Sunday, November 3, 2013

Winging it

Ryan Reynolds' wax figure and I. Standard day at work, nbd. 

Looking back on the last two years since I've graduated, a few reigning themes come to mind. 20-something-problems is a big one. Dazed and confused and YOLO are close seconds as well.

But to be honest, even with a full-time job that I love, I will be the first to admit that I still don't have my shit together. I still don't know the first thing about being an adult. I don't understand taxes. I've tried and failed to keep a budget at least four separate times. I still haven't figured out how to successfully balance my personal and work life.

What I can tell you though, is that this is all normal. It's a part of being in your twenties that I've learned to begrudgingly accept. We aren't supposed to have our shit together. It's okay. It's okay that I drove cross-country to Los Angeles for an unpaid internship that I didn't end up getting a job at. It's okay that I worked at a restaurant to pay for rent during that time. At that moment, I kept thinking that I had somehow gotten the equation of being a post-grad wrong. But there isn't a formula on how to find the perfect job. We all sort of have to wing it.

It took me six months of working two jobs to save up for moving to Hollywood. I made sure that I had enough in the bank so that I could sustain myself for six months of unemployment. Turns out that that forward thinking was probably one of the main reasons I am still here. Sure, up and moving to a city where you have no idea what you'll be doing past three months is a little risky, but make sure you aren't entering the ring completely blind.

Tip #1: Always have a backup plan. I'm a strong believer in backup plans. They are your own personal life insurance. They recognize that things don't always go according to plan (and believe me, they rarely do), and they make you prepared for the inevitable. Backup plans allow you to keep on dreaming, but still be realistic as well. They keep you grounded.
After realizing that I would not be getting a job after my internship, I spent the next six long months unemployed. I like to refer to this time as my "freelancing" period. At first I was embarrassed that I had graduated and still didn't have a "real" job yet. I avoided calls from my mother and friends from back home because I didn't want to talk about the monotonous routine of applying to jobs every day.

And then my roommate's father told me something that ended up changing my perspective completely. He told me to enjoy my unemployment when I could, because once you get a job, you will never get a chance to again. This shifted my way of thinking, and I decided to take it heart.

Tip #2: Take advantage of unemployment when you can. Oddly enough, those six months without a job turned out to be some of the best times of my life. It was finally a chance to do all the things that I never had time to do before when I had commitments and responsibilities. I started a blog, finally. I read more. I made it a goal to do something new every day in Los Angeles and truly discovered the city that I now live in. Sure, I still applied to jobs everyday as well, and went on interviews, but I felt like the most happy, jobless person on earth.

All this free time in turn left me lots of room for creativity. I tried to see what worked and didn't work when I applied to jobs. I would try different things to see what garnered more of a response. I kept asking myself the question "why?" Why didn't that cover letter work as well as this other one? Why did my resume cause the interviewer to act that way?

Tip #3: Get creative. During those six months, I probably applied to well over 100 positions. I spent on average about an hour per application, and even more once I actually got an interview. I made a visual resume (kind of like an infographic for your resume) and a professional, traditional resume. I re-designed my portfolio so that it was more visually appealing and up to date. I analyzed my past jobs and responsibilities multiple times a day. I even submitted myself for temp jobs.

I owe this persistence in trying new things to finally landing a job. By then, I was way more well versed in my strengths and weaknesses than I was after my internship. When Madame Tussauds Hollywood called me into an interview for Marketing and Events Coordinator, I was prepared. I was confident in my answers to their questions, and I knew that my advantage over other people that were in line for the position might just be that I had more time than they did. I had time to create an in-depth presentation, I had time to design handouts for all my interviewers, and I had time to go above and beyond. I didn't have an excuse.

I've been the Marketing and Events Coordinator for almost five months now, and I couldn't be more content. I feel like everything happened for a reason (as cheesy as that might sound), and I was meant to go through that "freelancing" period so that I could learn more about myself and making it in the real world.

Now although I definitely don't expect everyone to have the same perspective as I do, I do want you to know that if you don't know what to do next, it's okay. You don't have to know. You still have so much time to figure that out. There isn't a perfect equation on how to live life after graduation...sometimes you just have to wing it.

This is a repost from one of my UNCW professor's COM Studies Capstone blog.