Getting Through the Employment Assembly Line
Looking for your first "real world" job can be an emotional journey filled with more downs, at times, than ups
Going through college can feel like being processed through an assembly line. At the hands of various professors, you are built into a fine-tuned, ever-employable machine. You’re then handed a diploma and let loose into the job market where you have to sell yourself.
“Pay us back soon!” the dean shouts with a wave as you stray nervously from the familiar confines of college and into the “real world.”
Immediately after graduating, I started pitching myself to prospective employers as a smart professional with plenty of internship experience and enthusiasm to boot. “I want to be a newsman!” I pleaded, journalism degree in hand. “Who cares,” a bunch of weathered editors who didn’t respond to me probably thought.
I learned quickly that it takes genuine resilience to continually send resumes out into the ether. Diligently catering cover letters to appeal to specific companies only to be repeatedly rejected or, worse, ignored, is truly one of life’s great miseries. Accepting this takes mental fortitude.
But as my mom used to so eloquently say when I was discouraged, if you throw enough crap at the wall, something is bound to stick.
She was right.
Soon enough, I landed two (TWO!) job offers. This wasn’t by chance. I’m sure each company had a million other applications from other new graduates. Apparently though, it came through how much thought I put into each effort. The two cover letters I sent each place were completely unique. I developed different talking points and questions for each interview, designed solely to show how much research I’d done prior to coming in. They like that, I promise.
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Ultimately, I learned having to choose between two places that want to hire you is a wonderful predicament to find yourself in. I chose the job with the casual dress code.
Fast-forward nine months: “Dave, we’re going to have to let you go.”
The act of being put through the proverbial guillotine at my first “real world” job was fiercely disheartening. This wasn’t just a job. This was the job, the job I studied for in college. Thus, I felt like an utter failure, terrified at the thought of re-entering an industry that just told me I wasn’t good enough for it. At the same time, I was – and am –completely unqualified to do anything else. This is much less enjoyable as far as predicaments go.
When I was finally able to saddle back up, the nuisance of filling out countless applications and writing innumerable cover letters was an action more thoughtless than blinking. Emotionally though, the hunt was even more draining than before. Turns out, desperation and a diminished sense of self-confidence don’t play well together in one’s psyche.
I’m glad it all happened the way it did though now with hindsight on my side.
I learned an invaluable truth through the embarrassment of being let go: I am not the sum of my failures. It can certainly feel that way sometimes, especially during a fruitless job hunt. But it’s not so. Now 11 months into another job, I know these experiences were merely an extension of the assembly line.
The point of it isn’t to build me into a finely tuned, ever-employable machine as I once thought, however. Rather, it’s to build a man or woman unafraid to fail and ready to go after success.
Monster Wants to Know: What are lessons you've learned from the job hunt for your 'first real job'? Share with us in the comment section.