5 things i wish i had known about job searching

The title of this post is mostly self-explanatory, but here’s the gist in a longer version. I am 23 years old, a part-time employee at a local coffee shop, living back at my parent’s house(s), and with a lot of free time on my hands. So, when you get only have a little 4 hour shift that ends before 10 am and the rest of the whole day looms in front of you, calendar empty, what do you do? Well, personally I’ve found that I’m either going to fill it by watching episodes of How I Met Your Mother on Netflix or trying to go for a run or rearranging my room (yet again), and spending hour upon hour searching the internet for some company somewhere that might hire me. Or staring at a cover letter and resume that I have tweaked so many times I’ve got the versions saved as resume_1.doc through resume_28.doc in my “job search” file on my computer. I have my personal business card ordered (though I still am not sure exactly why I need one when I don’t have a big kid job) and have spent an embarrassing amount of time making sure my Linkedin.com profile is 100% complete. (You can check it out at www.linkedin.com/in/aemason, I’m pretty proud of it).

Steve Jobs

This whole thing feels like a rabbit trail. And with inspirational quotes on “calling” blowing up sites like Pinterest like a hailstorm, it makes me want to tear my hair out. Our world now equates who we are with what we do. It used to be the other way around, but now we crave jobs that are exciting and developing and sound cool to people – we want work places that encourage “Bring Your Dog To Work Day” everyday and who go on company-sponsored mountain biking adventures during lunchtime (Remember I live in Boulder, CO, so that really is a normal thing around here) and send you on all-expenses paid work trips overseas every other week. The difference between a “job” and a “career” can’t just be passion or what you want to do. And the only jobs out there worth doing can’t just be ones that we love. Calling everything else settling isn’t realistic. Because not all jobs are supposed to be like that, and that has to be okay. Yes, we can yearn for those jobs, but sometimes a job needs to just be a job and our passion, our love, our excitement, is what we do when we come home after work – to a family, to volunteer somewhere, the mountains we play in on the weekends, something, anything.

To be honest, this whole job search is the most refining, discouraging, interesting, challenging, frustrating, and self-reflecting thing I have ever experienced. I have met some of the most unique people, heard about the most awesome (or not awesome) jobs, met with entrepreneurs and members of publicly owned companies, and read so many job descriptions that I feel permanently cross-eyed — suffice it to say, I’m no where near finished, but I have learned a lot.

So newly armed with some hard-won wisdom, here are 5 things I wish I had known about job searching:

1) It takes time. No matter what your major was, whether or not you have an ideal career in mind, it takes time to get hired. Either time that ticks by as you are writing that cover letter and resume or the weeks that inch past as you (im)patiently wait for responses or the agonizing minutes that roll over while you wait for interviews to start, to finish, to repeat. And then the time it takes for your-hopefully-future-employer to consult their budget, their department heads, to conduct all their other interviews and avoid knocking over the teetering pile of resumes living on the corner of their desk and decide that you were the best candidate. On top of all their regular work duties. All in all, it just takes time. So be prepared to be patient. Or certainly give a good effort at learning patience.

2) Jobs are worked on by people. This means that the system is inherently flawed. I went to this networking group over the weekend (I was the only girl and one of two people under the age of 45) and as each guy talked about their job and how they got hired, they were incredibly transparent about the very real possibility that they could lose it without notice and “get laid off.” Yikes! We are trying to get hired by people who aren’t even confident in their job security. So no wonder people are hesitant to take a chance on someone! Or even thinking about the amount of resumes each prospective employer receives per open position. If my eyes are crossed from staring at my own resume, imagine seeing your inbox overflow with a lot of overwhelming information about a lot of strangers. People make mistakes. People get tired. People get scared. And keeping that in mind doesn’t necessarily make taking rejection too much easier, but it helps me understand that it’s not just because there is something wrong with or lacking with me or my experiences. 

3) Informational interviews are awkwardly awesome. The idea of an informational interview is like my dream – there is no pressure, you get to ask a crap load of questions, and hear just a brief snapshot of someone’s story. It has led me to some really cool conversations and I’ve gotten to learn about a ton of different types of positions in a lot of different industries. When you ask for an informational interview, people just sort of let their guard down. I’ve gone the route of sending requests via email to the general company info@_____.com address or blindly asking a stranger. Both are awkward. But during informational interviews,people tend to be way more honest, because you’re just asking for their opinion. So when you ask about a company or a job title or what they studied and how it helped them get to where they are today, they explain the ups and downs. It strips away the desperation, the superiority, and brings you (the job seeker) and them (the not-so-prospective-employer) into a place where you can get advice, expand your network, learn a lot, and come away encouraged.

4) Part-time or contract work is okay. When I first started searching, I was sure as heck not going to settle for working at a place where I didn’t need a degree. And then a few months went by and I started working at a coffee shop. Whoops. Anyway, the whole truth is that because the process takes time (see point #1), having some sort of income is necessary. And I have heard that it looks better to employers that you have a consistent work history (no matter what the job is) than breaks in employment. But the best thing about part-time is that it pays some of your bills while giving you time to work on your other full time job: searching for a job. It also gives you the space to fill your time with meeting with people on their schedule (see point #3 about informational interviews) or to pursue some of your own hobbies. Contract work gives you even more flexibility. And the best part is that after you’ve worked for awhile, lo and behold, you have some new references for potential employers to talk to! Though I would recommend that you don’t give them out as references unless they know that you are job searching… that might be kind of rude/awkward otherwise.

5) The results of your job search are not a reflection on you or your accomplishments. Though that is a truth that is hard to hang onto rejection after rejection, it remains true. The fact that I worked my butt off writing an honors thesis  in college, or that I planned a fundraiser that raised nearly $8,000, or that I earned a degree, or that I used to work at a church — those things are not diminished by the fact that I am not getting hired right now. Those things prepared me to do whatever tasks will be ahead in a job, yes, but more so, they taught me how to learn. How to perservere. How to struggle. How to succeed. How to put an idea into action. How to accept help. How to be passionate about something. How to communicate. How to better be fully myself. And whether or not the job I eventually (hopefully) get hired for uses any of my tangible skills on my resume, the experiences I have had will continue to grow and develop me as a person. My value is not at all defined by the rejections I received from potential employers. It’s defined by so much more.

So whether or not you are in the midst of the search like me, have the perfect job, have already retired, or are just working to pay the bills, hopefully these 5 things are an encouragement. The waiting is honestly the hardest part, but the process itself can be so rich. Let yourself be transformed – sometimes racing down a rabbit trail just ends up leading you somewhere cool and unexpected.

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5 thoughts on “5 things i wish i had known about job searching

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