Nervous laughter was what I heard from my parents after telling them that I had turned down a job in Alabama and decided to move to Chicago after graduate school. They tried to discourage me with the typical colloquialisms, “a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush” and “this is the worst economy since the Great Depression”. I knew what I wanted, and so with the comforting words of my parents and a Presidential promise for a brighter tomorrow, I followed my heart to Chicago.
Upon arriving in what I was told was a warm winter (could’ve fooled me), my first plan of attack was to familiarize myself with the city and then start networking. I didn’t have to worry about step one in moving to a new city – I was fortunate enough to have friends that let me to live out of my suitcase and make their couch my temporary home. With the basics covered, I was able to turn my full attention to “the search”.
Before my journey began, I set a deadline for employment. And like many before me, I underestimated the time-frame it would take to secure a job. In a large city, with over-qualified applicants, I found myself competing for entry-level positions with people who already had previous experience. The HR departments seemed to be so inundated with resumes and emails; it was virtually impossible to make contact beyond the company’s website. Enter the phone – the newest form of interview screening. I think it is fair to say that most people perform better in person; I am one of those people. My main complaint with moving to a city without a job was the lack of face-to-face contact. I just wanted a chance, a chance to get through to a real live person.
I began by using traditional job search websites (Indeed, Monster, CareerBuilder) to determine which companies were hiring, not only in the positions that I was after, but just hiring in general. Once that was determined, I would call friends and family, and use social media sites like LinkedIn and Facebook to see if there was some form of “six degrees of separation” between a current employee and myself. This process was extremely beneficial in developing contacts and allowing for the setup of informational interviews. Through the interviews, I was able to learn more about the interviewer, the company, and brush up on my conversational skills for the fateful day when I was given the opportunity for an in-person interview.
Finding a job is a full time job; to keep my sanity I maintained a schedule and a set of goals for myself every day. I don’t know if it’s a product of the economy, but I found that, in general, everyone I spoke with was extremely helpful. I was fortunate to receive advice from some very impressive people in a range of different industries (I can now serve as a Rolodex for companies in the city and have the Fortune 500 companies in the Chicago area memorized). You never know when or where, or if you will get your chance to prove that you are just as smart and capable (maybe not as qualified) as the other people in the search pool. Through networking, job fairs, and resume black holes, my chance came from a shot in the dark application on a corporate website.
My greatest piece of advice is to continue to have tenacity; the break you’re looking for could be anywhere. I was amazed by who knew who, and who was willing to pass on my resume. I found out that most people landed in their position through the help of someone passing along their information, “falling into it”, or just getting that lucky break. My lucky break arrived in the form of an internship at a leading PR agency (Ketchum). Some people questioned my decision to intern and to them I say this: who would turn down the chance to learn and the challenge to prove themselves. It is an amazing opportunity, and that’s all you really need.