You’ve selected a major and earned your degree. Now it’s time to find a job. You’ve forwarded your resume to the top leaders in your network, and you’ve applied online. But wait, there’s a catch. The phone is ringing, but none of the callbacks are for interviews with employers in your field. To make matters worse, the interviews in your industry pay considerably lower than expected. What went wrong?
Don’t be alarmed. The first job you land may not be your dream job. Focus on gaining the experience and transferrable skills to lead you to the next venture. Even with internships, a bountiful network and the highest GPA, it could easily take 6-9 months to land a job. Most job seekers get discouraged at this step. Instead, think creatively about ways you can incorporate your expertise in a nontraditional manner. Maybe your degree is in information technology, but your new role is in customer service. Brainstorm how you can improve department systems or databases and how you can contribute to a software migration. Although your position isn’t directly in the IT department, you can still list that experience on your resume because you added value to the process. Your outstanding contributions could be the ticket to an internal promotion.
After changing my major four different times, I finally chose human resources. As my graduation date was fast approaching, the career services department flooded my email with stats on target job titles and salaries. I took my stab at the job market with all the hope and promise in the world at making $40,000 in 2002 — a nice chunk of change for a 22-year-old in Alabama. To my surprise, that estimated salary couldn’t have been further from the truth.
I made it through 7 grueling months of job searching before landing my first job as an HR assistant. My role was full-time with benefits and supported an HR manager. The pay was only $10.50/hr — pennies compared to what I’d been told to expect. My puppy-dog eyes quickly turned into bubbly excitement! I had a job — and in my field at that. By this time, I’d already turned down employment opportunities to sell insurance and work as a substitute teacher, so I was just happy to leave my part-time job at the pharmacy. I figured if I did a good and applied myself, I’d get a raise.
At this stage of the game, none of this mattered because I was working and could now start paying off those student loans I’d racked up. Humbling myself and viewing my low-wage job as a way to gain much-needed experience helped me progress in my career. I was grateful for the opportunity and soon became a sought-after corporate recruiter.
There will come a time in your job search when you have to put your pride aside and accept a position outside of what you initially imagined. The job hunt can be a catch 22. Jump at the first job offer smoking and risk spending the next few months job searching again. Hold out on too many opportunities to wait on that must-have job and risk leaving a sour impression in the hiring manager’s mind due to employment gaps.
If at all possible, sit tight until you find that right-fit career opportunity. There is an employer out there searching for exactly what you have to offer. Look beyond the surface and dig deeper to reveal what doors an atypical role may open for the future. Each position is a building block for your dream job. A new job may spark an interest in something outside of your desired field. Make as many connections as you can and practice give-and-take within your network. Don’t make the mistake of only reaching out to colleagues when you need something. Don’t allow your well to run dry. Share information and be a resource to someone in need. Most people are delighted to return favors.
Job hunting is a job. Don’t panic when you don’t land the job of your dreams before the ink has dried on your diploma. Give yourself some time. You have your entire career ahead of you and plenty of chances to correct your mistakes along the way.
Ashley Watkins, Career Coach and Nationally Certified Résumé Writer with Write Step Resumes, LLC, provides high-quality résumé writing, interview preparation and career coaching services to help job seekers get more interviews and salary offers. She can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or via www.WriteStepResumes.com.