Your early twenties are a chaotic, wild and fun space odyssey into the real world. The training wheels are off and the time to act is now. Are you following your heart? Are your studies interesting you? Is your work satisfying? These are the questions that plague me to this day. What follows is the story of my blood, sweat and tear filled post-graduation job search. With many let downs and laughable moments, this journey gave me the knowledge that I now want to share with you. At the end you will find my seven points of advice for post-grads looking for their dream job!
High School and Sweet Beginnings:
Let’s start where it all began, the end of high school. A time when you’re deciding what seems like, what you’re going to be doing with the rest of your life. That’s pretty daunting for a person who has only lived let’s say, 17 to 18 years on this planet.
My dream was to go to the University of Toronto. I was living in West Palm Beach, Florida but grew up partly in Toronto as a child. I was working my butt off in high school. I was a shy studious girl and was eager to please my parents and my teachers.
I got accepted into the University of Toronto. Pause for applause. Thank you, thank you. Entering University I was extremely hopeful. My dream was to work in the film industry. I was starting off my Bachelor of Arts taking a lot of what you would call artsy courses. Film, Gender Studies and Politics classes took up the bulk of my schedule.
Not far into my first year, I was receiving pressure from peers and family members about what exactly I should be studying. This pressure, combined with feeling that I was not being mentally challenged enough, led me to totally switching up my majors. I decided to go into Economics and Public Policy. I was now facing more challenging projects and tests. I had to teach myself calculus, a feat that I am still proud of, and took different courses like Statistics and Computer Science. In the end I graduated with a degree in Economics and Public Policy.
The next milestone for me was entering my fourth and final year of University. I was taking double majors as well as doing double internships. Before I got these internship opportunities, I had also been working at my local Sephora. I loved working at Sephora, the energy was great. So, at one point I was working three jobs! Eventually, something had to give, and I quit Sephora.
I took on too much. Have any of you ever done this? I thought that I had to exceed everyone’s expectations. Or else I would be a failure. So I completed my degree and I completed two six-month internships simultaneously.
I learned so much at these two internships. I am grateful for these lessons because they continue to help me to this day. But at the time I had just finished University, and I was supposed to be happy. It was supposed to be a celebratory time in my life. Right? However, I was extremely exhausted. People think that because you’re young, because you’re a student or you’re in your twenties that there’s no reason for you to be exhausted. Frankly, I must say that this is untrue.
I am so brain-dead at this point from thinking and working that I decide I need a break. After my family celebrates my graduation, I take a minimum wage job – to the understandable horror and confusion of my parents.
Yes, minimum wage. The cherry on top is that the job is in a mall. I remember my Father saying to me, “Paige I don’t understand what you’re doing.” Neither did I.
Minimum Wage and Other Tough Lessons:
I am in Toronto working a job at the mall. At this job sales goals are extremely important. They post a list every week highlighting the employees with the lowest sales totals. Yet, there is zero commission or positive motivation to reach these goals other than that it will decrease your chance of being fired. Awesome.
I felt above selling products to people who do not want or need them. I begin referring to the sales goals lists as, “Acts of terrorism.” I have a knack for the dramatics. I also tell my co-workers to ignore these lists and to, “Not respond to terrorism.”
When news spread of my little campaign our manager was not entirely amused. Within a month I was abruptly and immediately fired. Here is where the tears in our story come in. I told my manager that I was supporting myself right now and I really needed to be working. She explained to me that she was struggling with the same thing, but that this was a part of her job she did not like but must perform. So there it was, I was fired for the first time in my life.
After my initial cry I actually took the news quite well. Looking back, this is a little odd due to the fact that I still needed to come up with rent money no matter what. But at the time I had a sense of positivity for some, unknown reason.
Shortly after, I got hired at a boutique that was less than a two-minute walk from my apartment. I thought to myself, this is amazing! Slowly, but surely, the true colours of the store owners started shining through. The times that they came into the shop, they were stressed out and negative.
So you can guess what happened, after a couple of months I had enough and I quit the job. I had only been able to quit because of a research opportunity I had received. This research opportunity was amazing. I was doing market research for a not-for-profit and I was able to do it all from the comfort of my own home.
Now that I was working from home I had more time to focus on getting a job that would pay me more than the bare minimum. But, much more importantly than that, at this time I realized I was no longer brain-dead! I was no longer exhausted and I actually needed and wanted a job where I could contribute real value. This was a big ah-hah! moment for me.
A New Kind of Job Hunt:
Now a serious hunt ensues for a full-time job. The process continues to stretch on and feels a lot like this:
Interview, excitement, conversation, effort, rejection, opportunity, happiness, rejection, rejection, rejection, rejection, conversation, networking, possibilities, phone call, email, rejection, rejection, rejection, confusion, helplessness, delusion, reality, interview, presentation, conversation, rejection, networking, extreme positivity, rejection, extreme negativity, email, interview, rejection, rejection, hope, application, networking.
Now that I am on a serious job search I use my free time to contribute to different online publications and continue doing research for small organizations. I also have time to think-up creative venture ideas with friends and family.
I still am searching for the right job, in the right place, with the right people. But my path and the many detours I’ve been on have all gotten me closer to who I am today. I have a greater sense of what I am passionate about and I am much more comfortable networking now than ever before. These are invaluable experiences. This glimpse into my life gives you a realistic idea of what I’ve been experiencing. Now, take some of my advice.
My Advice to You:
- Embrace rejection: You are going to face a lot of rejection and in many different forms. Get used to it. Don’t take it personally. It doesn’t make you any less brilliant or amazing. My mantra is, “It’s their loss.”
- Ditch the resume-bombing strategy: It literally never works. I think it is equivalent to winning the lottery. In person is always more effective than online. Focus your energy on networking. Connect with smart, talented people around you.
- Know yourself: You will avoid a lot of suffering when you know who you are and what you want. It has taken me months post-graduation to even begin to open that door of understanding. Knowing yourself better will reflect in interviews and in your confidence.
- Use your word for good: Talking bad about employers or the people you work with will only hurt you in the end. Even if you only voice these negative thoughts to friends or a loved one, they still come back to bite you.
- Open your mind: As a new graduate, keeping all your options open is super important. You truly never know where one opportunity may lead you.
- Be gracious: If someone gives you a hand during your job search be thankful and gracious to him or her, whether or not the result is employment.
- Be kind to yourself: Being kind to yourself can be hard when you are feeling the pressure all around you. But it is as important, if not more important, than all the other points above. Value what you can offer and feel good about that!
Are you a university graduate currently looking for work? Are you in a job that you love and can relate to my journey? Comment down below with your thoughts.