The year was 2010. I was a 24-year-old graduate from New York University, and I was riding high!
I had obtained my Master’s Degree in HR Management, and I felt like I could conquer the world. Within two months of graduating, I received a job offer from a major law firm, to work in their Talent Management department.
I felt pretty good! Not only did I get my Master’s Degree, but I also managed to get a job during the recession, and it was a significant win on my part.
Little did I know that I was in for a major roller coaster of a ride. From the moment I stepped into the law firm, I felt out of place, and I wasn’t particularly interested in the work. I thought that the work environment was way too restrictive, conservative, and boring. I ended up feeling anxious every time I set foot into the office. This, in turn, completely stifled my performance, and I didn’t do well. I was terrified that I would get laid off every single day. My confidence was shot, and I felt like I couldn’t ever do anything right. And then, my worst fear came true – I was let go from the company in 2012. I thought I would crumble, but instead, I felt pretty good! I felt like I’d been freed from the shackles that restrained me throughout two and a half years. I was finally free! A little scared, but free! And then came the million-dollar question – What do I do next? And it took me a few years to figure it out, and I hit a few bumps along the way, so here is what happened next.
Within a month of leaving the law firm, I was offered a job at a startup company, and I was elated! My unemployment period didn’t last very long, and I was going to work in a place with a casual vibe. I could wear jeans to work and make my schedule! It was amazing. Or so I thought. The job that I took lacked a lot of processes, and there was a ton of ambiguity. The industry was utterly foreign to me, and I spent most of my days figuring out what to do because there wasn’t much work to do. The company eventually downsized within a few months, and I was one of the many that were let go. This time, I was petrified and confused. I had no idea what I was going to do or how to get there, and I was terrified. I didn’t have a job, and I had nothing to do. It was a massive bruise to my ego until later that year; I saw a job posting for a Recruiting Coordinator at a major advisory firm. I used my connections to secure a job interview, and I hustled and prepared myself for all of the hardball questions, and I landed the role! I was so incredibly grateful, even more so because I struggled and hustled for half a year to get a job.
This all happened about six years ago, and I have since left the advisory firm, and I now work as a Recruiter at a significant health and wellness company in Los Angeles. The lessons that I have learned throughout my career path are the following:
- I needed to figure out what my motivation was? What drives you in your daily life? Is it comfort, spending time with your loved ones, making money, making a positive impact on someone’s life or company? What is something that you do regularly that makes you feel great and gives you that high? For me, I felt good when I connected people with jobs or connected people with other people. I liked being on the hunt for new opportunities and new people. It provided me with a lot of energy. If giving back to your community is what drives you, perhaps consider seeking a job in social work or a non-profit. You may not get the exact role that you want, but you will get your foot in the door in the appropriate industry, and opportunities will follow! Do you prioritize having the right work/life balance? Google a list of local companies with this trait. You may stumble across a company that allows its employees to work a couple of days remotely out of the week!
- The next piece that I needed to figure out was what type of work environment I needed to thrive. After a few years of trial and error here is what I learned – I do not like the stereotypical conservative, straight-laced type of environment. It’s too confining, and I can’t thrive in that type of arena. Surprisingly, I also learned that I do not like the startup world, either. I need a place with a few processes in place yet with a laidback atmosphere. I like a blend of both established and progressive when it comes to the situation in which I plan to spend most of my week. What environment do you thrive in? An excellent way to figure this out is to ask yourself, what do I like to do during my free time? What types of people do I get the most energy from? If you wish to try something new every weekend, go on an adventure, hang out with the road warriors, perhaps you may want an environment that’s a bit more casual. If you like to plan, keep a schedule and routine going during your off days, perhaps you would like a place with a bit more structure and predictability in your day to day duties.
You’re probably wondering how I got the ball rolling, and the answer is simple yet complicated. I realized that I needed to go out and meet people who had the careers that I coveted, the ones who worked at the places that seemed progressive and upbeat. I went online and researched The Best Places to Work in Los Angeles and saw that they all had the common thread of taking care of their employees, helping them grow within their careers, giving them several options in their career paths. These were the types of places that I wanted to work at. I may not have interviewed at all of these companies, but I indeed asked about work-life balance, career growth potential during my job interviews with other potential employers.
I also learned to use LinkedIn. I practically cut and pasted my resume to my profile, described what I was looking for, and spent hours searching for jobs, finding people who worked at the companies that I applied to, sending them requests to connect, and messaging them to see if they would be able to pass along my information because I was interested in working at their companies. I received several responses, but I had to cast a wide net.
Another critical factor is to align yourself with people who have something that you want. In my last role, I admired my managers coaching style. I thought that she was a great listener, and she was also good at planning out the future of the company in terms of its human capital. I wanted to get into this type of role as my career progressed so I observed her actions, took mental notes, asked lots of questions and tried to figure out if that was a path that I wanted to go down. Ultimately, I decided to zero in on my recruiting skills, but I learned a lot from her in regards to figuring out how I wanted to be perceived in the workplace (as a confidant and listener) and how I could help others reach their goals in the workplace. A right way for you to get started is to attend networking groups, affinity groups, or meetups. Google is your best friend when it comes to this. If you are interested in working for a woman-owned non-profit, do a quick search on the many networking events in the area that are geared to non -profits, look up the various companies in the area, find people who work at these companies either through the company website or through LinkedIn, and don’t be afraid to contact them to pick their brain. It may take a bit of work, but I have realized that most people are willing to help others in the right situation!
Lastly, let it be known that you are looking to carve out your career path! Tell your friends, classmates, family members, and even some colleagues. Once you put the word out, you’ll notice that word spreads, and in this case, that is a good thing! Most jobs are gotten via referral, so you may find out that you know someone who knows someone who has a job opening at their company that is an excellent fit for what you’re looking for. Anytime someone has told me that they are looking for a job, I ask them to let me know where they’ve applied because it is a small world and I may happen to know someone who can help them get their foot in the door!
When you’re in the process of trying to figure things out, you have to remember to be innovative. Your career path isn’t always a straight line from A to Z. You’re most likely going to deal with a few twists and turns, but that’s what keeps you learning and keeps things interesting!