Sunday, May 13, 2012

FIRST JOB out of college: how to find one, get one, change one, and learn from one (and not lose yourself in the process)

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It’s officially summertime for college students, and for all the graduates of the class of 2012, it’s time to get that first “real” job.

When I first embarked on this process when I graduated with my B.A. the summer of 2009, I was hit with a tidal wave of emotions, all stemming from this one question: What the heck am I going to do with my life now?

To cope, I read stacks and stacks of books on how to find a job. I went on dozens of informational interviews. I scanned online job boards late into the night. I sent my resume out into (what felt like) the black hole of online job applications.

And I had never felt more insecure and horrible in my life.

Before I go on, I think it’s important to mention that this is a first-world problem. My husband and I will semi-jokingly quip to each other “first world problem” when the other is complaining about something going wrong in the apartment or with our cars, like last week when our wireless internet wasn’t working. It’s a first-world problem. It’s a problem that, in many ways, we are lucky to have. It’s a problem that, when compared to so many other problems in the world, is just not that big of a deal.

If we didn't live in the country that we did, with open-access to education, a diverse economy, and the ability to choose what we want to do, how to spend our time, and where to share our talents, we wouldn't have this problem of figuring out what we want to do with our lives. We are lucky to have this problem. 

But with that being said, if you live in a “first-world”, first-world problems are still real problems. They are still your problems. And it’s okay to go after solving them. It’s just vital to always maintain perspective so that you do not dwell in the depths of hopelessness when in reality there is so much to be thankful for.

However, when you’re in the depths of self-doubt, it’s hard to be thankful.

Our generation was told we could do anything we wanted, be anything we wanted, and that if we graduated college we would get a high-paying job.

So we proudly walked down that aisle in the cardboard-square hat. We listened to a triumphant and hopeful graduation speaker. And then we walked back down that aisle with our shiny new diploma, ready to shine all our great potential and make a difference and a contribution in the real world.

And then we trip and fall flat on our faces, scraping our limbs on the concrete.

While I mean this metaphorically, this actually happened to me last week while walking from my car to my apartment on the last day of my job at the community college (I’m now a full time author, blogger (hooray!), speaker, and consultant). I stepped awkwardly on the concrete path leading up to my apartment door, and WHAM, before I knew it I was on the ground, with all my office supplies strewn across the path. 

I  laughed at myself at the time and felt so thankful no one was around to see. But – it made me think about how I felt three years ago when I first was looking for that job.

How I felt like I was constantly falling on my face. And how I worried that everyone would see. 

When we can’t find a job or are in a job we don’t like, we feel inadequate, like we aren’t contributing what we actually have to offer the world. And often, it makes us feel embarrassed and sad and alone. 

When I was looking for my first job three years ago, I found comfort in a lot of books that defined this general feeling of awfulness and insecurity as the “Quarterlife Crisis.” Essentially the books said that in our 20’s we struggle to find our identity, and in this new post-graduate stage of life, we tie our identity closely to our job, which causes stress when we can't seem to find the "right" job. 

And while these books coined the phrase, created the awareness, helped post-grads understand they are not alone, and comforted us that by no means does our job define who we are - I still needed to pay the rent. I still needed a job. I still felt lost. And I didn't really know what else to do.  

So this summer (along with the other content I’ve mentioned such as transfer student and professional success stories) I am going to be doing a series on finding, getting, changing, and learning from your first job out of college.

  • What you do vs. who you are
  • Why starting from the bottom is vital to getting to the top
  • What do you do if you hate your current job?
  • When do you just take any job vs holding out for your "dream" job?
  • Secrets of current successful professionals on how they got their dream jobs (hint: their dream job is almost never their first job)
  • How to turn a first job you dislike into a dream job
  • How to organize your job search process 
  • How to find a professional mentor
  • When to take unpaid internships
  • When to choose grad school
  • How to do informational interviews at companies where you want to work
  • Why most jobs aren't filled online & how to use the internet to get them
  • Why people hire their friends and how to make more friends
  • How to know if working from home/being an entrepreneur is for you
  • Reviews on some of the best job-hunt and post-grad books
  • How to change your job

And as your first FIRST JOB tip for today - start reading anything you can about finding a job. We read and study for classes every semester. And yet we often forget to use those skills to read and learn about many areas of our lives. Turn your first job search into a class for yourself, and dedicate the time and effort necessary to get an "A." To start, I hope you'll keep up with this series :) 

The series will be peppered throughout the blog this summer, so if you want to be sure not to miss oneyou can subscribe specifically to the FIRST JOB summer series here

You can also join me live Monday, May 14 at 9pm ET for YouTern's #InternPro Twitter chat! The theme: "I'm graduating…now what?!"

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