About a year ago a Facebook post popped up on my timeline that read, “After two long years of trying and trying, I have finally succeeded and gotten a new job! Never give up on what you are looking for! Eventually you will get it.” At this point, when I read this post, I had been looking for a new job for about a year.
For a variety of reasons, around two years ago I started getting the itch to look for a new job. I’m going to preface all of this by saying, I have never really had an issue getting a job. I had a job straight out of college in NYC, when I lived in Houston, Nordstrom hired me pretty soon after I moved back to Houston, and my current job also hired me immediately after my time at Nordstrom.
But something was definitely different this time around. As I would apply for jobs, and would rarely hear back, it would become more and more discouraging. It was as if I was being dumped or ghosted by a date, which was most likely also happening during the two years of me looking for my job. Getting dumped by your job, and in your personal life was definitely a beat down on the ego. I remember talking to my friends, over and over, about applying for a job, being excited about it, and then never hearing back. I felt like I was being so negative at at times, but it was truly how I felt, like a failure and like I wasn’t moving forward in my life at all. I felt stuck.
As I continued to apply, and get rejected, one day on my Facebook feed a company open house job fair popped up. I did some research on the company, and it seemed like a great fit, and most importantly, at least for me, there seemed to be potential to move up. So I put on my hot pink suit pants, and a black blazer, and went to the open house. At this point, my ego had been so deflated from so many rejections that I honestly felt like I wouldn’t be fit for any job. But regardless of the past, I walked in with my head held high, and I literally gave myself a little pep talk before as I sat in my car and I said aloud, “YOU CAN DO THIS. YOU HAVE DONE IT BEFORE, SO DO IT AGAIN!” I walked in the door, a guy in the elevator said to me, “Are you here for the open house?” I said, “Yes, I am, I don’t really have experience in this particular field, but I have confidence I could do this job.” He said, “Well, I used to be in the real estate market in Arizona.” In that moment, I was like oh great, I don’t have the exact experience, but I could tell in just that few minutes of talking to that guy, that I did have one thing that he didn’t, a great personality (sorry, I don’t mean to be rude or put down anyone, but I could tell regardless, that it would make me stand apart). I walked in the door, and there were about 20 individuals from the company waiting to speak with the candidates. I made sure that I gave a strong handshake and met every single one of them, and not only that, I asked who the HR person was, went up to her, gave her my resume, and said, “When can I expect to hear back from you?” She immediately asked me what job I was interested in, and walked me over to the team manager and said, “You need to meet this girl.” At the end of the conversation with the team manager, he literally said out loud, “WE WANT HER! (pointing at me!),” And I couldn’t have been more thrilled.
The next day, I wrote each of the people that I had met a thank you note, and a few of them contacted me back, including HR, inviting me for an in person interview. I ended up going in for 3 interviews, and several more phone calls later, and they eventually offered me a job, however at $10,000 dollars less than I was making now. I remember sitting in my car and being so upset, because it seemed like the dream job, but for me, making that much less, wasn’t an option since I already work 7 days a week. Even though this opportunity didn’t work out, I had forgotten was it was like to feel wanted, confident in my job, and like I was of value, and this one moment gave me the little push I needed to keep on going and a reminder that I would be an asset to a company.
Anyone who personally knows me knows that this has been probably one of the most challenging times in my life. If I look back in my email inbox, or my shared drive that I have been storing my resumes and cover letters in, and keep in mind there were about 75 or so that were mistakenly deleted because I kept them in my trash bin, and it was accidentally deleted (I’ll save that story for another day), I counted 180, yes 180, cover letters and resumes. That means that I applied to around 100 jobs. Out of those 100 jobs, I would say that around 35% eventually got around to letting me know that I didn’t get the job a month or two later, 50% never got back to me at all, and probably around 15% I had some sort of interview with, meaning a phone, video, or in person interview. Of that 15% I would say a couple were from connections, and all of the rest were from just sending applications in or cold emails.
