Thursday, September 22, 2011

I got 99 problems but a job ain't one.

It's official: I start my new job next Wednesday! I'm super excited and a little nervous for this huge transition. I'll be going from sitting at home 5+ days a week, to working 9-6 Monday through Friday. These are definitely exciting times, and I look forward to seeing how it feels to be a 'real' grownup.

As Thomas and I planned to make the move to Atlanta, we felt a lot of pressure to prove ourselves. I say 'we', but what I really mean is 'me'. Or I. Whatever. I've always felt a major need to achieve. Even without anyone pushing me, I have some sort of invisible force (an internal one) urging me to be the best. This obviously didn't apply to sports, just school and stuff. 

All throughout my senior year at Texas Tech, tons of people told me that I might as well stay in school because the job market was so rough--there was NO way I would get a job as a new graduate. Even though these comments were fairly discouraging, I had no choice but to stick with my plan of graduating in three years. I have to admit, even though I heard countless stories of recent graduates who couldn't find work, I never imagined that it would be hard for me to find a job. I think this naive attitude came from a combination of my young age and the fact that I was from a relatively 'small' town, both of which made me feel like I knew enough people/things that I'd surely be ok.

After the move, our network shrank immensely. We only knew a handful of people here, as compared to the number of friends and family we had both growing up in Lubbock. From friends, to family, to school connections--our network there was HUGE compared to the 10 acquaintances we had here.

Our lack of connections and familiarity with the area was really discouraging after a while. It felt like we would never meet people. After a particularly bad week, I started to think, "how can you meet people if you don't have a job and (for financial reasons) can't leave the house?" Admittedly I'm a very impatient person--I know it had technically been only 3 months--but things felt like they were moving really slowly and it became harder and harder to avoid feeling discouraged.

Thankfully, the connections we have here are great ones. Mari and Holly have both been amazingly helpful on the job search, and they both diligently followed lots of leads for Thomas and me anywhere they could. They also introduced us to their friends and family here, which was the biggest help of all. Meeting new people is always fun and encouraging, and even if they didn't know of a job for us right then, it was great to talk to someone outside of each other (or Jack and Charlotte). My dad also reached out to a contact he had here from work, and he and his family were very sweet and encouraging.

I've considered doing a 'tips for getting a job' post, but as a very recently unemployed person myself, I know that every article on this topic says basically the same thing: network, build a custom resume, follow up with companies after applying, etc. I'll be honest with you; I think lots of those recommendations are great...but they only work to a point. The job search has changed exponentially over the last 10 years, and literally every single application I filled out on my job hunt was online. Most of the time there was no contact number, no e-mail resource, and no way to get in touch with a real person at the company. The whole process is very impersonal, and it gets really discouraging to put in one online application after another and to rarely receive even an automated e-mail in response. Ultimately I felt like most of the time, my resume was skimmed for less than 3 seconds if at all.

Over the last 3 months, I've formed the opinion that you never know who or what will lead to a job. This leads to my one real tip: Follow every single lead you get like it'll be "the one." Even if it seems like it'll go nowhere, it's worth the effort. I've decided that the best way to demonstrate this point is by showing you exactly what my job search looked like, with the hope that someone else in my situation will read this and find it helpful or at least relatable.

Early 2010: Realize that Thomas and I are definitely going to get married. Now it's just a question of when and where. I know that this comes with a commitment to move to Atlanta (at least for a while), and we start talking about that issue on an almost daily basis.

November 2010: Start e-mailing Mari and Holly; picking their brains about what neighborhood would be good for us and when/how to begin the job search.

November 18, 2010: Get engaged! Woo! Now we're for sure that this whole marriage/moving thing is on (by that I mean that everyone else finally believes that Thomas really is going to marry me, making the last 6 months of me talking about it seem a little less crazy).

January 2011: Really start talking to Mari and Holly about finding work in Atlanta. Determine that we should start applying around a month or two before we're planning to move, giving ourselves time to hopefully find a job before moving (looking back, this was a very unrealistic expectation).

March 2011: Make the trek to the ATL over Spring Break. Make lots of connections at Turner and other post-production houses, and even visit the studio Thomas is interning with now to meet some people. Even though I fought it originally, the trip was very worthwhile and generally makes me feel better about moving here. Around this time we also start working with Mari and Holly to re-write both of our resumes in a way that would be more appealing to potential employers.  We also start planning the official move.

May 14, 2011: Graduate college! Feel super glad that I'll [hopefully never] have to attend a class again! I have a phone interview around this time with a company in Atlanta, and even set up an in-person interview for after the move.

May 29, 2011: Get married! Finally all the wedding planning came to a halt and we could focus on job/moving stuff. We continue to look for any job that either of us qualifies for and apply for those few positions (it's clear now that no employer would probably look twice at our resumes since we lived across the country at the time).

June 18, 2011: Pack up a U-Haul truck with all of our earthly possessions and make the long drive to our new home. For a week, we repainted, repaired, decorated, and moved in.

June 20, 2011: My first job interview! Things go well and I kind of feel like it might work out. I was still a little unsure of whether the position would pay enough, but I was hoping the offer would come through.

