Did I wear purple lipstick to a job interview?

Alternatively known as my reflections on 2013.

As your typical college student going through an existential crisis, I decided to reflect on how 2013 has gone for me. After listing out things, I’ve come to realize that 2013 was pretty rough. Lots of family and personal crises, and the first semester I was consumed by my fear of almost failing a class ( I didn’t, but that’s not the point. It’s the thought that matters). Also I still don’t have a job yet. Lame.

But, I absolutely loved 2013 and everything it brought to me. Because 2013 has been such as quintessential year of growth for me, that I feel so inspired from it. And that kind of made me re-think all of the career related lessons I’ve learned. And naturally, I want to share them all with you.

1. Never be afraid to take an unconventional path

This summer, I discovered that my grandfather had dementia. At the same time, my grandmother was going through cancer treatments. It hurt me unimaginably, and I ended up resigning from a paid internship in NY to care for him and help her. To compensate I took a virtual internship with a company that I didn’t necessarily feel connected to, and left that early due to the stress of dealing with family issues. It was incredibly stressful and chaotic, and I didn’t have any control over my life at the time. So I did what 95% of college students would do: I started a blog. I volunteered at my local library. I networked with some pretty interested and powerful contacts. I started learning Chinese vocab. I practiced coding HTML and Python on Codecademy.

And I had one of the most fulfilling summers of my life. I gained tons of skills, experience, and learned more about my personality and self. I learned that I actually kind of liked this whole programming thing. And that I love working with people more than I thought. These experiences helped me to become a more well-rounded person, and may even become influential as I fill out even more job applications.

2. Desperation is not the new black.

As mentioned in my earlier example, I’ve become a bit more comfortable with chaos. A lot more comfortable. Even though I’m not a big fan of it. Yet that level of chaos has helped me to become a lot more flexible with my attitude and opinions. And when conducting my job search, it’s helped me to be more open-ended and targeted. To elaborate, it’s allowed me to realize that my skills can transfer over to many fields, instead of pigeonholing myself while also realizing that I can’t apply to everything and hope that it sticks. I did that earlier in the semester, and surprisingly only heard back from one or two places (who would hire a financial analyst who looks miserable at the thought of working for their company? I wouldn’t).

Be segmented in your job search. Yes you can do many things, but do you want to? Allow for some chaos, but don’t rush to find just anything in the hopes that it’ll lead to a job.

3. At the same time, come up with a money making backup plan.

I wish following your dreams made money, but not always. One of my friends graduated the top of her class, but tried to find a decent writing position in NY. It took her a year, as she tirelessly interned until she found a paid position. At the same time, she could afford to stay with her family and work for no pay for over a year until she located a job. Many of us can’t. So if you’re in the latter category, figure out a backup plan for making a living until you get a substantial job. Mine is to work as a temp accountant. No joke.  Until I decide whether I want to go to grad school for econ or accounting, I have to make money at some point.

Don’t wait until the last minute for these decisions. Even if your plans are ‘become an entry-level barista at Starbucks’, good for you. Do what will further your long-term plans. I wish interning for free was an option for the masses, but until that happens, I recommend finding a decent wage and using the off hours for the job search.

4. You’ll make mistakes during your job search. Cry it out and move on.

This semester I went into an interview with a major company, walked out later on, and realized 5 hours later that one of my job descriptions had a typo. I knew that I hadn’t gotten the job anyway, but I spent three days mourning over my mistake. And it sucked. Because even though I wish I had done better, I didn’t. And sometimes you have to suck it up, prep for the next time and move on.

5. Networking is (can be) fun. Play to your strengths.

I’m a pretty introverted and shy person, so I’d rather write to a person over talk to them. But that’s not really how life works. It involves talking to a lot of people, and I’m sure we all have heard that networking is the only true way to get a job, 95% of jobs aren’t posted online, etc. I honestly have little clue whether these facts are 100% correct, but I do know that I have learned a lot from networking, and it really depends on how you approach it. I like to think of networking as writing a biography or industry profile: I’m writing a story about a person or industry, so I need to learn everything that they have to share. Approach people with a wide sense of interest and respect, and you’d be surprised on what you’ll find.

6. Take a break. Remind yourself why you are amazing.

I would’ve never gotten through the job search process if it wasn’t for my friends and family. Having people that I can sit back and talk to when things get crazy is an undeniable resource. I have to pull through for many reasons, but the strength of those I’ve surrounded myself with has helped immensely.

7. Gather all of the career-related materials you have. Learn. Study. Practice.

I’m currently reading Can I wear my nose ring to the interview? by Ellen Gordon Reeves,  Resume 101 by Quentin J. Schultze, many other career books, and perusing TIME Magazine, the Economist, and the Wall Street Journal. Why? Because there’s always room for improvement (though that may be a typical INFP thing. Not sure). It’s not that I think reading these materials will give me any incredible insight, but you never know what might come up in a job interview, networking session, or a chance meeting. When I eventually do get hired, I want to give my company my all.

Well that, and I just like reading.

What are your tips for job searching?

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4 comments

    1. Thank you for your advice! I agree that understanding yourself is incredibly important to having a successful career. While one could argue that colleges provide plenty of those sources, it would be a great resource if more ‘Understanding Yourself’ workshops were made more readily available outside of college to interested job seekers.

      1. True, it takes effort to find these workshops but I know that they exist. In my area, it seems that churches and non-profits are the only ones that put them on and the attendance is very weak. This may be why it is so difficult to know where to find them.

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