STEFF – CLASS OF 2014
Colleges and Universities generally tend to place much more emphasis on recruiting their student body and less on helping students find jobs at the end of four years. So, I asked a couple of recent graduates to tell their stories to you. I was thrilled that Steff and Henry said yes and just wish they could be speaking to you in person on campus. Shy of that, here’s Steff.
Those who know me would totally laugh at me for saying this, but don’t worry! Stats have said that something like 70% of kindergarteners today will have jobs that don’t exist yet. 70%! So if you don’t exactly know what you want to do, don’t panic. It may be something you never knew existed.
I never really knew what I wanted to do. I was a business major interested in marketing and finance but didn’t know exactly what those jobs looked like and where I’d best fit in. Maybe you’ve had that experience also- you ask what someone does for a living and they answer with very lofty, vague sentences that make no sense to anyone outside their industry or outside the workforce at all. This was a specific point of frustration in my job search because I really wanted to understand what I’d potentially be doing each day. How else would I know what I should aim for?
Anyways, I started applying. To lots of things. Mostly marketing jobs, both client-side and at agencies, because I wasn’t sure which would be a good fit. And suddenly it came time to really have a job and I leaped at the first thing that came in that covered my costs: an inside sales role at a large global tech company. “You’ll be helping people solve problems”, my mom said reassuringly. We both knew the reality was that I’d be making lots of cold calls to people who had no inclination (or power) to buy what I was trying to sell. But it was a job and I was all about employment! Having a job is always better than not having a job.
While this job did offer some perks, as it turns out, I hated it. And everyone around me knew I’d hate it too. But they were of the belief that I’d learn from experience and it was my life and I was in control of my decisions. (Thanks Mom and Dad…). But really, by lunchtime on Day 1 I was thinking, what am I doing?! But I stayed on for a year because that was my contract and I believe in following through with commitments. It was really challenging to go to work every day and the “Sunday Scaries” started popping up on more than just Sundays. And I won’t lie, as miserable as going to work was, I was unmotivated to job search because I felt defeated thinking about what I should do next when I still didn’t know what was out there, and I was afraid I’d find myself in another similar situation. But I networked and spoke with anyone who could spare 10 minutes hoping to get information about what they did while also secretly hoping they’d know of an opening and could recommend me. While the latter part never happened, I appreciated and found value in every conversation I had because I wasn’t afraid to talk about what I liked and didn’t like and therefore could be open about what I wanted. Remember this, even when you don’t have any “experience”, you still can bring value to a company. This was important because, after a year as a salesperson who hadn’t sold anything, I couldn’t exactly chalk up my working world sales experience.
Remember this, even when you don’t have any “experience”, you still can bring value to a company.
Ultimately, I stayed in touch with a few companies I had discovered in school and could see myself working for. When the time came to find something new, I reached out to current employees to get the inside scoop and to HR to see if anything was available. The roles I sought involved more writing, creativity, and team problem solving than my sales job did, and those were things I desperately missed after feeling like a lone wolf in a cubicle with only a phone to the outside.
Presently, I’m a Consultant on the Design + Innovation team at a research agency that focuses on insights and innovation. Basically, I work with companies and their customers to come up with new products and services that are designed specifically with their customers’ wants and needs in mind. Sounds silly, but you’d be amazed how many companies sell things they think their customers will like based on no information other than the designers think that the product is cool. Most recently I’ve been helping a major athletic shoe and apparel company launch a new platform with content that their customers actually want and will pay attention to.
But interestingly enough, apart from my writing skills, the job that prepared me the most for my role in Innovation was being a group leader at a summer camp for children with severe and chronic disorders. I’m serious. My summer camp job is the most similar, skill-wise, to the job I hold now. As a leader I was managing people of all ages; interacting with professionals be it doctors or social workers; always keeping my group of 8-10 campers energized and having fun- similar to how I treat my project teams; keeping an eye on each campers’ different medical conditions- and though no one’s health is in danger in my current job, I’m often juggling several high importance items at once; tackling difficult conversations; teaching; maintaining a ridiculously high level of energy most days; adapting to situations that are constantly changing; balancing my own social and personal life; and more. And I loved it. But yes, apart from coming up with cheers for spirit days, my writing skills were not fine-tuned at camp. But everything else was- from time management of critical issues to client management and maintaining positive team dynamics. So when I was able to leave my sales job, I thought about all the things that made me the happiest and that I truly enjoyed. In my interview with my current employer, it was my ability to translate my camp experience and passion into the working world that helped me stand out the most. (And turning my failures in sales into assets didn’t hurt either. It’s important to pull something positive even from the most negative experiences).
What I hope you take away from this is that it’s okay not to know what you want. And it’s okay not to like the first (or five) things you try. Every experience offers something valuable and the best thing you can do is to speak to how it made you better. And when looking for the right fit, think about all the experiences you’ve had and the things you’ve enjoyed the most. Why did you enjoy them? Was it because you were part of a team? Were you a leader? Did you have the freedom to be creative? Consider what makes you most excited to work hard and don’t put yourself in a box. Be open minded to speaking to people in all fields and saying yes to seemingly bizarre opportunities so that you can discover new possibilities that you may have never considered. The job you’ll excel at may be something you didn’t even know existed.