Now Brewing: Disney Blend Flavored Coffee. I was lucky to receive a few of these sensational coffees from a friend who completed the Disney College Program. They never fail to bring a smile to my face simply because each cup brews just a touch of Disney magic right here in Wisconsin.
Despite three and a half years of college and thirteen years of schooling prior to that, when I graduated in December of this past year, there was still a lot left to learn—I just didn’t know it yet.
I spent most of my final semester of college applying for every job I could find. Over the summer I made a promise to myself to have a solid plan for after graduation by the time I graduated; I felt it was a feasible goal. I had no idea how many rejections and flat-out no’s it would take to secure a position. I guess that’s something your college education glosses over. Sure, everyone knows its difficult to find a job, let alone the right job right out of school, but no one tells you just how many times you’ll have to send your resume, craft a cover letter and cross your fingers and toes just to get an interview sometimes. No one tells you that many employers won’t even acknowledge your application. I certainly don’t remember any of my professors telling us exactly how many employers are looking for an applicant with 3-5 years of experience in the field. Sure, we were encouraged to get internships and were even required to complete one prior to graduation, but one internship, or even the three that I had completed before my December graduation, doesn’t equate out to the type of experience that many of the firms I was applying to were looking for.
When I reached my graduation, I still was not settled on where my future was taking me. I spent most of the holiday break answering countless family members’ questions about interviews and applications, but was still waiting for someone to say yes and take a chance on me. I felt very ready to enter the professional world and knew my education had prepared me to jump into my career, but couldn’t figure out how to translate that into my job applications. Finally, through a connection I’d made through my involvement in my university’s Public Relations Student Society of America Chapter, I interviewed for and was offered a position as a Marketing Specialist position for a local non-profit. Although I never envisioned my big post-college career in non-profit, I jumped at the chance to just be employed.
Throughout the next four and a half months, I applied the knowledge I’d gained during my education, internships, and student organizations to an exciting position spreading awareness of educational programming and membership for an international professional medical society. It was a good fit and located near where I’d attended college, so I had no need to re-locate or leave the place I’d spent the last portion of my life planting my roots. It was truly the perfect place for me to break in the professional skills I’d worked so hard to build. So when I was approached about applying for an opening at the company I’d spent the previous summer as an intern with—I was conflicted.
Even though my college education didn’t fill me in on a lot of pertinent real world information —leaving a job before six months was one concept that I’d heard was a basic PR no-no. Additionally, I spent so many of my college days trying to make “lifelong friends” that the thought of leaving the good ones I’d finally found felt terrifying. I spent a lot of time contemplating what taking a new job would mean for me and my future career. I even made the standard pros and cons list…numerous times. Finally though, I decided to send my letter of interest to the manager hiring for the open position and hoped for the best.
Now, four months later I could not be happier about the decision I made. The decision came down to the fact that I wanted this job more than I was scared of it. My new position exercises my love of writing everyday. I am now a Proposal Coordinator at CH2M, and based in Milwaukee, which means I am back to being in close proximity to my family members and many of the friends I’ve grown up with. I recently moved into a house near my office and get to share it with one of the great friends I met during my time in college, who is currently pursuing her master’s degree. My new position has given me the chance to work on many exciting programs and I even have a few big project “wins” under my belt. I’ve gone on my first solo business trip (to Spartanburg, South Carolina) and have received very motivating feedback from other proposal managers and my boss. In college they tell you that you’re not likely to find your ideal job right away but I am fortunate to feel like I truly have found the perfect job for me—even if it was on my second try.
So here’s what I’d like to share with my fellow friends looking for jobs, finishing college, contemplating leaving a job, who have left a job and so forth:
1. It’s never too early or too late to land the job that’s right for you. There is no time limit on when you should stop looking for your perfect position or when you should start. Don’t listen to the “you won’t find your dream job straight out of college” nonsense. You’ll know if it feels right and if it’s not—don’t be afraid to keep trying. Life is too short not to work someplace awesome.
2. You’re going to make mistakes. If you’re not making mistakes, then I’m questioning whether or not you are actually a living, breathing human. Mistakes are a completely natural part of career advancement. Whether you’re just starting out or are a seasoned professional—mistakes are the best way to perfect your craft. Don’t let the fear of making a mistake hold you back from doing your best work, and when you make a mistake, don’t let your embarrassment keep you from owning it and growing from it.
3. Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle. Your career is yours alone. There’s nothing wrong with using your mentor as just that— a mentor. Don’t base all of your decisions on what so-and-so from your business class or your best friend or even your parents did after college. Finding the right fit for you means taking the steps that make the most sense for yourself and nobody else. Don’t feel the need to justify turning down a “good job offer” if it doesn’t appeal to you. Yes, we all need jobs—but we also all need a job that’s going to allow us both happiness and a satisfactory paycheck to put towards adult living expenses.
4. Above all else, challenge yourself. Instead of letting an unfit job, or lack of job, get you down—I hope that you take it as a challenge. Create a new path for yourself that will take you far. The only person that can make your dreams a reality is you—believe that you deserve it and you’ll find it—even if it’s on your second, or third, or tenth try.
Though hard it may seem, you gotta believe,
Kathryn E. Weast