If you’re a new grad, you probably already know this. Getting your first job requires persistence and a serious amount of hustle. I graduated with a B.A. in Cinema Studies and a B.S. in Psychology (variety is my jam), and I wanted to find a role that directly related to my degrees. Since being the next Kathryn Bigelow wasn’t in the cards just then, I tried for counseling, HR, and executive assistant roles, given my IRL experience in the latter two. But I quickly ruled counseling out because you need even more schooling (ugh), and I’d really like to contribute to society quickly rather than be in school…again. So, I came up with a better plan. Focus on human resources and executive assistant roles and look in two locations—Seattle and San Francisco.
Okay, so the “better” plan wasn’t perfect. Flying myself back and forth between two cities for interviews wasn’t a cakewalk, but it ended up being worth the hassle. More locations=more opportunities. I also treated the job hunt as a full time job, devoting a set amount of time each day to researching opportunities and improving my application materials. For example, if I wasn’t getting any hits off the current version of my resume and cover letter, I asked for feedback from my network and made changes accordingly. It’s all about the hook. What can you offer that most other candidates can’t? We all have something we kick ass at—hopefully something related to the jobs we’re applying for. I’m really great at being detail-oriented (perhaps to a fault) and multi-tasking. So, I made sure my resume, cover letter, and answers during my interviews reflected that.
After a long, tough search—seriously, I thought the day would never come—I got an offer from Vittana, a non profit that allowed people to lend money to students in developing countries via peer to peer lending. Part of my job was as Kushal’s Executive Assistant, and oh my god, we couldn’t be more different. Kushal was and is a total cowboy, full of wild ideas, and I’m the one that made sure things worked logistically and didn’t fall through the cracks. I grew and accomplished so much at Vittana, allowing me to gain more responsibilities, be promoted to Development Associate, and gain the confidence I needed in my early career. I definitely have all the lovely people I worked with at Vittana to thank for giving me that first chance.
When Vittana merged with Kiva, Kushal went the extra mile and helped me get a marketing/development role at Code.org. I loved the people I worked with and gained new experiences in a company that required its people to have some incredible amounts of hustle, and to this day, it keeps hitting milestone after impressive milestone. But I got to that point where I needed to do something different—I just wasn’t quite sure what that “more” was. So, I left Code.org and entered funemployment, trying to figure out more about myself and where I wanted to go next, what I wanted to do.
If it’s financially feasible, I recommend doing this to anyone who feels like they’ve hit a wall. Let’s face it. Many of us don’t have it figured out before we’re thirty and that’s okay! There is no law on the books that says you have to stay on the path you started on when you graduated. How boring would that be? Like nearly every job you will ever hold, life is all about throwing curveballs your way. We never stop figuring out who we are and what we want, because we are always changing.
At some point I had come up with a goal: I wanted a job where I could lead a team/manage people before I was 30. So, what came next for me? Enter Kushal, part II. Yes, that pesky Kushal called up and pitched me on TalentWorks, an idea I loved and could relate to—helping other people find jobs. I met the team, interviewed with them, and I was a fit! I mean, you should see us together on Slack. It’s a good mixture of business talk, friendly banter, and emojis and it’s great. My role started off as Lead Talent Advocate (TA) where I supported people with their job search (resume editing, 1:1s, mock interviews, etc.), and I loved every minute of it. Helping people is my passion; to empathize with people’s struggles and provide solutions and make them feel they’re not alone? That feeling is priceless. What am I doing now? Well, because of aforementioned detail-orientedness and multi-tasking abilities, earlier this year I became the Director of Operations and Project Manager for the company. I still do some TA’ing on the side when I have time, but to be honest this is the role that I was looking for when I was “soul-searching” during funemployment, and I couldn’t be more appreciative for it.
One big thing I’ve learned over the course of my career is the importance of my network. I know we hear it a lot. Network, network, network. That’s how you get the good jobs. But I really have found that to be true—I know you introverts are covering your ears right now. I get it. I had a pretty limited professional network when I graduated, mostly from my part-time job during college. If you don’t have a professional network, don’t stress. You have other networks — peers, friends, family, etc.— take advantage of those relationships you’ve already got in addition to figuring out your strengths and using those to your advantage during your job search. Like I said, there is something we all kick ass at. Once you start your first job, your professional network will grow and take note to remember the people you worked well with. These are people you can hopefully reach out to again during your future job searches. Who knows? You may even have a Kushal hidden about who will help you find opportunities for years to come.
Keep persisting and don’t be afraid to take a chance or two. You never know where those jobs will lead you or who you will meet along the way.