I graduated in 2011 with a degree in journalism and two internships under my belt. And, after two years of freelancing (while moonlighting as a bartender on three days a week), I can’t seem to get a “real job” no matter what I do. Am I forever doomed to have four part-time jobs?
Rachel Becker, Licensed Master in Social Work
Are you “doomed,” as you say? Absolutely not. There are always opportunities available for people who have the will and drive to change their lives, and you seem to have both in abundance. You’ve spent the last two years committing yourself to the often-challenging freelancing/moonlighting lifestyle, and that takes major guts. However, you’re obviously at a point where your professional circumstances are no longer acceptable, and you’re burnt out trying to change them — that’s normal! It just means it’s time to use that abundant will and drive to reinvent the job-hunting process as something fun and exciting — or, at the very least, compelling.
The fact is that the journalism industry is changing — even seasoned New York Times reporters are struggling — so it’s up to you to figure out whether or not you should switch to more comfortable copywriting jobs. But it sounds like you chose this path because you love it, so accept the grind for what it is but rethink your approach:
Take a week or so off your standard “real job" hunting routine, and instead take some time to picture that fulfilling and attainable work life that will one day be yours. What will your day look like? What will you spend your time thinking about and doing? Who will your coworkers be? Let yourself get lost daydreaming the possibilities, be honest with yourself, and stay open to the fact that your concept of "fulfilling work” may have evolved in surprising ways. Once you have a clear sense of what your ideal job is, reverse-engineer the steps it will take to get there… and start taking them! Yes, it may mean investing additional time, effort, and resources but if you have a clear, exciting picture of your destination, getting there becomes a labor of love, instead of a wall to bang your head against.
I will answer you using my two professional hats!
Hat 1 — Guidance Counselor:
What lousy timing that you are entering the work force in the midst of an economic recession. It can really zap your self-confidence and ignite your fear when you face that kind of rejection. But, this is a golden opportunity to hone the skills you'll need to be the total success you will surely be! All that tenacity that got you through college, grad school, and two internships will help you stick with the grueling, scary, and frustrating process of job hunting (and then creating a successful work life).
Deep breath, shoulders back — you can do this! Keep your resume tip-top perfect. (Have you had a professional head-hunter look at it and offer tips? It’s money well spent!) And, be brave enough to receive feedback from folks you interview with, even though you didn’t get the job. This can be invaluable in tweaking your interviewing skills, reorienting, or adding to your job skills and/or receiving advice to help you next time. Do this and THEN go for the chocolate!
So look at these areas and — this is the most important thing — keep going! Go on as many interviews as you can. Go out and talk to as many people as you can. Utilize social media with any spare time you have. It’s a well-known fact that word of mouth is how most people get their jobs. Talk to everyone/everywhere (bus, gym, hairdresser, dog-groomer — where ever you go, talk about you!).
Hat 2 — Therapist:
Transitioning from school to work can bring up a myriad of personal issues that, if left unchecked, can sabotage both job hunting and working. I help my clients in these critical stages of life to examine the (sometimes hidden) beliefs about themselves that can be blocking their success.
Believe me, all the 4.0 GPA’s in the world won’t trump these self-destructive messages. Dig in and change these erroneous thoughts, replace them with new feelings of self-worth, self-love, and true self-confidence and watch the opportunities start flooding your way. Good luck!