As June comes and goes, caps are thrown across the country as the class of 2012 graduates. As the summer, grad parties, and weekends away wind down, the dreaded job search continues to be a focus for many.
After graduating from NYU (in May), it took about 5 months for me to land my first job (which I started in October). I let it get me extremely stressed out and was not productive about the way I spent my time. There are a few “silver linings” in not finding a job right away and I wish I had taken advantage of a few…
1. Having the ability to do really thorough research about the right career path:
I would say my application process (and therefore) interview process was pretty unfocused; a Management Training Program at Macys, a Sales Assistant role at a startup lingerie company, an event planning role in Finance, and then finally, a Recruiting Coordinator role in Finance. Having the luxury to do really thorough research on different industries and different entry level jobs is so valuable. Reading the right websites, magazines, books, and talking to people who are knowledgable about certain industries, can save you years of being in the wrong profession. The truth is… some skills are transferable, but switching career paths can be really hard… and chances are if you choose the wrong one, and want to make a shift 3 years later, you will be taking a pay cut, and in many cases will need to “start over”.
2. Having the opportunity to learn a new skill (one that may be completely unrelated to all the credits you earned over the past 4 years)
This, for me, was such a missed opportunity. When you have a liberal arts education (like I did) you may not have taken classes that were directly applicable to the jobs you were applying for. Take excel for example… if you were a liberal arts major (like I was) you probably didn’t take a class on excel. I was so fortunate to have a manager during one of my internships who was an excel expert and taught me a ton. However, walking into my “Recruiting Coordinator” interview, I definitely didn’t expect to get grilled on excel questions… but I did – “Walk me through how to sort and filter a spreadsheet”, “do you know how to do a vlookup?”, “have you ever used pivot tables?”… So many different entry level roles require that you have super strong computer skills (excel, powerpoint, outlook etc.)
There are tons of classes out there (and plenty of free online training courses) that will teach you everything you need to know about these programs… and when you get asked a question like that in an interview, I can guarantee you’d rather say “I actually just took a class on excel since I wasn’t required to use it much in school/in past internships and I learned how to master all of those functions/programs”. Right? Right.
Side note: After 3 years in my finance recruiting role, I was still known as the girl “who interviewed and knew pivot tables.”
3. Having time to travel, visit family, visit a new place, take a road trip
I guess this one is pretty obvious – if you are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to go somewhere new, take a trip, visit someone you normally don’t get to see, do it. Starting a job a month later or slowing down your process a little bit will not matter at all in the scheme of things. I was way too stressed about not having a job to understand this but once you start working, you rarely get a stretch of time to travel somewhere really cool without stressing about how many vacation days you are using. Most “first jobs” will give you 10 days off per year and trust me, that won’t feel like a lot of time… and that means skipping that annual family vacation, not taking that extra long weekend with friends, etc. So take advantage.
4. Having the hours in the day try something entrepreneurial
This one to me is probably my biggest regret. Ever since I have started working, my jobs have been extremely time consuming (generally working upwards of 50 hours a week) and I haven’t had a ton of time to explore my natural interests and potentially channel them into a career. One of my biggest loves and interests has been discount shopping (sort of a ridiculous hobby, I know) and finding the best deal possible on things was definitely something I’ve always spent time and energy on (agree that it’s not the best use of time, but we all have our things).
After about a year into my first job, I launched a blog where I wrote about all the great deals I was finding (in stores, outlets, online, at sample sales) and made it a priority to write something almost every day, even if I was getting home from work at 10pm. I absolutely loved doing it and it was such a great and fulfilling hobby for me (and actually I had quite a few readers)… but I never could give it the full attention it deserved, and so, it was never as good as it could have been. I know that if I had spent those 5 months post-graduation pouring my energy into that project, it would have had a few possible benefits – it would have made me a more interesting and attractive candidate to recruiters, would have given me the ability to show off some new skills (learning html, wordpress, leveraging social media, some very basic photoshop, etc.), would have made me feel that I was doing something somewhat valuable with my time, and could have (maybe) even generated some income.
So this is my unsolicited advice, and of course, when you are in this situation it can be extremely frustrating and tough to see the silver lining. From a recruiters perspective, doing any of the 4 things above will actually make you a more interesting candidate, and probably increase your changes of landing that first job… so even if you are only doing these things with that one goal in mind, take that trip, sign up for that class, learn that new skill, and channel a hobby into something productive.