“My career plans were much more exciting when I was 5.”
First and foremost, the sh*t sucks. I can totally see why people stay at the same company for decades. Looking for a job that you can actually see yourself staying in or learning from is much more difficult than I thought it would be. I am the girl who has had a job since she was 16, and never lacked a summer internship in college. I had my full-time post graduation job offer before my last semester of school started, with the company I had spent the previous two summers interning with. I thought I would be settled on the career front for a definite amount of time. And then I found myself.. bored. So I left my job to experience life in a new city. I didn’t have a job when I arrived in D.C. last year, but I just knew with all the postings I saw online, I would land the perfect job in three or four weeks (lol). It took me about ten weeks to find a temp job. I took that job thinking within a couple of months I would find the perfect position; nine months later, I found myself preparing to hand in my two weeks notice and return home to Texas. All in all, I spent about a year and a half looking for my “dream job”. And while I’m still not sure a dream job exists, spending all of that time of the job market taught me some pretty invaluable professional and personal life lessons.
Your first corporate job serves a purpose.
My first job out of college was your typical corporate job. It mostly involved excel, emails, and working with a couple of different systems. But that role was necessary in my career development because it taught me two things. One, soft skills are invaluable. In that role I had to support various groups within my company. This helped me develop skills like how to effectively assist different departments to resolve issues, how to adjust my communication to different personalities, and how to network. Two – I want my career to serve a higher purpose. Whatever it is I decide to spend 40 hours of my life doing until I retire, I know I want to help people. Whether it’s by making them feel less alone with the words I put out into the world, or by coming up with socially conscious business solutions, I want my job to leave an impact on people, and not just my bank account. And speaking of bank accounts…
Money isn’t everything.. But it is something.
My first full-time salary was nice. Especially given the fact that I was living at home, and saving the majority of my paycheck. Then I left it to move to the third most expensive city in the country, and my new salary was significantly lower than what I was making before. I don’t regret the experience, and it helped me realize how important money is when it comes to a job. It totally makes sense to me to leave a high-paying job for an opportunity you are genuinely passionate and excited about. Being excited to go into the office everyday is something most people, especially millennials, strive for. But when the pay is low and the interest is even lower, it is easy to get frustrated. I became a full-time employee of the company I worked for in D.C. in August, and I didn’t negotiate my salary when received the offer because I thought I would only be there for a few more months. But towards the end of my time there I realized I should have negotiated my salary, regardless of how long I thought I would stay with the company. This is because I was technically over qualified for the position I was in since I already had work experience, yet my salary at the time matched that of a new graduate fresh out of university. Most companies are somewhat flexible when it comes to salary, but because most people feel awkward when it comes to discussing money, and don’t know how to adequately advocate for themselves, more money is often left on the table than most people realize. It is important to asses how much money matters to you when it comes to your career, and make sure that you are paid appropriately for whatever service you provide to your employer, no matter how long you think you will be with that organization.
Interviews can actually help with confidence.
I am an introvert by nature, and I used to be painfully shy. I am still gets nervous when it comes to meeting new people for the first time, but after going on countless interviews with everyone from recruiters to corporate VPs, I realized I slowly outgrew my shyness. I think after putting yourself out there numerous times to be critiqued by strangers, you realize most people don’t notice if forgot to put on a pair of earrings, or that the sleeves of your jacket are a little short. If they have asked you for a meeting, it’s because something about you and your resume stuck out to them, and they want to get to know you. It goes without saying that in any interview you must put your best foot forward, but in my experience, most interviewers almost go out of their way to make the interviewe feel at ease, because they understand how nerve-wracking interviews can be. Interviews, for me, have proven to be a great way to polish my communication and public speaking skills, and helped get me out of a my introvert shell.
BE. YOUR. SELF.
I don’t think I can say this enough. If you are going to work for a corporation and want to stay there long-term, you need to present the most authentic you that you can during interviews. And it’s not just for the interviewer’s benefit. If you are going to spend 40 hours of your life every week working somewhere for several years, it needs to be a good fit for you culturally, and you need to know that you can work alongside your potential new colleagues long-term. I’ve worked for companies that had wonderful office cultures, and for some companies where the culture was a bit elusive; I definitely noticed the difference. I could not see myself working at the company with the culture I couldn’t understand, because I didn’t know how or where to learn about other internal job opportunities, or how to network with colleagues from different departments. Working at a company where you feel you fit in, and can grow professionally gives you so much more motivation to go into the office each morning, and give your job your very best.
It probably goes without saying that spending 18 months looking for a job wasn’t the most enjoyable experience of my life. It was really hard to drag myself into a place I didn’t want to be morning after morning, just to spend the day checking my personal email to see if I got a hit back from one of the dozens of job applications I had sent out. But life tends to send us lessons we need, even if we would rather do without them. My perpetual job hunt revealed my personal goals to me, helped me overcome my shyness, and also taught me to be able to recognize a good company and team when I saw one. It was hard being on the job market for so long, not knowing when the right opportunity would come along. But I needed to learn those lessons to grow professionally and personally. But more than anything, I think those 18 months were for me to learn those lessons, and pass them along to others I come across looking to find their way in the working world.