Staying Motivated During the Job Search

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by: Porter Searcy ’11

“Graduation is a week away and I don’t have a job.” Sound familiar? You’re not alone.

Through sharing my own story and the struggles that go along with it, I hope to shed some insight into the difficulties of the ever-impending job search process. To help frame the story, I’ll first describe a bit of my own background and qualifications.

After graduating with BBA in International Business, I joined the Peace Corps in Costa Rica for two years as a small business development volunteer. I then stayed on a third year as the Coordinator of the Small Business Program while moonlighting as a pro-bono microfinance consultant. After returning to the States and beginning my studies at Thunderbird, I’ve been involved in a number of consulting projects ranging from co-leading a TEM Lab in Guatemala to working on a technology transfer project in Mexico this past summer. Now, I’m a week away from graduation and am still trying to land an offer.

I had assumed that if I played my cards right (i.e. Get good grades, be involved on campus, network with Alums at organizations where I want to work, and practice my STARS!) that it would only be a matter of time before something came through. To boot, I decided to postpone my graduation for one more trimester and take six credits this Fall in order to have ample time to land a job. So I began networking this past summer at a variety of organizations, primarily in the International Development field in DC. I began by flying to Washington DC for a week to set up informational interviews and begin the networking process. I made some great contacts and upon returning to campus kept emailing everyone I could find. These efforts resulted in primarily two outcomes:

1. A misfortune of meeting individuals that had become bitter about the field over the years.
2. “Sorry, Porter, but due to X reason, chances are slim that this organization will be hiring anytime soon”.

“Alright…”, I told myself, “Time for Plan B”. I decided that perhaps my unique background could be a good fit for the private sector. With many corporate recruiting cycles taking place in the Fall, I spent ample time and effort looking for organizations that would be a good fit and began networking and reworking my approach with help from both the CMC and Professor Macdonald. The results were quite promising; I landed six first round interviews which then turned into three second round interviews. Unfortunately, to-date, two of the second round interviews have both turned into rejections. In one instance, I was told “You did excellent on your case study and we think you would be a great fit, but unfortunately we want you to have more experience”. I restrained myself from responding “If experience was an issue, why did you invite me to this second round after reading my resume and already interviewing me?” I started to get so many rejections that I felt like I was back in High School again.

So with one second round interview still in the pipeline, here I am about to embark into the real world, which I like to characterize as “Pay-off-your-loans time”, with no foreseeable income stream in sight. The statistics are in our favor: The unemployment estimates for people with Professional degrees is around 4%. However, favorable employment statistics aren’t quite the softest hand to coax you to sleep each night if you’re not gainfully employed.

So I am now on to Plan C, which is comprised of an even more focused networking strategy, and catering even the minutiae of the wording of my resume to the wording of each specific job description. In January and February, I plan to move to the DC area to hold more face-to-face interviews. It has been a long and frustrating road thus far (although quite educational!), but giving up or slowing down simply isn’t in the cards and would prove to be highly counterproductive.

Although this story does not have a happy ending just yet, the comforting side of my situation is that I am not alone. It is very easy to focus on the success stories; of friends and classmates that landed dream jobs and recent graduates that are already gainfully employed. However, many more people are in your same shoes and can be a good support network to learn from each others’ mistakes and, if nothing else, vent to someone with a truly empathetic ear. Especially if that person has the additional preoccupation of finding a company that sponsors work visas!

To close, there is a quote from former US President Teddy Roosevelt that I keep reminding myself:

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

Most, if not all of us graduating in December, will probably be fully employed within the first few months of 2012, but don’t give up hope in the meantime – you’re not alone.

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