Straight after doing my undergrad, I signed up for a one year Masters program (International Employment Relations and HR) in the UK. School there started at the very end of September, and in December, I came to the terrifying realization that I had missed a lot of the ‘milkrounds’ – what they call the job application process for new graduates! A few months into school and ‘poof’ – my chances of joining a bunch of the most elite companies had all but disappeared (or so I thought at the time)! So while juggling crazy amounts of reading, writing, and ok, visiting the many historic pubs that London has to offer, I started firing off applications left, right, and center. And almost just as fast as I sent my applications out, the declines started pouring in. I remember after spending a ton of time on one online application, I got a decline in about 60 seconds. Makes you feel like a great use of your afternoon, right?
There are a few points to my sob story. First, don’t just apply for ‘graduate’ roles, the kind of entry-level job designed specifically for people with undergrad degrees and no experience. Of course they’re relevant to you, and of course you can apply. But these are depressingly competitive. Lots of top companies will get thousands, yes thousands, of applications for each open spot they’re going to fill. Graduate jobs aren’t right for everyone anyway. Ages ago when I graduated, I got an offer to do HR consulting as part of a graduate scheme. I hated the idea that they could tell me what level I’d get promoted to after two years. What if I was better than everyone else? Why shouldn’t I be promoted early? And yes, confidence evidently wasn’t a big problem for me! ;)
The second point to my story is that applying for jobs is a numbers game. You can’t apply to five or ten jobs and give up when you don’t hear back. I am sure you’ve heard it before, but you have to treat finding a job as a job in and of itself. Set yourself a target for each day. Maybe there aren’t ten ‘perfect’ jobs advertised, but be open minded and apply to some you’re not sure about. If you get interviewed, you’ll meet new people, learn about an organization and industry, and who knows what it could lead to. Maybe there’s another role that you’d be perfect for that they haven’t advertised? Plus anytime you get offered a job, it’s not like you have to accept it. Finally, apply to some where you think you’re a little under qualified. Obviously don’t go overboard but for the most part, ‘requirements’ are really just designed to keep vastly inappropriate people away from applying and wasting HR’s time. Girls – this applies especially to you. The (somewhat sexist – sorry guys!) joke in companies is that women don’t apply for a role unless they have 100% of the requirements, and men apply if they have 20%. Seriously though, don’t rule yourself out. The worst thing that can happen is that you get a ‘no’.
I know lots of you are probably feeling a bit rejected as the declines start coming in, or as nothing comes in at all (very typical, and highly annoying from a candidate perspective). Remind yourself that it’s happened to all of us, it’s a numbers game, and that each ‘no’ is a step closer to the first ‘yes’. Oh, and so as not to tease you with the heading of this post… I actually got about three interviews. But the job I took in the end wasn’t one I ever even interviewed for – that’s another story though :)
So how are you dealing with the inevitable rejection letters? What strategies are you adopting to cope? Put down the ice cream, alcohol, or other vice of choice and post a comment below!