September 29, 2006

A Crazy Idea

During the last few years of college, I had a crazy idea. I knew that graduation was approaching and time left in school was limited. I had to figure out what I was going to do. Should I pursue a PhD? Should I get a job? What’s to come after June? That’s when it hit me.

My crazy idea was that I would finish school as planned and pursue a career. I would get a job at a nominal salary, at which point I could afford to live in a decent apartment, start paying off school loans, be able to go out and have fun once in a while and maybe even afford a car that’s less than 10 years old. I mean heck, I figured having a graduate degree would put me leagues ahead of much of my competition. I had good credentials, office working experience, communications and computer skills, leadership experience and I studied abroad to boot. I didn’t need the perfect job, definitely not right off the bat. But that wouldn’t be an issue. Undoubtedly I could send out some resumes, get a few offers then take one that I like. After all, I was willing to move anywhere in the country, or even the world.

So I started putting out some resumes in April. I figured that it was as good a time as any to apply for jobs. Maybe I could beat some of the college graduate rush. Applying for jobs was quite exciting at first. As I filled out applications, wrote cover letters, and searched through so many pages of job listings, I imagined where I might find myself or what I might be doing in a few months. Some days I would apply for three or four jobs. I’d say the average week yielded at least ten. I continued this pursuit of a job through the end of spring quarter and into the summer.

Now it is nearly October, and I haven’t worked a day since graduation. The nearly one hundred resumes have yielded only one or two phone calls and no real interviews. To make things worse, the calls I did get were for the jobs I wanted the least- the ones that required a move across the country for minimal pay and maximum hours. Things have been looking grim. I have applied for jobs that have little or nothing to do with my degree, nor my intended career. Frustration only describes the half of it.

Only now have things been starting to look up. All I can say is that the old adage “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” has proven true. The leads that I feel so fortunate to have right now are only due to people I know.

The biggest of these is a consulting firm based in Chicago that my cousin’s husband works for. He’s considered a big shooter there and was able to land me a phone interview that has parlayed into an invitation to visit their office next month. Even this lead has been time consuming and stressful to arrange. I began the application process in mid August. Even if I get the job, I won’t be able to start until February.

In the shorter term, a friend of my girlfriend was able to set up an interview with the Associate Dean of a local adult tech education center. I received a call early this week stating that I got the job, though I have yet to start. I would be teaching economics for four hours, one night a week. Pay is minimal, but minimal is a positive integer greater than zero. In other words, it’s better than nothing.

I’m confident with the Chicago job, and if this teaching job would get started, it would resolve some of my problems. I’m good at interviewing and to my recollection have landed pretty much every job I’ve interviewed for. The hardest part has been getting that opportunity.

To all those still in school, plan ahead for graduation. Plan way ahead. I would start looking for job opportunities six months ahead of when I did, which does mean the calendar year before you actually graduate, for most of you. Apply for jobs you’d really like to have, but scour your friends and relatives for someone who works for a company that might have something you’d be good at or eligible for. After all, many employees get a referral bonus if you get hired.

If you want to get a job quickly after graduation, you need to think outside the box. Sending out dozens resumes sure didn’t cut it for me. Maybe you know someone, or know someone that knows someone, or know someone who knows someone who knows someone that can get you an interview. There’s so much competition out there. Think about that when you’re sitting in your chair at the commencement ceremony awaiting your diploma. Look around- see the other 3,000 students in the room? They’re your competition. Not just them either. Factor in all the new bachelors’ degree holders at all the universities in the country, plus all those already in the work force with real job experience. You need to find a way to get ahead of these other people- a way to get noticed in a sea of college grads.

I don't want to be too discouraging. I hope my experience is unique to me. I wish only the best of luck to you and your job hunt. I do know that if I ever have the opportunity to help a friend get a job, I’ll be sure to do all I can. Things are starting to work out finally. If nothing else, I've located some temp work that pays fairly well. Well, it'll pay the rent anyway.

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