UnLost– The Maine
- Elevated – State Champs
- Movin’ Out – Billy Joel
- Growing Up – The Maine
- September – Earth, Wind, and Fire
- Lifted Up (1985) – Passion Pit
- Lean On – Major Lazer
- A Sky Full of Stars– ColdPlay
- You’re On – Madeon
Well that about wraps up this post for now! I’m glad I could share some lessons I learned job hunting with you all today. I know a lot of the time we talk makeup and travel here, but I’d love to know what my readers are up to. What field do you work in/dream of working in? If you’re in school what are you studying? And I always enjoy hearing about others’ personal experiences in the job process and learning from that too. Let me know down below 🙂