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Launching Your Professional Career? Here’s What To Expect!

I started looking for a job two and a half months ago. I’m not going to candy-coat the fact that if you are really, truly dedicating yourself to landing the position that is going to kickstart your career, it is probably going to be one of the most challenging experiences of your life. Sticking to it and giving it your best shot is going to be ten thousand times more challenging than that Fitspo diet you tried last spring, and it’s probably going to bruise your ego just as much as your last breakup did–but it’s also going to be the most rewarding experience in your life thus far, provided you keep your chin up!

Side note: if you’re dragging your heels and telling yourself that you’ve got “all the time in the world to start your career,” here’s an awesome TED Talk about why you’re wrong…

30 is NOT the new 20.

This article is to prepare those of you who haven’t started the process yet, and to restore some sanity to those of you who have and are losing your minds. DON’T WORRY! Crying into your cereal and wallowing in self-pity on a bi-weekly basis is normal.

Expect to do a LOT of writing. In order to get where you want to be, you’re going to have to work. Almost any job worth having is going to ask for at minimum a cover letter and resume, and many will ask for answers to a number of supplemental questions in addition to both. You’ll also probably be writing a lot of emails, because this process (when done the right way) often requires unrelenting persistence.

Expect to expand your network tenfold. Crazy fact that will knock your toes off: my super awesome mentor Dennis Thompson taught me that approximately 80% of available positions are found in the hidden job market, meaning that they aren’t posted. Most of the recent grads I know who are actually able to put food on their tables owe it to a friend, or a friend-of-a-friend, a previous supervisor, or some other sort of professional connection. The point is, you need to get out there and network. Start hunting down people who do what you want to do and spend some time getting to know them. I can’t even begin to tell you the number of referrals I’ve gotten by simply striking up relationships with professionals in the industry I want to be a part of. It’s worth the effort!

Expect to be really, really flustered. You’re finishing your last term. You’re working yourself to the bone to make sure that you pass that last class in between you and your diploma. You’re wrapping up internships. Scheduling interviews. Meeting with strangers. Sending and receiving handfuls upon handfuls of emails. If you don’t have a calendar, get one. If you do, use it. It will be your best friend from the moment you begin your search until the moment you end it. And after, too, because you really can’t ever go wrong with organization. Make sure to schedule time to enjoy these last few weeks, as well. This is a special time you won’t have again, and perhaps some of the last weekends you’ll have with your group of friends all in one place.

Expect ups and downs. One minute you’re sobbing uncontrollably to your mom or boyfriend (or, if you’re like me: mom, then boyfriend, then best friend until you’ve zero sobs left to give). The next, you’re dancing Dayglow style in the front seat of your car to whatever’s bumpin’ because you NAILED that interview!

YESSSSS!!!!

Point is, if you feel like you’re losing your marbles, well… you are… but it’s all part of the process! ;)

Expect to celebrate. A lot. Honestly, my secret weapon to surviving this crazy experience is an extra dose of TLC. I celebrate when basically anything good happens in my search. Because honestly, in this market, I feel like throwing confetti if someone even so much as breathes in my direction. I mean, it’s a step in the right direction, right? Really, though. If an interview goes well, praise yourself. If you finally got a meeting set up with the founder of that company who was playing hard to get, dance a jig. Celebrate your awesomeness!

Expect to succeed. Throwing yourself the occasional pity party is only natural. It’s part of the human condition to feel hurt by ignored resumes and unreturned phone calls and rejection emails. But you can’t let that get you down, because you can’t stop. Part of what gets me going every morning, enthusiastically applying to jobs five minutes post-rejection, is the Yoda mindset: Try not. Do… or do not. There is no try.

You’ve got this, collegiettes!

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