In 2008, I graduated from Indiana University, where I studied public relations and sociology. The previous April, I had begun looking for jobs and felt confident; I had worked hard throughout school and my resume wasn't lacking. Each summer, I had interned in cities like Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and New York. I assumed the job market would be competitive but through interning I was hopeful that I had built a solid network of people whom I could later come back to as contacts in the industry. That August, I moved to New York. Nothing could have prepared me for what I encountered that fall.
I couch-surfed in Manhattan while I searched for jobs and apartments. I set up numerous interviews and sent my resume out to hundreds of offices. I contacted IU alums and contacted their contacts. It was a vicious cycle that yielded no results.
Ultimately, I took an unpaid internship in a magazine's fashion department and a part-time job at a clothing store. I wanted to keep busy and meet as many people as possible. I developed a routine that involved sitting in the Starbucks on the Upper East Side with my laptop for hours on end. I even had a folder in my browser dedicated to job sites; I would click "open all in tabs" and search the postings all day long.
In March, I was offered another internship at a publishing company to work in their fashion department. It was full-time unpaid. I stayed three months. I could only go so far there; they weren't hiring and sifting through sample closets proved unsatisfying. After all, I wanted to be on the front lines with the clients.
After a year of struggling, I needed a break. The emotional and mental costs of being unemployed were mounting. I headed to D.C. to visit a friend and consequently, began comparing it with New York. In the nation's capital, everything seemed more manageable, more affordable. As much as I loved New York, it wasn't working for me. I started toying with the idea of working down south. I lined up a few interviews that summer and the fall. Despite my efforts, nothing happened.
I went back to New York where I still had a lease on my apartment and started working full-time at a luxury jewelry store on Fifth Avenue. It was back to retail for me. I knew I wasn't fulfilling my potential. The tasks were mundane and repetitive. Inadvertently, my experiences in New York were teaching me what I didn't want.
I had shipped all of my belongings back to my childhood home in Cleveland and was facing the reality of moving back there, which would be a sign of total defeat -- personally, educationally, and professionally. Since leaving for college six years earlier, I had asserted my independence whenever and wherever possible. I am blessed to have a family who has supported me financially and I wanted nothing more than to prove that their investments paid off. I wanted them to be proud of me and I wanted to be proud of the work I did. Inherently, I knew I would never find that in Cleveland.
Finally, thanks to a very lucky sighting on CareerBuilder and some very good friends, I started speaking with a public relations firm in D.C. in early 2010. I interviewed at the firm in March. I loved it. Everything about it was fantastic. On March 19, six days before my 24th birthday, I was offered the job.
If I had to sum up the past two years in one word it would be perseverance. I rarely took a day off from the job search, even when I was working full-time. Trying to explain today's process of getting a job to those who aren't looking for one often results in looks of incredulity and audible gasps. There are hurdles to jump, competition to beat and even then, no guarantees. The obstacles I faced forced me to push myself to the limits. I learned what I was truly capable of and surprised myself.
Now, I'm more accustomed to working in a team setting and understand why companies practice such a high degree of professionalism; the most minuscule detail can make or break a project. Most importantly, I learned that sometimes you have to do all the things you don't like to get to the one thing you do... even if it takes two years.