a recent grad success story

This is long but well worth the read, especially if you’re feeling discouraged about your job search. A reader writes:

I am a loyal reader and have been since I stumbled across your blog in despair while job hunting for ANYTHING after I graduated in June of ’09. I wanted to tell you an uplifting recent grad story, and it’s kind of a long journey (plus, I can be wordy).

Despite my understanding of the economy, I was still getting really down about not being able to find anything at all. However, I think it was reading that you were inundated with multiple candidates you would be happy to hire that made me feel like it truly wasn’t about me. So I started applying to everything I was remotely qualified for, instead of being a little picky about things like location, since I don’t have a car, and eventually landed a job as a receptionist and concierge at an assisted living facility for seniors.

The pay and hours were pretty lame (including a twelve hour Sunday shift). It took me an hour by bus to get there each way. I was glad to have a job, but I was really despairing over not being able to find any job in my industry (interior design) and the overall lack of jobs in my industry. I applied for every job in my industry for which I could be considered – by even a hair’s breadth – qualified, which I can count on one hand. I was excited to see a junior designer position, the first one I’d seen in the six months since I graduated, and applied. They had received over 150 resumes in the first couple days, and were only interviewing a handful of people (including me, which made me feel good). A few days after the interview, they called to tell me they had to turn the job into an internship, because their international client wasn’t getting money. I really liked them and their aesthetic, so I took the internship. I worked for them for a grand total of two days before the internship disintegrated into nothing – they had to lay everyone off because their client refused to pay them for their design proposal.

I was disappointed, of course, but at this point my near misses and how terrible the economy was held a certain sort of dark humor. Then, at the beginning of March, I saw a job advertised at a company whose product I’d seen in a trade magazine and marveled at – and had no idea they were based in my city. I was really excited because I thought the product was ingenious and unparalleled and addressed an aesthetic concern in design that had been plaguing me. I applied right away…and heard nothing. In one regard, I knew they probably had a ton of applicants, but in another, I felt my mix of office experience, customer service skills, and design background made me the ideal candidate (but of course I would feel that way, right?).

A few weeks later, when I figured they weren’t going to call at all, they did! I had an interview the following Monday, and they seemed to really like me and the questions I asked – they really liked the question about what distinguishes an excellent person in the position from a good one, and their answer was also very revealing. I left there feeling really good about the interview, the position, the company, and how they felt about me. I sent thank you notes to both of my interviewers the same day.

Then on Friday, I got a form email saying they chose someone else. It was a bit of a blow, just because of how I felt the interview went and their responses to my answers and questions. I also got another rejection email that day from an architecture and interior design firm who were hiring for a receptionist – they didn’t even call me for a precursory phone interview.

So, as you might imagine, the last thing I wanted to do was send an email asking for feedback and saying I still wanted to work for them (which I did). But I did it anyway. If I can assess myself here, I was very classy and even wished them luck with their new hire. But I didn’t hear back.

That also bummed me out, since I thought they liked me enough to at least give me feedback. A couple of weeks later, I saw the job posted again on Cragislist. I felt like I had been sucker-punched! I couldn’t understand why they didn’t respond to the email or call me again when they were hiring for the position – my sensors must’ve been way off, and they must not have really liked me all that much. But I was going to send them an email anyway, because it couldn’t hurt. First, though, I had to spend the night eating cookie dough, so I didn’t get to it.

The next day, just as I was steeling myself to write the email, they called me! They wanted me to come in for another interview and meet with the vice president. I went into the interview and met with two other people. Again, I thought the interview went well, but I was not going to get my hopes all the way up on cloud nine again. They said they were going to do second interviews the following week – or in my case, a third interview – and then make their decision. They called me a few days later to tell me I was their prime candidate, and they wanted me to do two days of paid job shadowing – and if it was a good fit, then the job was mine. I was totally psyched, but still all too aware that the job wasn’t mine yet.

Well, it turns out that the candidate they hired before didn’t work out. She had strong design skills, but lacked the necessary office computer skills – with programs like Excel and Outlook – to the extent that she needed to go through every step for every function multiple times. Because I grew up in a generation where I started using computers at age eight, not only did I have those skills, but I possessed an inherent understanding of how many computer programs are structured and the similarities they typically share. The prior candidate, however, didn’t grow up in the same generation. I really do feel badly that there are job hunters out there with years of experience, but handicapped by a lack of prowess with computers not necessary before because of their skill set.

However, I wanted to email you, because after the job-turned-internship-turned-nothing, the interview, rejection, second interview, and job shadowing, I finally got the job, and am absolutely thrilled. I think it is due to a variety of things: the varied skill set many recent graduates have (and may not even realize they possess), my own natural aptitude and passion, the customer service skills I honed as a receptionist at the assisted living facility for seniors, and my gracious nature in the face of rejection – including the feedback email I never would’ve thought to send (or had the guts to) before I read your blog. I think your advice has been a big part of my success in this economy, in a city not especially known as a big one for interior design, and it has been invaluable to have the insight of someone on the other side of the equation. I may be the first person in my graduating class to get a design job she really wanted – as opposed to a more peripherally related one that would provide a foot in the door – and if I am, I do think it is, in part, due to your advice. So thanks, Alison!

Wow. This is awesome. Congratulations on the job, and I hope this story inspires others not to lose hope!

{ 4 comments… read them below }

  1. Brooke*

    This is such a great example of how your advice can help recent grads. I graduated in 2008, and found your blog after I'd already landed my first job… which I quickly began to loath, for no other reason than it was a bad fit for me. But since then, I've gone on interviews and I've been hunting for another job, while holding down a part time job that I love, but which doesn't pay enough nor provide benefits. I've also been on the hiring side in this position and this blog has helped IMMENSELY. Thank you for all the advice, the follow-up posts and stories like this one.

  2. Kimi*

    This brings me such high hopes because I'm currently unemployed and looking for a job in my field. I have many qualifications in the field I studied. The one thing that I learned from the inspiring story was the perseverance and hope that something will come along. That does keep me going, so thanks for sharing. Best!

  3. Murielle*

    Wow this is a great blog. I landed on this great story and thought it to be very inspirational! I am absolutely going through a recent graduate Full- Time career job search myself as a graduate May of last year. Though of course while being grateful of having a part-time job, I can’t help but to often undergo tumultuous feelings and sometimes lost of hope during these times in search of my desired career field job and also fair salary. But this story along with the advice from ask a manger, certainly ignited the spark in me again. Congratulations and Thank you!

  4. Domart*

    This raises a question for me regarding skill sets and resumes. How in-depth should one go listing proficiency with software such as Excel, Word, etc. on a resume? Without knowing more advanced software, I’m worried about listing just the basics of the Office Suite.

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