512 job applications in eight months. That’s how I spent my senior year. I submitted roughly three applications each day, spent hours researching each company and said countless no’s to going out with my friends so that I could stay in working on cover letters and sending out follow up emails. My friends urged me to reconsider. “Jamie, you have to enjoy this last year of college! This is the last time ever that you’ll have no real responsibilities,” they’d tell me. I didn’t agree. I saw my senior year as the greatest challenge and responsibility of my life: setting myself up for professional success.
My post-graduation dream was to move to New York City and to work in financial services — one of the most competitive industries to break into in the Northeast. I knew it was going to be extremely challenging for me to get my foot in the door as a first-generation college student and graduate of a small liberal arts college in Florida with little internship experience and zero family connections. I needed to build a lucrative professional network in addition to blindly sending in job applications. Time I’d usually spend hanging out with my friends was replaced with cultivating relationships with new “friends” (a.k.a. LinkedIn connections), my school's alumni office staff and strangers who were willing to meet me for coffee to chat with me about their career.
Many people in my life cast doubt on my goals.They advised me to apply for finance positions closer to home. At first, I listened. But walking out of the interviews with smaller Florida companies, I felt underwhelmed. I regretted my decision to listen to other people's opinions. This was my future and my job search should be a personal experience. Eventually, I learned to drown out the noise. I continued applying, learning new skills, networking, and building professional relationships.
It wasn’t easy. I was rejected from 98% of the jobs I applied to. Succinct rejections flooded my inbox (in some ways, the cutting silence from the majority of the positions I had applied to was even worse). The rejections made me feel as if the whole world was against me.
But I can say now that it was all worth it. This month, I packed up my clothes to move to New York City and to start a job at a globally prestigious investment bank. Looking back at those last eight months, I'm incredibly proud of myself for being resilient and overcoming adversity to get to this point. In the end, my friends came to realise how much my career meant to me and my doubters look at me stunned and ask, “how did you do it?” I came across an article during one of my “googling” sprees about job hunting that stunned me with the statistic : Men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them. I was a victim to this statistic. I constantly felt like I wasn’t 100% qualified because of the ongoing rejections and people who told me my dreams were out of reach. It was when I gained confidence in my own abilities to follow through with my goals that I became successful.
I am no longer fearful of not being 100% qualified. I want to approach my career and life after graduation with this continued mindset. The finance industry can be discouraging — and it’s a notoriously male-dominated sector. Nevertheless, strong women in finance such as ElleVest CEO Sallie Krawcheck and Stacey Cunningham, the first female president of the New York Stock Exchange, have paved the way for female advancement in the industry. I hope to one day follow in the footsteps of these role models and become an influential business leader. Their success reminded me my dreams are possible, even when those rejections left me feeling like they were out of reach.
Now that I’ve landed a job, it’s time to focus on my next set of dreams for the future. I aim to become a C-suite executive of a global company, to be the first person in my family to earn an Ivy League MBA and to start a nonprofit that focuses on empowering first generation women in business.
Yes, I am very well aware these are big dreams for someone who was rejected from a supermajority of entry level jobs. But I won’t give up until I make them my reality.
Jamie Ngo graduated from Rollins College with a degree in Economics. She is officially a resident of New York City and recently started her career in finance. You can see her profile on Linkedin.