In May of last year, I graduated from the George Washington University School of Business… without a full-time job.
I had managed to secure a part-time position leading marketing projects for an office on campus, which gave me free housing and the opportunity to live in an area I wanted to work, free of cost, for three months. And so I devoted my summer to launching my career.
However, the traditional process of filling out an online application and sending in a resume and cover letter wasn’t working for me. I had to do things a bit differently.
A week after graduation, I decided to follow the advice of a marketing professor and went to a local trade organization’s happy hour. I didn’t know anyone in attendance, but within an hour of being there, people introduced me to the woman who worked at an ad agency in D.C. After a brief conversation, she asked me to send her my resume. Four weeks and two interviews later, I received a full-time offer from D.C.’s largest independent ad agency.
Recession or recovery, the job market is tough, and the competition for jobs is even tougher. Companies are not hiring like they used to, and they sure aren’t being as generous with their starting salaries as they once were. Despite this, I’ve always believed that a bad economy is a poor excuse.
As Gayle Tzemach Lemmon reminded me in a TED Talk, “McDonald’s is always hiring.”
There is nothing wrong with working at McDonald’s – in fact, some very successful people have started their careers under the Golden Arches. However, like many college grads, my goal was to launch a career, not land a job to collect minimum wage.
Here’s how I managed to finally land a job I actually wanted:
I Adjusted My Attitude
This was the first thing I had to do. I had to throw my pride out the window. I never felt entitled to any job, but rejection is hard for even the most humble of us to swallow. My pride had to go. This is for several reasons. The first is that the biggest acts of humility are often the biggest displays of confidence. To get others to believe in what I can accomplish, I had to believe in myself. While I had to be confident, I also had to keep my ego in check and not come off as arrogant.
In addition to self-awareness, removing pride from the equation made it easy for me not to take any setbacks personally. Rejection and unanswered emails can all lead someone to second-guess him or herself. How we treat ourselves sets an example for others to follow. If we doubt ourselves, others will follow suit.
I Took Risks
With my pride out of the way, I was more open to taking risks and being bold with my job search. Going to a networking event alone with very little to offer can be pretty intimidating. Had I not stepped out of my comfort zone, getting an interview with my current company would have been much harder. I made a few other bold moves.
Before I would go to work every morning, I would wake up early to call companies of interest to follow up on an application. I got a lot of answering machines, but a simple voicemail landed me an informational interview with one of the most well renowned ad agencies.
It didn’t stop there. The week before I received my offer, I spent a good portion of my graduation money to meet with the CMO of USA Swimming at the USA Swimming Olympic trials. On my first Friday at my new job, he sent me two open positions with USA Swimming. In hindsight, counting on a cover letter alone to interest someone into calling me for an interview was a risk I could not afford to take.
I Followed Through
Deliberately following up was the most important thing I did to make my job search successful. I would not have been called in for an interview had I not followed up in a timely manner. I would’ve just been another Twitter follower to the CMO of USA Swimming had I not gone to watch the Olympic trials. Follow through and execution are crucial. Opportunities mean nothing if we don’t take advantage of them.
At face value, it seems like I did some out-of-the-box things to land a job in the field of my choice. Yet the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Throughout my senior year, I filled out numerous applications and had a few interviews only to get rejections. While it would have been nice not to do go through this period of uncertainty, the road bumps are what pushed me to step out of my comfort zone and really go after what I wanted.
If you’re currently in the market for a job, don’t be discouraged by the economy. The right job is out there, you just have to go after it… with humility, a willingness to take risks and a commitment to following up.
For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Levo League!
About the Author: Alix Montes is a recent graduate of George Washington University where he studied marketing through a concentration in International Business. Those who know him well call him “Alix” or “Montes” for short. Someday he would like to start his own business where ideally, he’d get paid to come up with great ideas. Currently, he works as an Account Coordinator at LM&O Advertising, Washington DC’s largest independent ad agency. He likes to learn, laugh, and think. He grew up in the pool and loves the sport of swimming. He is passionate about progress, especially that of black men and women. He believes that difficult takes a day, and impossible takes a week. Finally, like Elizabeth Taylor, he firmly believes that success is a great deodorant. Follow Alix on Twitter!