Tuesday, 3 July 2018

235 is a magic number

It took me from September 2017, to June 2018 to find a job. I started my masters at King's College London in the September, and immediately started applying for graduate schemes in marketing and communications. I knew what I wanted to do, I had experience, I was doing a masters, and I felt ready to enter the "real" working world.

At the time I was working two part-time jobs and studying a full-time degree, and I must admit, in the beginning, my applications probably weren't as good as they could have been. So I went to careers, a lot. I went and discussed my CV, altering it time and time again to make sure that it was the paper version of myself. I wanted it to show I was professional, hard-working and smart. But I also wanted it to show my personality, to show that I was creative whilst appealing to as broad a range of people as possible. I decided to add a QR code, creating an online CV and portfolio for my more creative work, which people could then be transported to from the QR code at the top right of my CV.

I went back time and time again with my answers to competency based-questions, creative questions, and practiced my interviews one to one. My applications improved, and I began to get asked to more and more interviews, and more and more assessment days. But when it came to the face-to-face interviews, and when it came to the assessment days. I always fell short.

In the end I applied for 235 jobs, and was rejected over a 180 times. No matter how many rejections I got I'd go into each interview hoping this was the one. That this time, all the preparation, my newly ironed shirt and perfectly set smile would do the trick. That they would see past my nerves and to my potential, but it just didn't seem to be working. In fact, when I got feedback from an interview, for which I was always eternally grateful, the comments were always the same.

"You were nervous".

"You are too reserved".

Everytime I heard those words my heart sank. My anxiety yet again, something that I have been fighting against for so many years, had stopped me from getting what I wanted, what I needed. And it kept happening over and over again. It was a hurdle that I couldn't surmount. I couldn't prepare for it, and no matter how many times I practiced, on the day my nerves would still show.

In general I am a reserved person. I wouldn't naturally push myself forward unless I felt it was necessary. I will never be the loudest, or the most confident. That is just not who I am. Yet, for some reason it was what I needed to be in order to get past an assessment stage. People told me maybe I was applying for the wrong industry. People told me that I should stop applying for roles that had assessment centres. People told me I needed more experience, but I couldn't afford to give up my two part-time jobs whilst studying for my masters, and once my masters was finished I would have to move home or go into full-time employment. I felt stuck. I felt trapped. I felt that after six years of studying, doing internships and teaching myself skills such as coding and SEO in my free time, that I wouldn't be able to get a job.

My feelings were compounded by everyone around me having job offers. All my housemates had offers, some even getting multiple offers and chosing the best option. My friends were getting their dream jobs, and I was sat there, trying to keep up with my degree, working two part-time jobs, and applying for as many jobs as I could.

But then, something changed. I applied for a cultural PR company I had met in the summer of 2017. Specialising in cultural communications, they offered me an interview for the role of Account Executive. Within a week, I was having my second interview, and around seven hours later, they had offered me a position. The first interview had seemed relaxed and friendly, over tea and coffee in beautiful surroundings. My second interview was more formal, but nevertheless my interviewees were welcoming and friendly. There was no competing, there was no brain-teasers, and I left feeling hopeful but scared. I didn't want to hope. The time between my first and second interview had been so short that I din't dare to hope that that was because they liked me. But then, the email I had been waiting nine months to receive came, as I was eating dinner at Heathrow airport, alone, waiting for a flight. I immediately phoned my family, followed by my boyfriend, in disbeleif at my good fortune.

I hadn't realised until then that while I had continued to apply for job after job, and continued to look for any opportunity to network and learn a new skill, I had somewhat given up hope. I had begun to think of my interviews as automatically failing as soon as I left the table, the meeting room or the office they had been conducted in. I had lost faith, not necessarily in my ability, but in the idea that anyone would recognise it, and maybe that was the problem. Maybe my reserved nature wasn't just a product of my anxiety, but a protective wall I had placed around myself to stop getting hurt. After over a hundred rejections I had already convinced myself that this interview would be the 101st, or the 120th, or the 150th. I had convinced myself that no matter how much I researched, prepped or sparkled, my light would be quickly snuffed out and discarded in the week following my interview. I hadn't realised it until I received my current job offer, but now that I have, I never want to lose faith in myself again.

I start my new role in a few weeks time, and I still have to finish up my masters at the same time. But this doesn't daunt me anymore. If anything, this new role, and my half-finished dissertation are driving me forward. I am back to believing in myself, to believing that I can show everyone that I am worthy. Worthy of a masters, worthy of a job, worthy of being recongised as passionate, determined and smart.

I am so thankful to my new employers. Not just for believing in me, but for helping me to beleive in myself again. 235 turned out to be my magic number. It turned out to be the number of jobs I'd have to apply for before finding myself again, before finding my faith. It taught me that I can never let go of my goals, despite what people may tell  me otherwise. It taught me not to mistake my anxiety and reserved nature with resignation, and pre-emptive disappointment. And most importantly, in the age old saying, it taught me that good things come to those who wait.
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