Professionals in crisp suits with BlackBerrys to their ears hurried along Wall Street, fueling that distinguished adrenaline of go-go-go, cutthroat competition and ingenuity. Blocks away, in a cramped lot across the World Trade Center memorial, a group of NYU students camp out for Occupy Wall Street, telling tourists they are protesting in hopes of entering a better workforce when they graduate. Somewhere between the angry college students and the working professionals is me — a journalism senior who, until last Tuesday, had no clear idea what was in store post-graduation.
According to Bankrupting America, a project by the nonpartisan nonprofit organization Public Notice, 1.7 million college students graduated in May to approximately 50,000 job openings. And with unemployment rising over 9 percent, this year is evidently not the best time for job hunting.
My recent job search in New York held all of the fluttering emotions bubbling in our nation: confusion, distress, hope and perseverance. It’s easy to nag and complain and wait for someone to do something about the problem, but the best way out of any mess is to find the loopholes and take initiative.
Back in September, after no progress in my job search, on a whim I decided to book a trip to New York. My plan was to meet with anyone who would talk to me. I wasn’t going in thinking I was going to leave with a job. I just wanted to get my name out there.
For five days in October, I met with recruiters, people in the business and old friends and UT alumni, showing my portfolio, asking questions about working in the city and leaving my business card behind to narrow that gap of living in New York from dream to reality.
While thankfully, I did land an amazing opportunity with a music media company, the agony of the experience still traumatizes me. To help ease the experience for those in similar shoes, below are some considerations to keep in mind while looking for your own job outside of the Lone Star state.
Consider booking a trip to a city you desire to work in and spending a few days to meet with recruiters for informational interviews, alumni and anyone in the business that could give insight to the field. The trip would also allow you to familiarize with the city and better decide whether or not you could even stand to live in it.
From airfare and boarding to subways and coffee dates, the trip will be costly. Try to reduce the cost by staying with a friend who lives in the city or couchsurfing, buying groceries instead of eating out and walking shorter blocks. Spending money without any guarantee of a job is a gamble, but in putting your name and work out there, you’ll gain more than you lose.
In the weeks leading up to the visit, continue applying for jobs in that city, but include also in your cover letters the dates you’ll be visiting. This can compel employers to reply back faster and it shows you are serious about their company and relocating.
For any company or organizations that sparks your interest, reach out to human resource or anyone who works there and ask for an informational interview.
UT has one of the largest alumni networks — use that to your advantage. Using the Texas Exes database or Facebook group, arrange coffee meet-ups with a few alumni to ask about their own job search, relocation and career. It doesn’t hurt to ask them to pass along your business card or resume either.
Be Willing to Leave Home
Obviously, finding a job locally or in state is more cost-effective and easier to manage. An interview is only a drive away. The Texas connection makes small talks easier. And chances are, you know someone who knows someone that works for that company, but Texas isn’t always as big as it seems. But while jobs are fruitful here, the cost of living in Texas is desirable and home is only a highway away, Texas does not offer as many opportunities or competitive edge for all careers, such as in media and the arts. Sometimes you need to leave in order to really appreciate what you had.
Be Willing to Work for Free
In general, with jobs limited, graduates will have to settle. This includes earning a lot less than expected, working unfavorable hours, taking an position you’re overqualified for or temporary position, working outside of interest area, and/or receiving no health benefits.
According to a study on recent college graduates and their struggle in the troubled economy from the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University, 46 percent of those first jobs are stepping-stones into a career. This includes taking on paid or unpaid internships, freelance, volunteer and overqualified positions.
While it’s nice to get paid for doing what you love, simply getting to do what you are most passionate about may just have to suffice for the time being. This could mean working a non-college degree-required position to pay the bills. For instance, a good friend and former Texan colleague of mine busts her grind working double shifts at a restaurant so she can pay for a small bedroom in Brooklyn while she interns at an oral history project.
In the same case as my friend, I will be working an additional non-media related job to pay for the high cost of living in New York while I pursue my dreams. It’s not going to be easy and there will be days where I’ll want to run back to Texas, but I know it’ll be worth it.
Printed on Wednesday, November 9, 2011 as: Tips to conduct successful job search