Let’s Talk: Don’t Suffer the Agony of Job Searching Alone

I have spent the last two months attending counseling on resumes, cover letters and interviews; applying for jobs online, and meeting with employers. I have heard sayings such as “when you don’t have a job, it is your full-time job to search for one,” and “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” I figured, it can’t be that difficult, you just put in the time and, like school, you apply where you want, they realize your merit and bam! you’ve got a dream job that you’re passionate about and pays really well… How naïve of me. I have agonised over cover letters and resumes, with each application requiring 5 hours of grueling preparation. I have been faced with rejection time after time, and all of it has had a mental toll on me. Coming out of McGill, I have hardly had to prove my merits because they were there clearly posted on my transcript. I had rarely been rejected for research or VP positions that I had wanted. Now, I am stewing in self-doubt, doubting my credentials and my ability to work, and I am unsure of what kind of work I want to do. In order to snap out of it, I have found that the greatest way to get my spirits up is to relate to others. Here are 3 groups of people that are helping me piece out this time in my life.

Family

 I grew up not knowing what my parents did but assumed that it’s what they always wanted to do and, like every adult, that they led a linear career from school to climbing the ranks in their profession. This could not be further from the truth. From late high school until now, I have been discovering various facets of my parents’, aunts’, uncles’, and grandparents’ professional lives. None of them were 100% sure of what they wanted to do when they entered the job force. They weren’t even sure of what they wanted to study in the first place. I have family that switched from philosophy to law, law to business, teaching to management, economics to management to then computer sciences… No one has it all together when they make these big life choices, so I shouldn’t feel like I should have it all together either. Asking family about how they made their choices, what their feelings were when they switched, and what they found easy and difficult has helped guide my decisions. But mostly, it has dissipated my stress about making the best decisions now. There is no optimal solution; there is a lot of trial and error and there is always time to change my path. I took a leap of faith when I decided to enter McGill for the sustainability program. In fact, it was my sole choice and university application. I was aware that I had no idea where I would go from there, but somehow I was going to make an impact. Now I realise that my degree was not supposed to tell me exactly what I would do, but just grow my knowledge, help me build skills, develop my critical thinking, and allow me to meet people with similar passions. The decisions I make from now on will shape my career the most. I need to go with the flow and try anything that peaks my interest, not just the things that I assume my degree is supposed to lead me to.

Acquaintances

I am lucky to have had experiences that have encouraged me to get out of my shell and open up to acquaintances. During my study abroad, I had to put myself out there to make friends and meet people from around the world. During travels alone, I learned to engage in conversation with passersby to make the experience more vibrant. I shared a table at a crêperie with an Asian American couple in Paris and had the greatest time!

People love to give advice. It feels great to help others and have someone learn from your experiences. Lately, I have hired a personal trainer (unfortunately not a Pokémon trainer) to help me with chronic pain associated with playing badminton competitively. He is only 2 years older than me and has just started his career. One day, I opened up about the stress that the job search was inciting in me and we sat and talked about it. He let me in on what his mentors had recommended to him, what worked, which books to read, and how to follow your dreams. Since then, he’s been asking for updates on my progress, giving me more insights, and pushing me forward in both my endeavours; physically and career-wise. I know that if I need to talk to someone who has suffered through my current situation, his ears are wide open.

A couple of weeks ago, I also engaged in a conversation with the receptionist at La Maison du Développement Durable. I asked him about the organisations in the building and how he got to where he is. Little did I know I would be standing there for two hours talking about his alternative way of making a fortune. He has plans of traveling Europe soon by living off of his savings, property gains, and answering surveys online. He is also going to kickstart a website that would teach mental health. He puts it this way: you just need to find something for which a hundred people are willing to pay a dollar a day and you’re set for life! Though I do not plan to take that approach anytime soon, and become an entrepreneur, I think it’s a good thought to keep in the back of my mind. Just goes to show, when you open up, you don’t know where the conversation will lead you.

Peers

The best way to do away with crippling anxiety is checking in with your peers and their progression; they will emulate exactly what you are feeling right now. I do not mean check out their Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds, but rather real face to face interaction. I have many friends, acquaintances, and family members that tell me seeing other people’s accomplishments online makes them feel like they aren’t moving fast enough in their career, they’re not making enough money, or that they’re not successful enough. Social media, I think we can agree, tends to only show us the best side of every individual: all the highs, not as much of the lows. I attended a wine and cheese hosted by the sustainability program and my highly accomplished friend told me how when applying for jobs she went through waves of “I am confident!” “wait no, I am not confident,” and “I have skills,” “actually I don’t know how to do anything.” I felt so represented in what she had to say and in that moment the stress turned into humour. Meanwhile, other students in my program actually turned to me for advice and somehow I felt like I haven’t stagnated during this job searching process; I have learned and taken steps to get closer to finding a job, and I have some insight on the whole process.

Peers are also more likely to know what kinds of opportunities are out there. You become a bit of a research group. We can recommend sites to each other, teachers to talk to, and organisations that are looking. Like school, finding a job should not be a competition among your peers; you should seek to study together and help each other in order to improve all of your prospects (even though you might be applying to the same position).

Though it may seem redundant to address the subject of your job search, sometimes it’s not about venting your concerns and worries, it’s just about listening to others’ experiences.

  1. Asking family members about their careers will make you realize that you do not need to follow a linear path to a successful career, just try what peaks your fancy and go from there.
  2. Acquaintances, or really anybody, love(s) to give advice. You should try opening up to people you feel comfortable with and, who knows, they may become your mentor.
  3. Many people are in exactly the same situation as you. Converse with your peers so you don’t feel alone and help each other throughout the process.
  4. You don’t always have to talk through your worries, sometimes simply listening is just as effective.
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