I sat there nervously applying for positions I had no chance of receiving and unsure of where my future was taking me. The only jobs available were for completely unrelated fields with experience requirements that I could only dream of fulfilling. College had just ended and I was feeling down on my degree and upset that my résumé was devoid of relevant Public Relations or Social Media experience. Living at home with my parents was the new normal and I was pushing myself into a corner that there was no way out of.
For months, I sat moping in the corner as my existence became unemployment. The expected job at the end of the tunnel was a mirage that soon faded as yet another interview came to a dead-end. I mistakenly convinced myself that it was a numbers game and that I would eventually get there. Then one day it clicked… you needed to create your own luck.
My first months out of school gave me the opportunity to learn that I wasn’t entitled to a position simply because I forked over money to an institution and helped me learn the following:
1. “Wake up” early because the early bird gets the worm
Whether you’re commuting for two hours into the city or taking a ten minute bike-ride to work, wake up early. I don’t mean literally the act of waking up (heck, most of us are barely awake as we make our commute to work), but focus on waking up your brain.
It may be tempting to check your email as you first roll over in the morning but don’t. Your productivity may be crushed as you weed through emails and overwhelm yourself before beginning the day. Instead, I run through news headlines and listen to books on tape before walking into the office.
2. An internship isn’t the end of the world (if it’s in your field)
I understand that there is a debate going on on whether interns should be paid (that will probably be a later post), but internships still provide you with something very serious – experience in your field. As someone that has had completely unrelated internships and jobs before moving into my career field, having that 6 months – 1 year of experience makes a difference. While being an excellent interviewer is important, if you don’t have basic qualifications for a position you’ll never receive a call.
3. Treat your body and mind well
Working out releases endorphins, which limits the depression of the daily monotony of work and life. During the week get sleep and exercise and watch it increase your likelihood of success. Next, eat well. Sure, picking up a Lean Cuisine is easy and looks delicious with those incredible photos adorning the frozen-meal box, but don’t be strayed! Lean Cuisine is neither good for you or advisable if you’re hoping to treat your body well. They may be cheap, but splurge a little and enjoy something fresh or heat up some homemade leftovers. For my next step, I think I’ll take a page from some successful CEOs and pick up yoga.
4. Get uncomfortable and enjoy it
I’m a firm believer that the best things in life make you a little uncomfortable. You don’t simply ask someone out on a date that you feel comfortable dating, that leads to failure. Instead, you take a chance. The same goes for business or the workplace. If you’re not willing to take a chance and make yourself sweat a little, others will notice…negatively. People are rarely attracted to safe. Instead, they return to safe when they fall short of achieving their uncomfortable goal – and that’s totally cool! But if you don’t take the chance, you’ll never know what could have been.
I really enjoyed this piece on becoming charismatic from Business Insider, naturally, getting uncomfortable is part of it.
5. Network your socks off
What’s the best way to get extremely uncomfortable? Treat every opportunity as a chance to network, or as I like to think of it, relationship building. Whether at a networking event or your local gym, treat it as a chance to meet someone new. I often fall into the “I’m too cool to meet someone” mentality, particularly when I’m at the gym. What’s a great way around it? Take off the headphones and say hi.
Nervous about meeting people? Everyone is… but the people that get uncomfortable prevail.
6. Always carry business cards, even you tech savvy Gen Y’er
For unexpected networking situations, always have business cards available for distribution and note taking. Naysayers believe that business cards don’t work anymore (they still do) as US society is moving away from paper to electronic, but I ask how can you communicate with those that believe in the strength of business cards? “I don’t believe in business cards” is the wrong answer. Adjust your style. Whether you’re a physicist, PR professional, or small business owner, do what you can to meet new people.
So what should you take from this? Learn, get uncomfortable, take risks, and get yourself out there to meet the people that matter. Stop sitting around and make moves, because if you don’t someone else will.