When my editor asked me to write my first column on procrastination, I laughed at the irony of a born procrastinator giving advice on avoiding procrastination. Nevertheless, I churned out a few tongue-in-cheek tips. Then I got my second assignment, a Valentine’s Day guide. Again, funny topic for me, a guy coming off a rough ending to a two-and-a-half-year relationship, but OK, at least I could write a cynical article. This assignment, however, has me at a complete loss. I’m supposed to write an advice column for seniors who will be looking for jobs.
I suppose I was asked to do this because I am a senior, and indeed I do need to find a job, but the trouble is, I’m not a computer science major or a business major. I’m an English major with a minor in creative writing. Basically, my parents spent about 150 grand for me to read a lot of Shakespeare and write stories. Not that I don’t love my major, I think it is the greatest major of all, but so far my job search has been leading me to one conclusion – maybe Dad was right when he said I won’t make a dime. Needless to say, I have no sagacity to offer on this subject, so I asked around and came up with a few pointers.
First off, there’s more bad news. As it turns out, Mom and Dad’s insurance plan only covers you while you’re in school. Unless you plan on going to grad, med or law school, once you wear that cap and gown, you are officially emancipated and uninsured. So you can’t just take any job. Welcome to the world of millions of Americans who must find a job that offers benefits. If you think that’s no problem, I’ll be happy to give you my best friend’s phone number. She’s been looking for a job for about a year now. By the way, she didn’t have an artsy major like I did, she was a psych major – still no job.
Next is the issue of your resume, a few pages that could make or break you. It doesn’t matter how many awesome jobs you’ve had or who you’ve worked for; if you can’t organize this information properly into a coherent resume, you have no shot. Here is where the GW career advisers come in handy. You will most likely spend more time in the GW Career Center after you graduate than during your time as a student. Take advantage of this great (and free) resource. Employees will help you edit your resume, a cover letter (yes, you do need a cover letter) and they will set you on the right path.
Finally, much like the mafia, getting by in the business world often depends on whom you know. Connections are everything; they mean more than qualifications, experience, intelligence, capability or any other factors you may consider important. Swallow your pride and use any connection you can. This does not mean you are incapable of or unable to find a job yourself, it’s just a part of the initial process. Even if it means you have to get out the stationary to write a thank you note to your mom’s friend’s hairstylist’s brother, take him up on his offer that he may “know a guy.”
Of course, while rummaging through the classified sections of the newspaper or checking on monster.com (which, by the way, is an excellent Web site), don’t take yourself too seriously. I know that sounds strange after the last few paragraphs of this article, but hear me out. Despite what your parents say, with the millions of college grads per year, not everyone can be a doctor or lawyer or investment banker. Not everyone gets offered a killer job out of college and not everyone is an instant success story. Relax with this process – there is a decent chance you will spend the first year or so living in a crappy apartment with roommates or, worse yet, back at home with your folks. Take the time to save up some money, travel or do anything else that you couldn’t do in school, or won’t be able to do as soon as you land a good job. It will also behoove you to get in good with Mom and Dad (especially if you’ll be living with them), as often times they will help out with some expenses or lend you a bit of cash while you’re starting out. (Editorial note: living at home is still not cool, but may be necessary.)
There are a thousand other tips out there concerning what to wear, the interview day, where to find job listings, etc., and if you come across any other wisdom, pass it along to me. As for me, this job search thing has been looking pretty bleak, so if you need to find me, any random Taco Bell in Brooklyn is a safe bet. I’m most likely preparing the excellent choice meat and writing while I’m on break.
This article appeared in the February 18, 2003 issue of the Hatchet.