Now, for the bad news that you already know: the job market right now sucks. So damn bad. Wildly bad. It was never this hard for our parents to find work. Education has never been this expensive. We, the Millennials/Generation Y, have been royally screwed over.
And somehow, we're still supposed to go out there and find a job. Because we need money to survive, pay bills, pay off student loans, etc. etc. We're supposed to find that traditional kind of job that our parents found. The one with job security and benefits and a cleanly printed out job description. You know the kind I'm talking about.
Too bad you have to give an arm and a leg these days to even lock down one of those gigs.
Some of you might be thinking, "God, if I could avoid this headache of job hunting, I'd do it."
That's the thing: we were rarely told that we have other options. Because there are so many ways to make money outside of the 9-5 office jobs everyone and their grandmother are applying for (joking, grandma is still at the job she's had for decades because older generations aren't retiring, resulting in a lack of openings for the hordes of young people being pumped out of schools every damn year).
Here's my story: I graduated from my public relations program exactly 2 years ago. During my program, my aspiration was to one day be a published author while working as a social media freelancer/strategist. When I considered those aspirations, I was thinking 5 years down the road, if I was lucky.
Turns out the time, for one of those at least, came a little sooner than expected. Turns out that time was 4 months after graduating.
As new grads, the job market for us is absolute shit. Really, truly, a steaming pile of crap. My partner's struggle in his job hunt after graduation, having graduated at the top of his class with a golden resume and a work ethic like no other, spoke enough to how screwed we are.
That's why, when presented with the opportunity to avoid it, and be self-sustainable from my social media business, I jumped at the chance. If you're reading this, you're probably thinking the same thing., "Man, that would be damn nice."
So, who am I? Gillian Sisley. 24 years old. Recent enough graduate. BA, ADpPR. Writer. Teapot enthusiast. Also, full-time CEO and social media strategist of The Clever Quill.
Maybe you've thought about being an entrepreneur, or you're considering starting your own business because a) you've always wanted to be your own boss, b) you're going to pull out your hair if you need to write up another cover letter so maybe you'll just go with your business idea, or c) you're so damn tired of this pathetic job market and think you have a marketable service/product that can eventually make you money.
Good for you-- you're the way of the future, and have more balls than 98% of your graduating class.
So, how can you do it? The ways are countless, but here's some insight as to how I did it:
I went back to school, but not for my masters degree.
As much as I loved university, it was clear to me upon graduating how damn ambiguous my Bachelor of Arts was in my future career, and the workforce in general. Like, there are only so many opportunities for a French/International Development major with a minor in Chinese. My prospects of applying my skills were bleak, particularly in my city. Besides, these days undergraduate degrees are the new high school diploma. I needed to stand out, and wanted something more applied, so I went back to community college for an intensive advanced diploma in a niche industry: public relations.
I put networking first, and my grades second.
If my instructors see this, they’ll probably kill me. But here goes nothing.
Sure, good grades are important. But there comes a time, particularly in a career/industry-focused program, when the difference between a 70% and a 90% is very minimal. With 30+ others finishing the year with the same diploma as you, that piece of paper alone won't give you the edge you need. You've got to set yourself apart from them... but how?
Networking, that's the key. Get to know people who are already in your field. Create personal bonds with them. Invest in relationship with them. It's said that these days 80% of jobs in the market are never advertised. So how can people even apply to them? They're recommended/given a tip by a mentor or acquaintance who hears word of the opening. It can take one opportunity to really blow your career out of the water. And it only takes knowing one right person to hear about that golden opportunity.
I volunteered my ass off to get tangible experience.
Story of our lives-- you open a job posting that looks perfect, only to read "3-5 years experience required". Why entry level positions require a minimum of 3 years sort of defeats the purpose of "entry-level". Silliness. But this is the crippling world we as new grads are facing. So, how the hell do you get real work experience if you can't even get a job to begin with!? Relax, breathe. You've got a few options:
For me, this meant starting out as a volunteer social media coordinator for a local fundraising association. I worked this position during my PR program, and year afterwards. My then-supervisor is now one of my closest friends.
I paid my dues, grabbed the bull by the horns and took the terrifying dive, even though it was risky as hell.
It's worthy to note that I did these steps in order. When my undergraduate degree wasn't going to be sufficient, I went back to community college to take an advanced diploma in public relations. That meant clocking 80 hour weeks for 8 solid months studying, going to class, networking, volunteering and working three part-time jobs. From there, I went on to do my work term at an amazing marketing agency (I spent 5 months working relationships in order to secure that position). I started my business while working at that agency to bring in some extra income to satisfy my travel bug. From there, I jumped around a few contracts, and spent 2 solid months unemployed. During that time, I focused my energy on building my business as I looked for a full-time job.
One morning, I woke up and looked at how much my business was bringing in, and realized I was 2/3 of the way to being entirely self-sustainable. With heart-pounding fear and excitement, I decided to dive full-throttle into running my business and doing what I love. And that's where I'm at today.
The biggest keys to my success have been two things: rigorous hard work and quality mentors. But I can't stress the mentorship part strongly enough. From clients to supervisors to former instructors, my greatest success comes in the form of their belief in me. When I told them that I was breaking free from the traditional 9-5 idea, and that I was in the market for new clients, they sent over a dozen recommendations immediately. Mind. Blown.
You can't beat solid mentorship. And the secret to being a quality mentee is to always be grateful. Offer to volunteer or help your mentors, and thank them regularly for their support and help as you've gone along in your journey. Always, always be gracious.
Most importantly, follow your heart. At the end of the day, money is money. It will come and go with every passing day. But don't make the mistake of idly letting each passing day come and go. Life is too precious and valuable to waste being miserable and putting your dreams on hold.
Oh, and when you make the break, prepare to hear the following from your family:
You'll prove them wrong one day, even if your climb to success isn't so cut and dry. But who really cares, because when you finally get there, you’re paying your bills (after 6+ months of things being tight) and you're happier, more fulfilled and loving this precious thing called life.
Here's to you, potential entrepreneur. You're one in a million.
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