I went to an all day interview, yes it was literally all day, where I pitched the company, did team exercises, and interviewed with the CEO; I created a powerpoint in two days for a 2000 person event, where I mapped out all of the logistics and decor for an eco friendly convention, video interviewed with people from Australia to San Francisco, and spent numerous hours writing and re-writing resumes, cover letters, and thank you notes.
I will tell you this, it was embarrassing. Over the two years, I stopped telling my friends that I had an interview because I was so tired and embarrassed of telling them that I didn’t end up getting the job. There would also be times that I was SO confident that I would get the job, and I was so excited about it, and then I wouldn’t get it and I would be so let down. After a while, I learned to not get excited about potential opportunities because 99% of the time, I would be rejected.
However, something I did notice was that out of the jobs I applied for, 99% of the time I wouldn’t get interviews with large corporations, I’m assuming because while I have vast experience in event planning, it wasn’t corporate event planning for a huge notable company, which is most likely what they were looking for, but I was getting interviews with tech or smaller startups. So I, for the most part, stopped applying to large companies, unless I had a connection there, and I started focusing on smaller companies and startups. And to be honest, I was looking to be a part of a company where I could not only grow and be challenged, but a company that wanted to be big and thrive. I was looking to create something from nothing, and the startup world and tech environment was somewhere I knew that would allow me to do all of that. So I started to read books such as Grit, The Shoe Dog, and The Lean Startup, I listened to podcasts such as the Pitch and How We Built This, and most importantly, I picked my friends’ brains. Some of the brightest people I know are in startups trying to make it work, and I wanted to how how they were doing it.
As I noted before, I had several interviews with smaller companies, and there were points where I was so excited about the company, but there was one issue, the actual product they were selling I most likely knew little to nothing about and/or I wasn’t truly passionate about it. And I think it showed. I would leave the interview, I thought I had it in the bag, and a week later I was rejected again. While I was speaking with a friend, before I got the rejection, he said something to me that made a lot of sense, he said, “Casie, while the company seems like an environment that you would be interested in, when you talk about the actual product, you lose enthusiasm and excitement. Maybe that’s why you don’t end up getting the job.” Maybe thats why, or maybe I don’t have any startup/tech experience. Whether or not it was either reason, I could see that it was an issue. So I needed to change things up a bit…
One of the recurring themes that I noticed when listening to these podcasts about startups was that mostly everyone had grit. They made it work, no matter if they didn’t have money, or the experience, they did what they needed to do to get the job done. Through all of the successes and the many, many failures, they would, as they say, just do it!
Throughout the past two years I have been thinking of ideas for my own company, but a few things were stopping me, but it was mostly money. I needed the money to build the website, or learn the skill, or build the app. I also figured that this would help to build my credibility in the startup/tech world on my resume. So I took it upon myself and started to teach myself how to code/ build websites and also how to use Salesforce. While I am still a beginner in both of these skills, I think that it definitely helped me in furthering my job hunting journey. I’m a firm believer in the more skills you have, the more useful you become to companies, so why not try something new, go out of your comfort zone, and learn!
I also think a shift started to happen when my attitude changed. I think that as most people will tell you, it can be a beat down to constantly be rejected from jobs. But there came a point, in the later part of my job hunting journey, that I realized the energy you put out there, is the energy that you get back. It may seem stupid, but at my job, I went in with the mentality of I’m going to give 120% no matter what, be positive, and I kept thinking that eventually, my time will come and the right opportunity will come along. Also, I think that I took a break from focusing on 100 other things, like dating, and my blog, and made my priority finding a job, because as most people say, looking for a job, is a job in itself, and it most definitely is!
As I began to add these skills to my resume, I did notice a change. Not that startups or companies were knocking on my door left and right, but the right companies were starting to come along and they were companies that I was much more interested in.
Two years and over 180 cover letters and resumes later, I landed a new job. I can tell you, there were many tears, so much doubt, and it was freaking hard, but I did it. In the back of my head, I kept remembering that Facebook post, and in a lot of ways it reminded me to never give up, and my persistence will eventually pay off, and I’m not the only one who has gone through this much of a hardship when looking for a new career.
