“I am a warrior with a warrior spirit!” This is the phrase I repeated to myself over and over again after I heard my pastor say it one Sunday morning. I quickly rushed home so I could jot it down and hang it up on my wall. Those seven words helped me stay encouraged through 8 months of unemployment—yes, that’s 243 frustrating, resume-writing, tear-filled days. And in that period, I went on more than 100 interviews, from the traditional, in-person sit-down to nerve wracking phone calls and dozens of video chats. There is so much that I learned about myself and the job search during that time that has made me a wiser woman and a more confident job candidate. I hope you’re never in my shoes, but if you are, keep these six things in mind:
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1. Don’t give up on finding the perfect fit.
When looking to begin a career, you should not only be a good fit for the company, but it should be a good fit for you, too. When I graduated from college all I wanted was to live in New York City and work in consumer PR full-time. I didn’t have a specific firm that I wanted to work for, but I knew that I wanted an opportunity to get my feet wet. Companies are looking for candidates that they feel will adapt well with their teams and their corporate culture. There were times I would pretend to be a good fit for a team out of desperation, when I knew in my heart that the job or the company wasn’t right. Don’t do this. Be specific about what you’re looking for in a job—and consider asking for an informational interview before you send in an official application somewhere. Either way, decide it’s a fit before applying for the gig.
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2. Avoid the job board black hole by doing your research.
Most job postings will take you down the road of an online application. Indeed, MediaBistro, LinkedIn, and other job boards are great tools that I used during my job hunt. However, I also went the extra mile to land my interviews by finding a contact at the companies where I applied. LinkedIn is a great way to connect with current employees to inquire about a position. If you use Craigslist as a job tool, make sure you look up the company before you interview. One time, I was asked to come to Atlanta for an interview, but after thorough research on Glassdoor, the company turned out to be a call center and not a marketing firm. I saved myself time and money on a flight by doing preliminary research first.
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3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
As I watched my classmates land exciting jobs, I grew more and more embarrassed to still be unemployed. I was tight-lipped about my job search challenges, but then I remembered a line from one of my favorite movies: “Closed mouths don’t get fed.” And its true. Your professional and personal relationships can greatly improve your job search. My mentors, alumni network and my colleagues helped me refine my pitch and sent along listings. They also offered to look over my resume, set up meetings with hiring managers, and even gave me mock interviews.
4. Life is so much more than a Valencia filter.
We have to remember not to live life through a Valencia filter—you know, that perfectly smooth photo effect on Instagram. We have to trust the process and be mindful that our journey is uniquely ours to take. My social media feeds began to affect me negatively during my job search. Although I was ecstatic to read job announcements from my colleagues, I was wondering when I would get to share my new job status. I decided to take a break from social media to focus on me. Take breaks from your social media accounts to help you stay positive. Start off slow with a weekend hiatus and then progress to a week of newsfeed-free living. Like me, you’ll probably notice how much more you’re able to accomplish (and how much less bummed you feel) by taking a break.
5. When you open your mind, you open your world.
In the midst of my search slump, I began to see people turn their degrees and internships into transferrable skills that helped them land jobs outside of their fields. I decided to do the very same thing. I had tunnel vision when I started my job hunt and that was to land a PR job in New York City. I was not interested in anything else or living anywhere else. Once I realized that art and psychology majors were getting the PR jobs that I interviewed for, I decided to open myself up to other opportunities. From there I started applying to jobs all over the United States and in different industries. Be open when job-hunting, you never know where new doors will lead and you may just discover hidden talents.
6. Stay positive by finding a “pump you up” anthem.
Keeping a positive mind can change your circumstances. Christina Aguilera’s “Fighter” was my theme song during my job hunt. Even though it took me a while to find a job, it made me “a little bit stronger” and “a little wiser” each time I had an interview. I learned to train my mind to think positive by taking negative thoughts and turning them into hopeful statements. Instead of saying “I had a horrible interview,” try saying “I did the best I could during that interview.” Instead of saying “I’m a complete failure for not landing the job,” think, “ I may not have landed this job—but I have what it takes to get the next one.”
Once I opened my mind, I reached out to a relative that worked at the number one hospital in New York City. Equipped with the lessons I learned and utilizing her connections, I was able to get a job as an office assistant. After that short stint, I finally reached my goal and got a full time job in public relations. Be resilient and keep working towards your dreams, when the timing is right everything you wished for will happen for you.
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