I vividly remember hunting for my first real post-college job. It was scary. It was brutal. I moved home and was met with a staggering 13% local unemployment rate.
Needless to say, it definitely tested my patience and my resilience.
The good news is that the economy is way better now than when I entered the workforce 3 years ago. Companies are hiring, and some even offer the entry-level salaries they were a few years ago. In my time working in recruiting and career development, this is the most optimistic I’ve seen the market in a while.
The bad news is that competition is fierce. A lot of graduates and 20-somethings are going after the same jobs, which means, quite frankly, rejection is part of the process.
So, how do you build the tenacity to look for that first job? How do you keep your head up when things get tough? Follow these three steps. I wish I’d known them when I started out.
Step 1: Believe You Are Skilled
The biggest problem I encounter coaching clients is that they don’t feel confident enough in their skills. They think they are not qualified, that they should have studied more, or that they need more experience. And that’s all true—you can always do more. However, if you get stuck believing, “I can’t get this job until I have x, y, and z,” then you’ll never get any job, period.
So, the first step is to believe you have the skills to get the job. This will boost your confidence, and it will definitely show in the interview—which is where you really have to nail it.
(Note: Being confident does not mean being entitled. You want to avoid the stereotype making waves in the recent Time article Millenials: The Me Me Me Generation. Take it from someone who has interviewed 20-somethings perpetuating the stereotype: It’s not cute.)
Step 2: Forget About Your Major
I often see people so hung up about what they majored in. The truth is that unless you’re looking into something really specialized, your major doesn’t even matter a lot of times.
How many people do you know who ended up in awesome careers that have absolutely nothing to do with what they studied? Probably a lot. I studied English literature, and I’m not a literary critic or on my way to being a professor; I’m a career coach. Does that mean my degree is useless? No. For example, I write as a means of marketing my business.
For those of you entering the traditional workforce, companies want to see those degrees—they just may not care what your degree is actually in. Flexibility is key. Think outside the college-major box instead of letting its four corners confine you. This is also a really good way to show employers that you are being realistic on your job hunt.
Step 3: Cut Yourself Some Slack!
Think of a job search this way: How many of you were scared out of your minds to take your driver’s license test? How many of you had to learn how to maneuver a car until you finally got it? You could read all the books you wanted, but until you actually got behind the wheel of a car, you weren’t really going to learn how to drive
Your job hunt is the same way. You’ve never done this before, so you’re going to need to learn from the beginning. Until you get out there, you’re not really going to know what to do!
Every interview is a learning experience. Every rejection is a learning experience. Every résumé that goes unanswered is a learning experience.
On a different yet related note, don’t freak out if you’re not a CEO by 25. So many ambitious young professionals put a ridiculous amount of pressure on themselves only to face the reality that everyone starts from the beginning entry-level position. Relax! Your career isn’t a sprint—it’s a lifelong marathon.
While your first job hunt can be scary, it doesn’t have to be as bad as we imagine. By believing in your skills, being flexible, and cutting yourself some slack you’ll be able to cultivate the confidence and resilience it takes to look for a job.
What tips would you share with a first-time job hunter? Post them in the comments.
(Photo: Brenda Gottsabend)