By Nikki Seymour, Age 26
One of my professors asked if I could speak to a policy class regarding “landing my dream job.” To provide a bit of context, I recently began a research position in Hartford. And thus far, it has been amazing (not just saying that in case a coworker sees this blog). It’s that rare blend that fuels my passion while enhancing my skills, while I get to work with a dynamic group of people who also care about their jobs. I know I am incredibly lucky to be where I am. However, I felt like my professor’s interest in having me come in underplays what it took to get to my job.
Put bluntly, my journey to this position was difficult for me. It was one of the most laborious tasks I’ve experienced. Over the course of nine months I applied to over 130 jobs—no, there is no typo there. To be transparent, I went on eight interviews and then four of those turned into final interviews. I’m not sure what my batting average would be, but it certainly doesn’t feel good.
Despite having a Master’s degree, I was largely looked over as a candidate for most entry- or mid-level positions in my field. Getting rejected—at times, daily—eroded my confidence. Continuing to research and broaden my search to areas out of the state was draining. I felt that I was in a constant malaise. I was fortunate enough to have a temporary position to provide some cash flow, but waiting on emails and call-backs from interviews just to get a “Thanks, but no thanks” was a repeated slap in the face.
A hidden but ever-present theme I realized was that I was not alone dredging through the job application process. In fact, many of my classmates and friends are either unemployed or underemployed. While dreaming and studying throughout my graduate education, I felt as though I would finally be regarded as a competent professional. Yet I found that despite the letters after my name, I either lacked enough experience for certain positions and possessed too much for others. As a highly educated, mid-twenty-something, I continued to struggle to find a job. And then naturally I felt guilty for complaining when I knew of individuals with different (or greater) levels of experience who also struggled.
The advice was insulting: “Have you heard of LinkedIn?” Why, yes I have. “Indeed?” Duh. The worst part is that throughout the job hunt, you begin to question yourself. At first it’s easy to blame the stagnant labor market or the slim pickings in your field, but eventually it turns back to you. You are the common denominator, right?
I feel guilty for having a position I know so many would yearn for. I think that’s another aspect of the process overlooked; the sheer understanding that it was not just skill to get you to where you belong, but also a combination of luck and good timing. My belief that I can and my ability to thrive are things I certainly hope not to take for granted.
While advice gathered from trusted colleagues and mentors was helpful in the process, I will not presume to give that here. If someone reading this is looking for a position in their field or a better position, I am sure you have heard it all already. The only guidance I have to continue fighting for what you want is to take your insecurity, uncertainty, and anxiety and to use them. You are entirely worth it and if an employer doesn’t see it, then you shouldn’t work there anyway. After all, it was my character that tipped my present employer to offer me the position. Not the letters after my name, but me.
Oh, and hand-written, “Thank you” note after interviews doesn’t hurt either.