Late June/early July 2011: Because I haven't heard back from the interview, I continue to apply for other positions. At this point my Bookmarks tab is full of 'jobs' related sites: Turner, Southwest Airlines, Emory, Oglethorpe, and Georgia Tech Universities, Coca-Cola, Wells Fargo, The Westin, and lots of others. I check each of these sites once every day or so, applying for any job I think I'm qualified for. I never hear back from 5 out of those, and if I do get an e-mail it's just to let me know that the position has been filled.

July 13, 2011: After 3 weeks of complete silence (and lots of worry) about my interview, I receive an automated e-mail letting me know that another candidate was selected. At this point it wasn't a surprise, but it was definitely a disappointment.

Mid-July 2011: Thanks to our friend/landlady Jeanie, I made a connection at The Westin. My contact (Jeanie's son) was SUPER helpful, and he did everything he could to help in my search. I applied for a position in HR. Things moved slowly and seemed like they might work out at times, but ultimately another candidate was selected.

Late July 2011: Start to feel really cooped up in our house, and get even more discouraged. After going back and forth for a while, I finally decided to apply for a part time job as a teller at Wells Fargo. To this day, I've never heard back. That was definitely a downer.

August 2011: Continue to meet people and make connections, but the longer I went without a job, the more I worried that I wouldn't get one. I read numerous articles about how companies don't like to hire the unemployed and continued to realize that I'm no exception. They don't know me as a hard worker with lots of motivation and drive--to them I'm just a kid fresh out of college with no 'real' work experience to speak of. I sent off e-mails with my resume to any connections I got wind of, but rarely got a response. At any given time, I had 2-4 leads I was chasing. It was never completely hopeless, but it was depressing some days.

September 5, 2011: Get an e-mail from Jeanie about a possible connection. I e-mailed him my resume, but since I'd been through this so many times before, I honestly didn't think much of it. In fact, I didn't even remember to tell Thomas about the situation, because I was so used to these things not going anywhere.

September 7, 2011: While doing a routine junk e-mail check, I discovered a message from Jeanie's connection. I was pretty surprised, but I moved it over to my inbox to read it. [THANK GOODNESS I check my junk mail. There's another tip for you]. The message detailed a position at a small IT company, had a link to their website, and asked if I could come in for an interview later that week if I was interested. Obviously I said "YES!"

September 9, 2011: My first interview. Things go well and I leave feeling great. I was asked to come in for a second interview the next week. I try not to get my hopes up over the weekend, but obviously that's kind of hard when you haven't had so much as a call back in over 2 months.

September 12, 2011: My second interview (with the CEO). I was nervous, and the interview was very quick. I left feeling unsure and like I probably didn't get the job. Basically beat myself up for two straight days and feel like I'm going to have to start over.

September 13, 2011: I got a call from the person hiring for the position letting me know that he and the CEO were very impressed with me and that they thought I would be a great fit for their company. He asked that I think about it and respond early the next week. It worked out perfectly because that meant I got to spend the week with my mom while she was here.

Yesterday, September 21, 2011: I was officially offered the job. The angels sang and Jack and Charlotte danced in a circle with me. Sort of.

My first day on the job is next Wednesday, September 28, 2011. Meaning that I went from discouraged and jobless to gainfully employed in 23 days. That's absolutely mindblowing to me, and honestly it still feels surreal. 

I know I might come across as impatient since 3 months isn't really that long. I've heard lots of stories about people being unemployed for 6 months to a year before finding a job, and I know that I'm really lucky. I know that I had a lot of help (for which I'm eternally grateful). But I also know that to me, it doesn't just feel like I've been job hunting since May--this has been a huge worry and daily concern since last January and even before.

It's important for me to point out that it was a huge commitment for us to come here together--young, newlywed, and jobless to make this HUGE leap into being real grownups. I can't tell you how many talks have been had (between us, our parents, and our friends) about these decisions and changes. I can't put a number on the amount of tears shed (by us me and others) or the sleepless nights we've experienced. Also, the amount of (unsolicited, but often good) advice we've gotten about moving/jobs/marriage/etc. is in the millions ;] But I am proud to say that we worked for what we've got, and we're extremely happy with it!

We've obviously learned a ton over the course of this adventure. The adventure isn't even over--it's really barely started--but this was a huge goal for me and for us together. I've finally got my first 'grownup job' and I'm so thankful to everyone that's helped me get there! Whether it was through an encouraging message or comment, just thinking of me, or actually helping me make the connection that got me THE job, I appreciate it so much and I want to pay it forward as soon as I can. And finally: Thomas, you're the best husband ever for listening to me cry, worry, complain, and freak out over the last year. I couldn't ask for a better friend or life companion.

This post became a lot more grand and emotional than I originally intended. I actually kind of feel like I just accepted an Emmy or something. Nonetheless, these are my real thoughts and feelings, and a big taste of what's been going on (inside and out) for the last year or so. I hope someone reads about my experience and feels encouraged, because I know exactly how it feels to be jobless and scared. Good luck out there job hunters! And I promise that someone, somewhere will want you!


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