For some, college graduation used to be a blurry concept that’s become a set date just weeks away. While this means being done with education forever if grad school isn’t in your future, it also means being thrown into the real world where the number of available entry-level jobs and number of recent grads applying for those positions just does not match up. Although so many of us have all the experience we need from interviewing for internships to working summer jobs, the full-time career search is a whole other game that seems impossible to win. It could be easier at the end of the day to just give up, but I’ve found from other grads’ experiences that staying positive throughout the process is the key to being persistent and ultimately landing your dream role. To keep your hopes up and your head high during this extensive process, read on to see some of the inspiring stories of recent and upcoming grads who found their jobs through the power of positivity.
Their dedication to helping me achieve my goals gave me the strength I needed to carry on.
“When I was looking for marketing jobs, I found a marketing coordinator position at Brewery Ommegang. After months of varying interview rounds, my experience was exhausting and a lot of work—especially the interview assignment. However, by the final interview, I was determined to land this job. I put in a lot of effort to the assignment, and it paid off. A week later, I received a phone call for my job offer! Before, I was set that I was going to end up in a fashion-based company; however, I learned fast that the fashion industry is cutthroat, and it didn’t match too well with my personality. I came to a realization that social media and marketing were my passions, and it didn’t matter what industry I was working for. During the interview process for Brewery Ommegang, I kept asking myself, ‘Is this really what I want to do?’. I was set that I was going to end up in the fashion industry, and I always saw myself as a city girl, so to make the move to upstate New York was a big step for me. Even when I landed the job, I was applying to last-minute openings in the area to see if I could snag a job close to NYC. However, there was no bite, and I took that as a sign that this job was meant for me.
The job market is terrible. After too many unsuccessful interviews, it started taking a toll on my confidence. There were days of doing nothing but applying and nights of worrying that I wasn’t going to land a full-time career. My family and friends did everything they could to help me out. Their dedication to helping me achieve my goals gave me the strength I needed to carry on. My confidence slowly grew back and I told myself every day that something will come my way, and I will love it.” — College Fashionista alum Katie Keogh, marketing coordinator at Brewery Ommegang
For future grads: keep trying until you get what you want, and don’t settle for something just because it is more convenient.
“I am currently an assistant apparel designer at Decor Apparel, but I had a really difficult time finding a position within the fashion industry. I applied to over 150 companies over the course of a month. I can see how people give up and work retail right out of school since it truly is as competitive as people say. Initially, I was actually hired on as a full-time paid intern at Decor Apparel, but was hired as a designer within two weeks because of my performance. Before landing a job, I started by applying to only places I was interested in, but after a few weeks, I opened my applications up to everything available. While searching, I did go through times where I was sad and felt really deflated. I reached out to my family and friends a lot for encouragement, but sometimes even they were doubtful. I had to remind myself that I moved to L.A. for a reason and that it wasn’t going to be easy. I reminded myself of all that I had accomplished and that my journey in fashion wasn’t going to end here.
I couldn’t be happier with my current job. The work environment is so positive, and I got the position that I have been working for for such a long time. I design for some really extraordinary brands, and I feel so blessed to have this role. I am still working toward my goals, but I am happy to be where I am. It definitely was not easy. I graduated with a 4.0, a bomb portfolio, and a great résumé and it still took so long to get a position. For future grads: keep trying until you get what you want, and don’t settle for something just because it is more convenient.” — College Fashionista alum Brenna Yeager, assistant apparel designer at Decor Apparel
I didn’t limit myself at all and instead kept discovering things, embracing every opportunity I was provided, and zeroed in on the things that actually made me happy.
“As much as I like to talk about how frustrating and exhausting my job search was, in actuality, I do think I was very blessed with how it worked out because I am currently an intern at Ivy, which is where my future position is. I made clear to my boss and coworkers that I wanted to continue working at Ivy, but that I didn’t want to live in D.C. after graduation. One thing that surprised me was that I told them I wanted to be in San Francisco or New York, but only L.A. was hiring. That’s when everything started to point to L.A., and I decided to go with the flow and embrace it. I had a bunch of internships that made no sense because for a long time, I thought that I was going to work in international affairs. After years of finance experience, I found performing arts-related jobs because I am also a dance major, and these were the first times I realized that this is what I wanted to do. Then I heard about Ivy, a company that combines both art and business, which was ideal, especially because there were positions in California, which is where my sights were set.
