Here you are. You’ve somehow made it through school, scraping by with part time jobs to pay for college, or to at least try to decrease the heinous amounts of student debt that you’re putting in the back of your mind until later. You’re looking at a piece of paper in the form of a degree in something you liked, but are not particularly sure of the job yields. You’re happy to be out of the school and excited to get into the vast forest of possibility called the “Real World.”
Then, you wake up a few weeks, months, even years later – You’re still working the same part-time job(s) that you did in college, and your philosophy degree is proving to be even more difficult to find a job with than you thought. You’ve updated your resume – applied to jobs here and there, even had a couple interviews. But – nothing. Here’s what you’ve found:
You weren’t “qualified”
Your part-time jobs that you worked 20 to 30 hours and on weekends while still taking 18 credits aren’t exactly the experience they were looking for
The school you went to isn’t ivy league, and it’s certainly not so prestigious – because you didn’t get everything handed to you and again had to work those “dirty jobs” to get you through school in the first place – not to mention the ominous black hole of student loan debt that you’ve started paying back which makes it tough to even consider relocating or commuting.
You personally didn’t feel it was “right”
You’ve had the vision of you starting a career, wearing those slick suits, bringing home that bacon and never hearing “sounds like someone has a case of the Mondays.” You’ve refrained from applying to those sales jobs or entry level jobs because they pay too little and it isn’t exactly what you’ve wanted to do.
You botched your interview
You applied to a job that you thought looked fun, exciting. It was in your field (relatively), and close to your home. You’ve learned about the company and actually care about what they do/make (well, enough at least).
They called you back within a few days of applying and invited you to an interview. You dressed to the nines (after borrowing that blazer from your buddy and learning how to shine your shoes for the first time) and went to the interview.
You were a little late. You forgot the name of the contact person/hiring manager. They asked you questions about a particular task that you’ve done 1000 times but you froze or stumbled over your words. You didn’t get the joke that the HR manager told and filled the room with an awkward silence. Needless to say – you never got a call back.
These are some examples of the woes of looking for a job as a new/recent grad. This by all means does not cover the numerous other anecdotes from people in similar positions like you, but it may have rung a familiar bell.
This article is here to serve you – to let you know that yes, looking for your first few jobs is going to suck. Maybe you even land a job out of college but you end up despising every minute of it, you wonder where your life has become and slowly feel like your 40+ and just waiting for that retirement to kick in – at 24. You’re tired every day and can’t even bear to update your resume because doing so reminds you of what you’re going to have to do tomorrow at that job. You start wishing you applied to those sales jobs because at least you’d be talking to people and getting out of the office, and away from the office gossip and small talk.
But if you don’t do it – what’s going to get you out of it and actually progressing towards the point you want to be? The Job Market is going to keep you down – it’s going to push you against those ropes again and again. In those moments – what do you do? What have you done? If you’re unhappy/unfulfilled in what you’re doing – you need to learn how to fight back and take back your life.
Here are some moves to help you do that.
The “Jab” – Apply, Apply, Apply
You won’t get anywhere if you get too picky with the jobs you’re applying to. Remember – not choosing is a choice itself, and most of the time it is the worst choice of all. Pick some fairly related jobs to your credentials – get creative. How can your 4 years serving/bar tending add to your skills? Sales – that’s a direct hit. How about project coordination? Prioritization along with people skills – another solid hit. Putting up with customers – obviously a customer service role, or help desk with the right skills and piece of paper – I mean degree. What about executive assistant? You only have one customer – but they’re needy – very needy. You might even learn a thing or two about business from them to start your own down the road. Landscaping during summer? That’s hard work – teamwork crucial – type of environment. Again – project coordination and/or management. Perhaps Logistics, Inside Sales, even more hands-on type jobs would be suitable with this type of thing. Look ahead a bit, and go for it. But – the key here is volume. You’re throwing your name out there to judge the distance between your fist and the Job Market – not there to land the real punches yet. Remember – you can always say no to an offer – but you can’t say yes to a door that isn’t open
The “Cross” – Make Your Resume Pack a Punch
Even with today’s technological advantages like LinkedIn or resume builder apps – you need to treat your resume like a work of art. Read some articles about writing a good resume (check here and here). Take time to think about the words you’re using. Use numbers when possible (how much money in tips did you pull in from bar tending, how many peoples’ shifts did you have to cover, what kind of customer volume did you experience at one time while short staffed) just to name a few examples. Even with zero to little “professional” experience, you can showcase what you really learned from those jobs and make yourself stand out. Oh yeah – don’t forget to spellcheck! And not by simply using Word – ask your Mom or Grandma to do it for you. Or that English teacher friend of yours (that you resent for finding a job right away in their field). It’s ok – they can help you. Put the grudge aside.
The “Hook” – Giving the Interview a Knock-out Punch
So you’ve applied to 1000 jobs. You got some kick back, and you’ve landed a few prospecting interviews. You laid a few jab’s, knocked in some crosses – but it’s time for the knock out – that big power hook right to the HR manager (ok, please do not actually punch the HR Manager).
Now you’re going out in the open. You’re vulnerable. Your applications and resume won’t cover up you’re awkward sense of humor and nervousness. You’ve got to look the part – and act like it.
I think I can safely say that everyone has had at least a few terrible interviews. Ones where with a little practice – could have gone better and changed the course of the career. It’s ok to lose – that’s where the jabs come in. Since you’ve got 1000 applications out there, now you have more interviews. That means more actual real-world practice. Of course I recommend reviewing lists of general interview questions (found here) and getting your answers down ahead of time. You don’t know what they ask but chances are that “What are your strengths and weaknesses” type questions are going to come up. Practice and prepare. When they start throwing punches back at you, you have to have a good defense and a quick reaction. Practice in front of a mirror, or ask friends to help if you’re really nervous and not the usual confident charismatic type.
When you do these things, you’ll feel more prepared, and ultimately have more tools to be able to nail that knock-out punch and snag that job. But mainly – all this does is make you shine. Remember – the number one rule is you still have to be YOU. Don’t fake answers to seem better or more qualified – if you land the job this way, how do you think your first day is going to be like? Not good. Maybe you’ll get used to it but it’s not going to connect with you and you’re going to be more miserable than when you were unemployed. Back to that college part-time job.
They say looking for a Job can be a full time job itself. Don’t give up. Actually try at it, put in the effort and you’ll find that you’ll learn more about it then just how to job search. If you’re a member of our community, you should be a person who will not easily give up, and will put in the effort to get where you need to be. You’re also not going to settle – you’re going to learn negotiation tactics (here), read books on effective communication (here and here and here). You’re going to do what it takes to move on into your life that you’ve envisioned.
“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done! Now if you know what you’re worth then go out and get what you’re worth. But ya gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that and that ain’t you! You’re better than that!” – quote from Rocky Balboa (2006)
Leave a comment if you have any additional advice for Job Searching or anything that may have worked for you in the past!