Yesterday I received an email informing me that I had not gotten the position at the Wilson Center for which I had interviewed a few weeks ago. Those weeks of waiting were filled with obsessive phone checks every five minutes and crazy theories to explain the delayed response; however, as I read that email, I didn't feel the familiar rush of anxiety mixed with tingling excitement. For the first time in a while, I felt at peace. Isn't that a funny feeling to have in the face of rejection? After weeks of waiting and imagining myself already with the job, there I was, reading the email and thinking, "Okay. What's next?"
To be honest, ever since that interview I've dropped the ball on sending out more applications. I was very caught up in the fantasy of working at the Wilson Center, one of the Top 10 think tanks in the country. After all, I had spent a few hours there on my trip to DC in June, having a blast talking to the Vice President (a fellow alum from WashU) and taking an inside look at the institution. A part of me didn't want to send out more resumes because I felt that would be admitting defeat before hearing an answer. Why pour my heart and soul into yet another cover letter when there's a small chance that the Center will want me? That, my friends, is but one of the many frustrations of job hunting.
Yesterday I also had an informational interview over the phone with an individual who works at an amazing NGO in DC. He's one of the contacts I made after my networking trip there and just like everyone else I've talked to on this job-searching journey, he was incredibly helpful, genuine, and easy to talk to. The compliments that he gave me on my resume and speaking were intimidating in a way--this guy, not too much older than us, with a full-time position at an impressive activist organization looks forward to what a person like ME will be up to in the future! Talking to him reminded me that there are people who believe in my potential, and most importantly, I believe in what I can offer the world. One little rejection is not enough to make me give up.
During our conversation yesterday my contact pulled up some notes he had made during a career development meeting he had led for interns at the organization. He was nice enough to share them with me, and I'd like to pay it forward because they truly are valuable tips, both for job hunting and living well.
- Ask questions. Don't be timid or shy! Searching for a job is about getting out of your comfort zone, and asking questions is a great first step toward learning more about prospective career paths and making connections. In general people love talking about what they do for a living; it's what they do every day, so they are experts. Seek out individuals who are doing things that you have a genuine interest in, and set up an informal informational meeting over the phone, via Skype, or in person! Sitting at home and sending out one application after another can get pretty dull. Why not talk to someone who can answer your questions and may have a valuable contact or open position info up his/her sleeve?
- Be positive! After sending out several applications and not even hearing back from organizations, it can be tempting to huddle under the covers and give up. NO. That will get you nowhere. Have a fresh, positive attitude! Ask yourself, "What can I do to make this application better?" rather than being a Negative Nancy. I hate Negative Nancys. But it's hypocritical of me to say the word hate in this part of the post, isn't it?
- Keep opening doors. Once it's seemed like you've exhausted all the possibilities while searching for jobs online, you may think that your search is over. The search is never over! We are fresh out of college and looking for our first real jobs. Who says you're looking for a career? Don't be afraid to search a bit outside of your area of direct interest. Spending one year in a position that gives you more office experience, people skills, writing opportunities, etc. does not hurt your chances of moving on to the next big thing. For example, I would be crazy to focus my search only on nonprofits and think tanks that only relate to Latin American issues. There is plenty of fair game in other areas such as human rights, gender issues, international governance, and more!
- Be you. Employers have seen your resume, and they don't want to see it verbatim in your cover letter and interview. Be true to yourself, and show the world your personality. Add some color to your cover letter. Write about that time you got lost in a foreign country and what you learned from the experience that is applicable to the job you want. Reading boring cover letters and talking to boring robots who call themselves people is boring. Hence the repetition of boring. Make a connection with whoever is reading that cover letter or interviewing you. If they feel they know a part of the real you, you have a better chance at the job.
- Don't get too comfy post-graduation. We're all guilty of spending lazy summer days doing absolutely nothing. No more school, no more homework, right? Does the growth and learning just stop there then? Keep an active mind! Do the things that you never had the time to do: learn a new language or skill, research that cool topic from a class that didn't spend enough time on the subject, or write whatever comes to your mind. YouTube and Netflix are fine companions, but setting your own goals and being proactive is a great warm up for everything that's to come in the workplace.
I'm excited about the final tip because I already know what I want to do! I am going to start writing short essays related to interesting current and/or historical events going on in Latin America. I'm going to be diverse with the range of issues and countries that I choose to tackle. This is a way for me to learn about other countries and self-discipline with deadlines and good research. I hope to write my first piece by the 23rd, and I've decided that it will relate to Brazil, the World Cup, and conflicts within and around slums in Rio de Janeiro. Here's to being positive and moving forward!