I am really excited about this position, but it’s not something that I see myself doing for the rest of my life. I’m not doing my ‘dream job’—I’m doing a cool job, but at the end of the day, I want to work in arts management. I will go to grad school eventually, get my Masters in Arts Administration, and then work directly for a performing arts organization, but in order to get there, I feel like there are steps I need to take before I get to grad school. The job is actually really ideal—what better way to make a platform for myself in the L.A. arts community than to be involved in a networking organization for people who have a passion for the arts? I had a dance professor who used to use this phrase ‘dig in the dirt.’ When she would say this, it just meant to start with an idea, and then continue to build on it and explore it until you find the thing that you were meant to find. She meant that in terms of choreography, but I also apply it to life in general. I started with finance positions, and then I just kept digging through my other internship experiences, and it kept evolving. I didn’t limit myself at all and instead kept discovering things, embracing every opportunity I was provided, and zeroed in on the things that actually made me happy.” — Marlee Grant, George Washington University class of 2018, incoming community growth manager at Ivy
You don’t have to go the straight and narrow path.
“I’m horrible at job hunting, so it was great that I got pretty lucky with my current position: a strategic consulting intern with TMI Agency at DoSomething.org. I spent a lot of time on the application because the organization’s mission resonated really deeply with me, and I felt super passionately about the role. The interview and practical process ended up being a quick turnaround which made things easier on my end. Prior to this role, I actually didn’t have too much internship experience other than my remote/in-office work with College Fashionista. I instead spent a lot of my time at my college, Pace University, working part-time jobs and getting involved at my school. I think that all professional and leadership experiences are going to be relevant in your career journey.
I’m still in the midst of a search for a full-time job a year after graduating. I’m not worried or embarrassed, but things definitely haven’t gone as planned. I actually put off finding a full-time position for a while, as I didn’t feel mentally or professionally ready to commit to one role just yet. I decided to keep interning as a way to build up my skills and experience while I figured out my life, and I feel so much more confident going into the post-grad job search. You don’t have to go the straight and narrow path. Remember that it’s fine if you go live with your parents after graduation. It’s fine if you work a part-time job before landing a full-time one—there’s absolutely no shame in this! I know it can be so easy to compare yourself to others, especially when everyone posts on social about their latest accomplishments, but you can’t base your own journey off of what your peers are doing.” — College Fashionista alum Briana Iacia, strategic consulting intern with TMI Agency at DoSomething.org
I realized that it’s okay if I don’t know what my ‘dream job’ is, as long as I’m happy with what I’m doing in the moment.
“I returned from Scotland in the fall of 2016, where I obtained a Masters Degree in Education, and at the time, I could only apply for unpaid positions because I was not yet authorized to work in the U.S. as I didn’t have my green card yet. So I applied for unpaid internships in the D.C. area. Right now, I’m the programs and logistics director at the PEN/Faulkner Foundation, a literary arts non-profit. My path to this position was probably atypical since I started at PEN/Faulkner as an intern and was offered the full-time position at the end of my internship. That being said, I will acknowledge that the internship search was incredibly trying. I was limited since I had to look only for unpaid positions, which made things all the more discouraging.
It’s really tough to stay positive, especially when you don’t hear back about a position you really wanted, or if you feel like you were incredibly awkward during an interview. But my biggest motivator was simply that I needed to find something to do to get more experience. I absolutely could not have predicted that I’d end up here when I was in college—I thought I was going to be a teacher! When I was offered my current position, I was ecstatic, but it is definitely not something I was planning for. I realized that it’s okay if I don’t know what my ‘dream job’ is, as long as I’m happy with what I’m doing in the moment. It doesn’t matter to me if that matches my expectations for my ideal career path, or even others’ expectations for me. Stay open-minded! You have to remember that it’s not just your degree that makes you an asset in the workforce, it’s you as a whole person. So don’t close yourself off from fields or jobs that don’t directly align with your major, and focus instead on what you are passionate about and what you’re good at.” — Shahenda Helmy, programs and logistics director at PEN/Faulkner Foundation
The best way to stay positive is knowing that you are still following your plan and that you’ll be ready when the time comes.
“Since graduation, I wanted a job where I could save up until I move to New York City. I’m still working on a full-time position, but for now, I am freelance writing and working as a sales associate at Kate Spade. Finding a job after college is definitely exhausting, but you have to go about it with a plan. I planned on saving money and just happened to apply to Kate Spade, but have found that this position gives me a lot of experience in public relations and the fashion industry, which has helped me so much with my resume. Even though it’s not my dream job, I’ve grown to love the brand and see this job as a stepping stone into my next career move.
Sometimes I am very impatient about moving, but I know when I do it will all be in the right timing. The best way to stay positive is knowing that you are still following your plan and that you’ll be ready when the time comes. The experiences you make along the way at small jobs is what will help you in the long run for your ‘real’ job. Kate Spade has become a job that makes me happy for now and the knowledge I’ve gained will be very resourceful. Everything you do prepares you for what you will be doing in the future. If you graduate without a ‘real’ job right away, don’t be discouraged because it gives you extra time to map out exactly what you want to do instead of getting stuck with a job that you don’t like just to pay rent.” — College Fashionista alum Peyton Lee, sales associate at Kate Spade and freelance writer
Do you have any tips on staying positive during the job search from your own personal experience? Let us know in the comments!
Featured photo by @emelylopezr.