I absolutely refuse to believe that my generation is the “lost generation.” In fact, I think that we have what it takes to be the greatest generation because things haven’t come easy to us, which has forced us to work harder and be more creative to get where we need to be.
Trust me, I get how easy it is to be disillusioned by it all. It took me two years of being unemployed, underemployed, and laid off to finally get where I am now. Through all of the headaches of wondering if I’m good enough, struggling to make the bills, and changing my lifestyle to fit my budget- I wouldn’t change a thing. It brought me to now.
I am in a specific field, but I feel that my advice is applicable to people in any field. So you want your dream job? Here’s my advice.
1. Take Baby Steps.
When I was in college, I said to myself that I was going to work for __________. I knew it was a lofty goal- although I had two jobs with my college, had great grades, a DC internship under my belt, and I held a leadership position in almost every extracurricular I was involved in…just because I did all of that didn’t mean that I was going to get a job in my field right off the bat. I had many connections within higher education but I didn’t have connections within my field. So when I graduated, I knew that if I wanted any shot in hell of getting the dream job, it was time to do whatever it takes to get connections in my field.
I had to think of a couple things:
- Am I in the right place to get those connections? After graduation, I moved to my parents’ house but I knew that I wasn’t going to get anywhere by staying there. I had to move to either Albany or DC and take whatever job I could find, even if it was unrelated to my field. If I was in the right location, I could build on making those connections. I knew that DC wouldn’t be possible for me financially- there is a higher cost of living there and I didn’t have much money saved up. However, Albany’s cost of living was affordable and I liked the idea that my field’s infrastructure was a little smaller because it meant that it would be easier to find some opportunities.
- Speaking of doing whatever it takes- I had to learn to be humble. Taking temp jobs that I was extremely overqualifed for wasn’t easy. Although I sometimes got upset about that- I didn’t let that discourage me. I kept saying to myself that I will get where I need to be, I just need to do what Senator Robert Byrd said: “learn to labor, learn to wait.”
2. Volunteer and Network.
I knew I wasn’t going to get ANYWHERE in my field if I just stayed home or went to the bars after I got home at 5PM. Even though work was done for the day, I still had “work” to do. So I looked for volunteer opportunities within my field. Each field is different- but I will tell you this, I don’t care what field you desire to be in, if you want to be apart of it, there are volunteer or networking opportunities available to you. The one thing that matters is the timing of them. I know for my field, the volunteer opportunities are ample around June and I had to wait for that. If I couldn’t be paid for work in my field, I knew that I was going to volunteer to be noticed so I could get paid to work in my field. At the end of every week, ask yourself: what have I done to volunteer or network towards attaining my dream job? Keep track of your progress.
My one tip when you receive an opportunity to volunteer or network is that you need to be remembered in a good way. This is your chance to be noticed so whatever task you do, make sure you play to your strengths! When I finally got the opportunity to volunteer within my field, my task was to serve the soda at a birthday party. That seems like the most menial task ANYONE can do. I could have just poured soda for people but I didn’t. I know my biggest strength is my ability to connect to people and after years of being a waitress at my father’s restaurant, I knew that you always had to provide service with a smile. So that’s what I did. Next thing I knew, I had people who were in my field coming up to me and asking if I worked with the organization. Within a month, I was hired within my field…all because I made sure to be personable while serving soda.
Everything you do is an opportunity. Do not forget that because you never know what can happen.
3. Be Relentless.
I know it is so easy to throw in the towel and just say to yourself that you’re a victim of circumstances. As hard as it is to keep your head above water, especially with bills to pay- don’t lose hope. It is not only important to stay focused, but you must also be relentless. I can’t tell you how many jobs within my field that turned me down or didn’t even consider me- even though the rejection hurt, I didn’t give up. And now I’m here because of that tenacity. You have that tenacity too. All of us do.
When you don’t take advantage of your inner tenacity, you’re not going to be a victim of the economy’s circumstances. You’re going to be a victim of your own circumstances. It is tragic to me to see so many talented and smart people languish in jobs that are not in their fields because they aren’t being relentless and tenacious enough. If you’re not where you’re at, as hard as it is to write this, I feel it’s because you’re not being relentless enough. You are either not working as hard as you should be or you’re in the wrong location. Something needs to change. You’re the only one who can change it.
4. Take Care of Your Own
I know I wouldn’t be here if someone didn’t take a chance on me. Make sure that if you are in a position to help a talented person out, do it. No one makes it alone and no matter what field you’re in, we all have the responsibility to ensure that our fields are stocked with the top talent. Although we may have struggled, it doesn’t mean that everyone has to.