Are you weary from job searching? I’ve been there. Leading up to my college graduation from Auburn, I had spent about six months applying for jobs without any return. I submitted my application for a concierge position at an American ski lodge in Germany; if everything else failed, I had planned for my escape to the French Alps! Even without the promise of a job, graduation came in May.
By July I had applied to sixty-five jobs, most which I never received confirmation from, let alone any promise of slight possibility. I made calls to strangers, graciously accepted rejection letters, guiltily requested feedback on failed interviews, and felt like nothing more than a pest and a burden to everyone I spoke with. My closest friend—who was experiencing challenges of the same sort during that time—theorized that “our feeling burdensome might have something to do with our being women, who are taught they should take up the least amount of space as possible.” My approach to job searching changed immeasurably from that revelation onward.
Truthfully, I didn’t immediately become brazen following my friend’s reminder of my oppression and, thus also, my empowerment; I still hesitated to send the contact emails that I knew had the potential to turn back an opportunity. What did return to me—if not the full dosage of my confidence and courage, at first—was my awareness. And it felt like coming up from the bottom of the ocean. I began standing in awe of my own silence with an awareness of the moment and manner in which it quieted my spirit. From there I slowly found my voice and began writing—everything, but mostly reminders to myself and maybe others, too: that my thoughts have weight, that my voice is powerful, and that I have every right to implement both.
I developed a “how to” guide to getting hired. My steps are few, because I think they go a long way toward empowering women to find their voices and land a job they desire. Though I’ve since landed a job in the publishing services field (where I always hoped to be), I continue to live by these guidelines:
DO ONE MORE THING EVERY DAY THAN YOU THINK YOU CAN HANDLE
Running is one of my favorite forms of stress relief, and so I did it a lot while I was job searching. As both my stress and my mileage increased, I challenged myself to do just a bit more everyday than I thought was physically possible. Pushing my body physically translated to other habits too, and, as they related to looking for work, I became more motivated to make schedules, stick to lists, and treat finding a job like the full-time job it was.
As I became more physically disciplined, I felt increasingly more connected to the decisions I was making off the treadmill. I started to recognize that everything I did had weight—and during a time when my efforts felt largely fruitless, finding significance in my life was incredibly empowering. With this, I pushed myself to maintain a constant awareness of myself: my body, my mind, my emotions. I found it liberating to keep track of these small, constant marks of progress.
ACCEPT YOUR LIMITS
In college, I created lists that outlined everything I had to accomplish for the week, the month, the semester. That habit persists and was one I had to break when I was job hunting in full stride. The feeling of failure—every time I couldn’t complete a list to “search job postings” and “find a job” in the same day—was crippling. Once I accepted my limits, my days spent searching became not only much less stressful, but also more successful.
TAKE UP SPACE
Send emails you feel hesitant about, for fear that your name in the HR manager’s inbox is intrusive. Make cold calls without warning—leave a message, urging someone to contact you about a potential opportunity. Learn to feel that taking someone’s time makes you smart, not burdensome. The likelihood of your name standing out in someone’s mind is higher when you’ve made contact fifteen times than if you’ve been afraid to call once. You are not a burden.
DON’T PLAY THE GENDER CARD
As a proud feminist, I stand for gender equality. I am not, however, naïve enough to think that ignoring female oppression will balance the scales. And yet, I stand by this point: don’t play the gender card. This may likely lessen my credibility for some, but I hope that others understand my point. As women, we should be aware of our disadvantages—and with that awareness we should also assert our capabilities right alongside the rest of humanity. When you enter the workplace—and you will, if that’s what you’re working toward—you won’t want others limiting your power given your gender, so don’t give yourself a fair excuse to cultivate those thoughts so early in the process.
DON’T JUST JOB SEARCH
Maintain your sense of self; otherwise, you’re more likely to become anything a potential employer wants you to be. Make music, bake, spend time with your family, watch your favorite movies—and don’t feel guilty while you do it. Applying for jobs during every moment of your waking hours is likely to turn back more results, and it will also wipe your reservoir of emotion, personality, and stamina clean. For too long, I placed my value in what sort of work I wanted to be doing. As a result—while I wasn’t working at all—I felt infinitely invaluable. You are not your job. Your job should reflect you: your skills, your lifestyle, your priorities. So maintain those things while you search for ways to implement the skills that make you most valuable.
Always. Constantly. Every time you stand. With clear or jumbled thoughts; with tact or crudity. And do not let anyone limit your thoughts or encourage you to stifle your own voice.