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Reader Letter

A 29-year-old on the difficulties of landing a first job Add to ...

- While you're at it, be sure to reach out for 12 or so informational interviews. They're a great way to get more info on your potential career paths and gain contacts.

- Also, attend a few networking events, which will inevitably end up costing you a significant amount of money. Console yourself with the knowledge that your $45 event ticket (you scammed the student rate, after all) "entitles" you to a "free" drink. You'll have plenty of time to sip on it too because pretty much no one will be interested in talking to you, possible exception being other newly finished students doing exactly what you're doing.

- Prepare your cover letters. This means 100+ completely custom, tailored, impeccably written letters that will likely end up being addressed to something along the lines of "Dear Hiring Manager."

- Email, mail, courier, or otherwise deliver your 100+ application packages.

- Wait. While waiting, do whatever you can to find 100+ more job opportunities that fit your skills, education, experience, and interests.

- Repeat steps 3, 4, 5, and 6.

- Give yourself a break. You've earned a beer, though you can't actually afford one. Call home, maybe mom and dad will sense that desperation in your voice that stems from only having had one meal per day for a week, take pity on you, and send you a bit of cash. Then go buy that $3 tall can of cheap beer from the liquor store. Oh, you thought I meant a bar? Silly you, that's far too expensive! Be sure to feel so guilty about that beer that you end up not drinking it and leaving it hidden at the back of your fridge. This will help you cope with the feelings of shame that come with having dared spend $3 on a beer when tap water is so much cheaper.

- After a minimum of a week, but more likely a month, you'll have anywhere between one to eight responses from HR departments, depending on whether you sent 100+ or 200+ application packages. These responses will excite you. That's a mistake, because a half to two-thirds of them will be generic, computer generated "thank you for applying" emails that will be utterly meaningless and contain no usable, actionable information. Out of whatever's left, consider yourself lucky if you get a single interview, which will likely be done over the phone. In person?!? Lucky. Very, very lucky.

- Have your interview. You'll be one of 12 or so being interviewed, so good luck.

- Send thank-you emails to interviewers.

- Find 100 more job opportunities, repeat steps 3 through 6 with them while waiting for word from and following up with HR at the company you interviewed with.

- After about 3 weeks, get an email response from the HR people at the company you interviewed with. Wait an hour or two to open it, because you're nervous, excited, and generally hopeful. Open it and feel the crushing disappointment of being told you won't be making the second round of interviews.

- Repeat steps 1 through 14. Ad nauseam.

Those 14 steps assume everything goes well and roughly according to plan. They don't, and I've got a couple of recent examples for you. I've recently interviewed with 2 companies, for jobs I'm very much qualified for. I've made it through 2 rounds of phone interviews for one job (it's a province away, otherwise I'd have interviewed in person the second time), and 1 phone interview, an in-person interview, and a reference check for the other job. The interview processes for both positions started at roughly the same time, about a month ago. I last talked to each company about 2 weeks ago. Despite diligent but not annoying follow-up, I've gotten exactly zero information as to the state of my application with both companies. Until today. One emailed me a meaningless "We're in the final stages of the process" email, which I should have expected. The other I managed to get on the phone. The conversation on her end consisted of random combinations of the words "um, yeah, see, like, I don't have, any info, but, if, when, there, you, will be contacted." What do I expect to come of all of this? About a month from now, I'll likely randomly get an email from an HR person at one of the two (but not from both) companies, telling me that while they really liked me, I wasn't the right person for the role and they hired someone else. That's it. The kicker? They likely didn't hire anyone at all and wasted everyone's time.

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