Emotional roller-coasters, ghosting, upending your closet trying to figure out what to wear, hitting your head against the wall when you realize you had lipstick all over your teeth for the past half an hour. Sounds like the ups and downs of dating, right? WRONG. This is the trials and tribulations of The Job Hunt.
While my past six months have seen a fair amount of travel, writing and creativity as I continue to grow this little corner of the internet from hobby to side hustle, it’s also been filled with a whole lot of struggle. The main part of this has been the limbo of the job hunt. I can bring blogging with me wherever I end up, so long as there is Wifi and electricity. But I also crave the structure, social interactions and learning experience of working for a company. To cut my teeth beyond assistant gigs and internships and learn from industry veterans. Though the light at the end of the tunnel may be a while off yet, I wanted to write about my experience in the thick of it all. My friend Emma of The Broke Generation recommended Alex Holder’s recent article How Failure Became A Cultural Fetish. In it, Holder discusses how we often only look at failure in the past tense, celebrating it through the rose colored glasses of eventual success. How we only dare to address the low moments from our prettier vantage point of high moments. It feels important to try to talk about things I’ve learned from job hunting, while I’m still chugging along in my search rather than in a few months’ time from the stage of financial security and my very own cubicle.
1. Emotional Resilience
The first element of the drawn out job hunt that I desperately wish I knew about six months ago was just how much emotional endurance you need. Every new job application is an emotional rollercoaster. You see the post on LinkedIn or a company website, craft the perfect cover letter, thinking about how your skills would make you a good candidate and what you would like about working there. Then off into the ether it goes. If you’re lucky and know someone at the company, you might be introduced directly to someone in HR. If not, you’re trying your luck against recruiters, algorithms and sometimes thousands of other candidates. In six months of job hunting and hundreds of applications I have had three unsuccessful interviews. One ended up being a blessing in disguise as the job description was a world away from the reality of the position. One I still haven’t heard back from, three months later, despite follow up emails and passing along references. One was a total dream job, and a company I am keeping on my radar for the future, but that particular position needed highly specific experience that I was missing. It can be exhausting to put yourself out there again and again, but you need remember that ‘what ifs’ and self-doubt is not helpful or productive.
2. Grad Job Hunt: Everyone is Faking It
I am in the middle of what everyone says is the most hellish job hunt of your career. The grad job hunt has several additional hurdles. You’re in a new city or moved back home after living away with flat mates and friends for four years. You’re broke AF and the best opportunities are often in the most expensive cities. I have it on good authority that the first job hunt is always the worst. Entry level positions require 2 years’ experience. These days internships and a degree hardly set you apart from the crowd. As a recent grad, persistence and endurance are your best bet. But as you’re playing the long game it’s easy to get bogged down with comparison. It may seem that your friends or former classmates are all making progress, getting hired, started training programs or going to get their Master’s. Something wise to remember in the first year after graduating -everyone is desperate to appear to be living their best life. What you see on social media, is most definitely not the whole picture. No one posts pictures of beans on toast for every meal and shoebox sized apartments.
3. Structure/Social Life
I never particularly considered myself an extrovert, until I started job hunting. One of the things I most missed was the simple social interaction of classes, interning or working. Though I’m perfectly happy to spend time on my own, I get my energy from interacting with other people. I’m my most creative when surrounded by other passionate minds. After a few months without the social interaction I craved, my motivation was at rock bottom. (Added to the fact that I was getting radio silence from employers since everyone was off on their summer vacation). Added to the loneliness was the lack of structure. With no direct accountability, my days flowed into each other quite easily even as I tried to maintain a routine of exercise, blogging and job applications. While I would love to own my own business one day, it taught me that I work best with other people and I would have to be part of a small team rather than a one woman show.
4. Part Time Is Not Admitting Defeat
For so long in my job hunt I was too stubborn for my own good. I didn’t want to start an easy, part time job or do another internship because I felt that I was too experienced to settle for such a position. In some ways I was justified. I had interned every summer of university, had just earned a relevant degree from a prestigious university and had worked in three different countries. As my self-determined deadline of 1 September neared, I had to face the music since I didn’t want to dip into my savings to cover living expenses. I applied for a part time job as a customer associate at one of my favorite brands. The income and employee discount are serious perks, but I’ve most treasured the renewed sense of purpose and support it’s given me. I’m surrounded by beautiful clothes and work with people that share my love for fashion and styling. Not to mention our store is dog friendly, so almost every shift I get to say hi to a new canine friend. It’s honestly the best thing I could have done for my mental, emotional and financial health. If anything, I wish I had gone part time from the beginning of the summer.
5.There’s Such Thing as Too Much Advice
Sometimes it’s not about the quantity of the advice but the quality. I’ve been lucky enough that my family has been completely supportive, and many, many friends have let me pick their brains. There remains two pieces of advice that I found the most helpful. First, it’s not you, it’s timing. Second, you just need that one right person and right opportunity. Further advice can just push you in wrong directions or overwhelm you. There’s no magic dance or secret code phrase that will get you an interview. After writing a solid CV, reaching out to all of your contacts and applying, the best you can do is cross your fingers. Luck plays a huge role. I found trying to explore too many industries, locations and recruitment agencies distracted me from what elements I could control.
6. Network Like You’ve Never Networked Before
This may seem obvious, but it took me longer than it should have to really get into the flow of networking. A lot of it stemmed from pride. I’m a highly independent person and have always taken a lot of confidence from my academic abilities, competence and hard work. I didn’t understand that getting an interview is just as much about connections as the actual merit of the application. In every industry, having that personal touch goes so far. It wasn’t until I started to leverage my network, high school connections, family friends, and ex-colleagues that I started to see real movement. While the timing still hasn’t been quite right yet, it’s been so much more encouraging to have informational interviews about the roles or learn more about the company culture from current employees. My funniest network story? I went to my great uncle’s 90th birthday celebration in Wyoming this summer. I was seated at the dinner next to a lovely woman who put me in touch with a friend whose daughter works in marketing in New York. So, there you have it, networking can be as simple as a chat over barbecue and birthday cake.
The final bit of advice I can give to my fellow job hunters is to listen to Dolly Parton- Nine to Five has been my anthem for when I needed a little more joy and a lot more sass in my life.