Works and Days

Landing Your Dream Job Right Out of College: Persistence Pays

This story was originally posted on Jessica's blog at Medium.com.

This is a story about how I got my dream job after graduating from college with a BA in English. I’m hoping that it will give both ideas and some realism to recent grads and other job seekers.

I graduated from Reed College with a degree in English and decided not to enter a PhD program. I loved our local paper Willamette Week, but I didn’t think I had the skills to work there as a reporter. I decided that I would sell advertising so I could have a cool job at a paper that I loved and be part of the scene. They often advertised for advertising sales people, so I figured it wouldn’t be hard.

I sent in an application and got no response. The paper used to run dating ads attached to a voice mail service before Internet dating took off. I designed a “Woman Seeking Job” ad and sent it over. No response. Then I cold called the hiring manager and he spoke to me briefly about my lack of experience.

I went out and got a part-time, straight commission job selling ads for The Oregon Peaceworker, a statewide newspaper with a print circulation of 12,000 at the time, based in Salem, OR. Working from home, I made cold calls, sold, and designed quite a few ads. I had limited computer access for designing the ads and used to do it late at night at my neighborhood Kinkos. When I started to be able to sell larger, ads to bigger companies, the readership complained about how corporate the paper had become and I knew my brief tenure there was over.

I spent the other half of my day as an intern for a large Domino’s pizza franchisee, designing ads, sorting direct mail, and occasionally buying media. When the media account executives came in they had nice clothes and nice cars. Even more importantly, they got to leave. I knew this was the career for me.

I called the hiring manager at Willamette Week again, explained my experience, and brought in a copy of the ads I had sold. He seemed more impressed than before, but I spent over a month reaching out to him by phone, calling once a week. Not many people used email back then.

Finally, he hired me as a Junior Account Executive and went on to work for two other papers in their association, The Association of Alternative Newsmedia (AAN)eventually I was recruited to be the National Advertising Director for New Mass Media, Inc.

At first I thought that my persistence paid off because I’m in sales, where it’s part of the basic requirements, but I no longer think that’s true. The following story illustrates how similar principles paid off for a scientist.

A 15-year-old US high school student developed the first test for pancreatic cancer. Jack Andraka wrote to two hundred professors seeking laboratory time to develop his idea for a screening test. One hundred and ninety nine said no or didn’t respond. One professor at Johns Hopkins University agreed to give him lab space.[1] Andraka’s work would not have been possible without free access to scientific journal articles and a lot of persistence.

While I’m not curing cancer, these stories both carry an important message for job seekers. Know what you want to do. Don’t give up at the first rejection. Whether you are writing to two hundred scientists or just being politely persistent with a hiring manager and developing the specific skills that person is looking for, just sending out a resume is often not enough.

Decide what you really want to do and go for it. If you have, or can develop the skills that an employer needs, you will prevail.

Author disclaimer: I am a Senior Account Manager at Monster. My views do not reflect the views of Monster, they are my personal opinions. Follow me on Twitter at JLBHireCalling.

[1] Laurance, J. (2013, May 5). The first early test for pancreatic cancer — devised by 15-year-old Jack Andraka. Retrieved July 11, 2014, from http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/the-first-early-test-for-pancreatic-cancer--devised-by-15yearold-jack-andraka-8604473.html

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