I was unemployed for over a year.
It’s why I ended up spending a lot of time on my bathroom floor, and have tile grid marks branded on my backside to prove it. When I graduated, I wish someone sat me down and told me not to do the things I’m telling you not to do. Instead I got the same generic, common sense advice every graduate gets.
So for the recent college graduates, or for the young and newly laid off, here are the five things that were the biggest wastes of my time when I was unemployed.
1. Filling out a gazillion online applications
Filling out online applications willy nilly is like letting go of your stack of resumes on a windy day, and hoping one flies into the right person’s face.
Online applications eat enormous amounts of time. Unless you know someone at the company who will flag it or personally e-mail it to the right person, your application is more hay in the haystack. Your time is better spent meeting people in your field who can do something with your application than just filing out application after application after application with no response.
2. Going to “Getting the Gig” events
These are the worst. This is how these events usually go: You register, get a nametag, shell out $20-$45 to eat pretzels, carrots, brie and ranch dressing and hear one keynote speaker or a panel of five people (give or take) discussing what they look for in interns and employees, and what it takes to make it in that particular field. You are in blank conference room in a blank hotel or conference center with anywhere from 50-3,000 other people who are also looking for a job, all of whom will be queued up to talk to whoever spoke afterwards.
They’re all hoping the same thing: that they will hit it off so hard with one of the speakers that they will get a contact or a reference from them, then somehow through someone get a job. They think they will stand out in the crowd of other recent college graduates with the same degree, the same experience, the same elevator speech, the same, the same, the same.
Don’t throw your name in the raffle hoping it’s drawn. Create situations where you’re the only name in the bowl.
3. Don’t write a million cover letters
I’m going to let you in on a big secret that parents and college career centres won’t tell you: no one cares about cover letters. I spent hours upon hours crafting cover letters for particular companies, businesses and publications so I would appear to be a natural fit for the position through my cover letter. If you are writing cover letters and borrowing language from the company’s mission statement and do not think every other applicant is doing the exact same thing, you are a moron and have no imagination.
One of the things my boss always says is, “People buy from people,” and no one will be able to sell you better than you sell yourself.
If someone knows you at a prospective employer and is willing to refer you, meet with them in person and ask them to do it. Meeting in person gives you a chance to make an impression even the greatest writer in the universe could not make over e-mail, on the phone and definitely not in a cover letter.
If you don’t know anyone, find someone and contact them. Don’t reach out to only one person - e-mail a million. Be persistent. Eventually they’re going to respond to the kid who won’t stop e-mailing them.
I e-mailed Susannah Breslin before I tracked down where she was speaking. Nothing I wrote in my e-mails would’ve inspired her to write what she did. Showing up at her show is the best decision I have made so far in my career. Spend your time showing up. Don’t waste it on tailoring cover letters.
4. Applying for j obs I didn’t want
There are a lot of cool jobs out there. There are also a lot of hip, snazzy companies. It’s easy to get hypnotized by the hipness.
Last year I applied for a job at Groupon. I applied for a staff writing position, so I would’ve written the bottom description of Groupon’s coupons, describing the discount, the place and the product in a fun, creative way.
I thought I really wanted that job. It was a somewhat creative writing position, for a thriving company (back then), that would give me a salary and benefits, and I could wear jeans to work. At the time I would’ve given a vital internal organ to get the job. I didn’t get it. When I was despairing over it, a friend said, “Why are you upset? It’s not what you wanted anyway. You want to be a journalist, not a coupon writer.”
Don’t drink the cool company Kool-Aid. The more you lay off of it, the sooner you will get the job you want.
5. Doubting myself
There were jobs I didn’t apply to because I didn’t think I could get them; oftentimes it was because I didn’t get the jobs I didn’t really want. At one point I stopped filling out applications all together because I was wallowing in my own unemployment, and doubting whether I was cut out to be a writer.
Awhile back a friend told me, “No one will care about your career as much as you do.” It takes a stupid amount of confidence, courage and nerve to pursue a passion. That’s why it’s so important to know what you want because when you want something badly enough, you do insane things to get it.
I e-mailed a stranger asking her for help, then semi-stalked her when she tweeted about performing at a theatre where we live. Because I did I was the subject of a Forbes blog post. That blog post led to my first Forbes blog post, and now I have my own Forbes blog.
You believe in yourself or you don’t. The longer you spend deciding whether or not you’re good at what you want to do, the more time you waste not doing what you want. When not doing what you love is more painful than overcoming the doubt in your ability to do it, you, my brothers and sisters, are marching down the right path. Now, whatever you do, Don’t. Stop. Marching.
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