What I can tell you is this, out of all of the jobs that I applied for, the one I got, was the one I was most passionate and excited about. It will allow me to create something from nothing, it’s about dogs, and if you know me you know that I LOVE dogs, and most importantly, it will challenge me and allow me to learn more than I ever have. So remember this, if you don’t get a job or 100 jobs that you apply for, the 101 job, and the job that you are most passionate and excited about just might be the perfect job for you.
So, NEVER GIVE UP. JUST KEEP SWIMMING. and KEEP ON KEEPING ON. You got this!
The things that I found challenging about my job hunting situation:
- I was trying to change fields from non-profit to either the tech, startup, or corporate event planning.
- I felt like I never quite had the EXACT experience they were looking for. Sometimes they would require that I have a few years of corporate event planning experience, trade show event planning experience, SAAS sales experience, or my experience was too diversified to be exactly what they wanted.
Things I would have done differently:
- Network, network, network. I didn’t do nearly enough of it. I should have been going to all of the startup networking events in Dallas, but for whatever reason, I never truly made the time.
- Pay to get my Linkedin profile updated by an expert
- Some of these may seem basic, but they always need to be done no matter what and will make you stand apart from others!
- Ask for a business card and write a thank you note as soon as possible after the interview, even if it was an informal interview for 5 minutes.
- Add new skills to your resume!
- Figure out what you want to do. I remember early on in the process would often ask me what I wanted to do. I would reply with eh, event planning? Sales? Or management? That really didn’t help… if I were more focused to begin with, I think it would have been much easier.
- Have someone look over your resume for any changes including spelling, punctuation, grammatical errors (this is a must for me! 🙂 ) . If you have errors on your resume often times you are automatically ruled out because the computers scan your resume first before it even gets to a person.
- Use your connections! Look on linked in. If you know someone who knows someone that works at the company you just applied for, ask them to pass your resume along. It never hurts to ask!
- Cold email people who you don’t know who work at the company of your dreams. I know a person who cold emailed Mark Cuban and ended up working for him just because she emailed him!
- Follow up- if they offer you a position, but it isn’t exactly what you are looking for, and a couple of months later a better position becomes available, don’t apply for the job, contact the person and send them your resume and let them know ASAP that you are interested in the other role.
- ALWAYS be prepared to ask at least 3 questions about the company you are applying for at the end of an interview. Don’t ever say, OH, I DON’T HAVE ANY QUESTIONS. It makes you seem like you don’t care.
- Dress the part… if you are going into a conservative corporate environment, you should be wearing a black/blue suit, whereas if you are walking into a smaller startup company, you can dress a bit more trendy or casual, but not TOO casual. It’s really just a matter of knowing your audience and company that you are applying for.
- Look the company up on Glassdoor. Oftentimes I wouldn’t even apply for a job unless I knew the salary would meet my requirements, and the company had a good reputation and reviews. Glassdoor was honestly my best friend during my job hunt. And some of the companies even have helpful tips and questions that they ask during interviews. You would be shocked to know how many people during my group interview had no clue what the day long interview entailed, when all of the information about the interview process was in the reviews on Glassdoor.
- DON’T GIVE UP!
Some of the interview questions that I heard most frequently were:
- What do you know about this company?
- What do you know about the role that you applied for?
- Why are you leaving your current role?
- Why do you think that you would be a good fit for this role?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
More challenging interview questions that I was asked:
- Is there a question that you think I should have asked you?
- After walking me around the company for about 30 minutes, the manager asked me: Pitch me the company in one minute or under.
- Situational questions, What would you do if there was an issue with….
- I had a group interview where we had to sit together and figure out what we would pick if we were stranded on an island and had only 10 items to bring with us… what would it be and why? We had to work together to figure out the items we would pick and I’m assuming they were judging us based on how much input we gave, what our reasoning was and how we came to that reason, and how we worked together as a part of a team.
- One company asked us to pitch either a real or made up product. We had 15 minutes to create the pitch and 5 minutes to pitch the product.
Lastly, I want to thank all of my friends and family who have been SO supportive, helpful, and listened to all of my job hunting craziness. I couldn’t have done it without each of you! So thank you!