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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Graduate job hunting: To sell out, or not to sell out?

Read what Holly McCluskey our very own trainee editor has to say about not selling out when graduate job hunting. 

My best advice for job hunters might be easier said than done, but it’s also the best way to remain sane during the slog to success: don’t sell out.

Two months into my job search, I began to panic. I wanted more than anything to work in media or publishing, and was seriously struggling to find anything at all appealing. All I could find were unpaid internships, based hundreds of miles away in London, at the kind of magazines that might appear as guest publications on Have I Got News For You.

I took an approach that would usually be considered a positive one: I started widening my search to other sorts of jobs. Now, I wouldn’t want to discourage anyone else from doing this, because people often find jobs that are perfect for them in areas not previously considered. My problem was that I stopped thinking about what I was interested in and began to apply for everything that I thought I could probably do.

I found one job, in particular, that I met the criteria for. It was vaguely related to writing and media, and so given my comically low bank balance and dwindling self-esteem, I poured my energy into writing a cover letter that was overloaded with enthusiasm and sent it off along with my CV.

Exactly 19 minutes later, the hiring manager called to ask whether I could attend an interview that week. I said yes. Brilliant! I had obviously impressed him so much that he felt the need to snap me up! I had successfully tricked him, and myself, into thinking that this job was The One!

I showed up to the interview feeling nervous but positive. I had spent time researching the company and the job, I’d thought of all my answers to all of the questions I might be asked, and now all I had to was remember everything.  

But the first question was the only one I hadn’t prepared for: “Why do you want this job? Why would you want to leave media behind?” 

My heart sank. He was right: why did I want abandon everything I had been working towards? This job was by no means a bad one: it paid well, it was in London, and there would be a lot of perks. But I had always been interested in writing from a neutral perspective and in this case I would be writing solely to toe a particular line. I knew that I wouldn’t like it.

I spent the next two hours (yes, two hours) telling the interviewer how much I was interested in this job and how great I would be at doing it. He told me that he was impressed and would arrange a second interview. We parted, and as soon as I had made it to the safety of my car I burst into tears.

Dramatic, I know. But I felt ashamed of myself for giving up so easily, and embarrassed that I had come to the point where I was apparently willing to do something I would hate. After a bottle of wine and several days of thinking it over, I turned down my second interview and I’m yet to regret it.

I didn’t find another job straight away, but I did find a fresh focus. I even had some of my pride restored; it was good to know that I wasn’t the type to give up (and at least it had been me to turn someone down).

Now, I have a new job that is much more suited to me and I am happier than ever that I didn’t go to that second interview. I’m sure that whoever got that job will be equally satisfied, but it just wasn’t right for me, and that’s what everyone needs to think about when that paralysing sense of desperation begins to creep in.

Times are tough, but abandoning your goals will only make them tougher. 

Thanks for the post Holly! If you want to get in touch find Holly on Twitter @hollykmc 

If you are yet to find your focus why not visit our Degree Matcher page as a first step to finding out which careers best match your future qualification. If however you already know what career path to follow why not see how to fine tune your hunt further by looking at our specific career sector pages.