When I was 16 I was hired for any job I applied for. It was beautiful. After working for 2 banks, a few restaurants, the Star Tribune, and various other companies I graduated college with a job in hand in the career field I studied so hard to be a part of. Yes, I am aware of how lucky I was. But I didn’t realize I was living in a bubble. After quitting my radio job, moving home and starting a passionate job hunt I was humbled beyond words by my lack of being hired. It was absolutely heart-wrenching, degrading, and destructive. Confession: I cried a lot… and ate a lot of cookies. But now that I’ve found some light at the end of the tunnel (hallelujah) I’m going to share the 5 most important lessons I learned.
1. Don’t let it destroy you. Seriously. The job market is 10 points of crazy and frustrating right now. Without even mentioning the unemployment rate I want to remind you that there are 4000 other people with more unique experience or that know someone, or that have a master’s degree, or that are cuter, or that didn’t say anything sarcastic in their interview, etc. Because there are so many candidates, employers are afforded the luxury to be VERY picky. It’s nothing against you.
2. Be prepared to work a job below you. (I hate that phrase) Be prepared to humble yourself and take a job you deem below your skills or experience. I am not joking here. I worked at a coffee shop for 9 months while my 7 years of communications experience was rotting in an unused vault. Who I am to think I’m too good for something? I need money, right? I need to work to make money? Well, then I need to work any job that is given to me. The thing you might forget is that while you’re making money at a job that you feel is below you, you’re making money and are still able to look for better position. 2 birds, 1 stone.
3. Don’t let it destroy you. You are valuable, talented, amazing, and creative. Remember that, everyday. Tell yourself that, everyday. Seriously.
4. Be passionate. If you don’t know what you’re passionate about take this time to figure it out. My period of underemployment showed me that I am passionate about writing. 2 years ago I didn’t know this. Now, I’ve found a job as a writer. Pretty crazy. In fact, I just teared up a little writing that.
5. Don’t let it destroy you, but DO let it humble you. I know what I’m good at, what I love to do, and how to convey that to others. It takes humility to get to that point. Thinking back, I went on several interviews where I stated how amazing I was, but it was cocky and unattractive. I didn’t appear teachable. Employers want a confident, teachable, approachable candidate. If you’re not those things, there is someone else who is and they are going to offer the job to them.
If I could recommend a plan of attack for you I would say:
Apply for everything – jobs you’re qualified for, jobs at servers, jobs at coffee shops, jobs that you’re under qualified for… just apply for them all.
Write individual cover letters – be personable and specific. Don’t be afraid to be yourself. My cover letter I wrote for my current position said something like, “I’ve written 400 cover letters, and you’ve read 10x more… You should interview me because I’m qualified, a good writer, adorable, and passionate about doing good work. I’m tired of being passionate about making coffee and I’m ready to dive into producing fun, compelling blogs for you. Seriously, the smell of coffee is stealing my soul.” Show your personality where it is appropriate for the position. Have fun. Don’t be afraid.
Be prepared to work a job you hate for a while – I worked in coffee, serving at a bar and as an underpaid graphic designer for 9 months, but I was prepared for it to be like that for years. I used the dislike of my “crappy” jobs to fuel my continued search for a better position. I think this is where being humble comes in.
Acknowledge that you won’t get your dream job right away. There is a 1 in 100 chance that you’ll get it, but be prepared to start at the bottom rung of the latter and keep climbing. You’re amazing, you can do it.
Most importantly, don’t give up. Don’t spend your days at home in your sweatpants, eating cookies, and whining. I mean, a little bit of whining is therapeutic, but don’t let it consume you. You and I both know you can get a job if you work hard, put down the cookies and stay motivated. It’s not going to be your dream job, but it will be a job for now so you can continue your search for something better. Is what I’m doing now what I want to be doing in 5 years? No, but parts of it are. Is the wage what I want to be making/ should be making? Nope, but its money and I need money. Am I happy? Yes, because I worked hard every day to get hired, went on a billion interviews, cried and whined that I was a loser, but mostly, never gave up and didn’t let it destroy me.