Knowing Who You Are On The Job Hunt

Knowing Who You Are On The Job Hunt

I continue with the job search, though somewhat reluctantly. After getting several interviews early on in the game and then getting very close to getting a job I really wanted, I've lost a lot of my drive and my optimism. Nonetheless, I'm plugging along, but there are a couple of major challenges I'm facing.

First of all, I've had trouble molding and packaging myself when I send out cover letters. I always try to tailor the whole application package to highlight my experience as it applies to the organization, but I can't help but wince when I send off an application to a job that has nothing to do with Latin America or has no language requirements. It's my niche, plain and simple, and there's no getting around it, and I can't help but wonder what the HR people think when they see my resume: "Why would she want this job?" I also feel slightly guilty when applying to those types of jobs; I have these great strengths--language abilities and knowledge of the region--that I wouldn't be able to put to use at all if I got the job.

Second, I've been frustrated by sending out so many applications into oblivion, especially when I don't receive an automatic reply to say the application was received. Whether or not I get that message, I've followed up with every contact I can at the organization when I haven't heard anything about a week after submitting the application. At places I really want to work, I try to find someone to get in touch with through email, a mutual friend or through social media, but every single time, I've struck out.

Finally, and most importantly, I'm getting a lot of flack from my parents mom for being picky. Truth be told, I have expanded my search significantly from when I first got home, applying for executive assistant jobs and for jobs that do in fact have nothing to do with Latin America but involve at least one skill I'm good at. But I have good reason to be picky.

I've paid my dues already, to a large extent. I started working professionally as an intern when I was 16 and continued right on through until I moved to Brazil. There, I did whatever I could to get by, just to pay the rent and make ends meet. Ironically, one of the reasons I decided to go abroad after college was so that I could escape my first entry level job of being stuck in an office for 40 hours a week, or at least put it off until later. But what I found was that I missed having an office job. I craved a set schedule, camaraderie, and bigger responsibilities; I missed supply closets and AC. I don't regret the time I spent in Brazil at all, but it helped me realize my ambition a bit more. That's not to say I'm qualified for high level positions, but I've promised myself to do something I deserve, and to set my sights higher rather than lower.

I want to get on some sort of career track. I can't do just anything to make money; it's unfair to promise an employer that you'll make a time commitment just to skip out on them, and most employers expect you to commit yourself for at least a year, if not two. Since I have the luxury of not having to worry about rent, I've afforded myself the luxury of not taking any job at all just for the sake of making money. The other issue is that once you get a job, especially an entry level one, it sticks with you, and that becomes your base of knowledge. It's much harder to get into what you really want to do without practical experience in your field, something I've noticed whenever I look at public health jobs. Making connections and getting practical office experience are important, but I feel like I have moved beyond that and really need to invest in something I'm planning on sticking with in the long term.

Lastly, I do think it's important you do what you love, or at least what you like. Being interested in your work is what makes you good at what you do and makes you a valued employee; plus, hating your job will infect the rest of your life. But after I read about focusing on what you are, rather than what you love, I got to thinking about that, and it helped me focus more, even encouraging me to send out applications to places that weren't hiring, just so I could get my foot in the door.

I am a writer. It's not something that I necessarily wanted to be, it just happened, and for the past two years I have written every single day. I am a researcher; I love amassing information and putting it together into a nice, tidy package, be it an article for my blog or a chunk of travel advice. Speaking of which, I'm an adviser. I love giving advice, even if it's unheeded or unsolicited. Maybe it's because from an early age friends always came to me asking for it, since I've always known when assignments are due, lots and lots of travel information, and practical tips. My favorite advice to give, obviously, is about traveling and living abroad. I am a study abroad nerd. Nothing makes me happier than helping others have the same life-changing experiences I had. I am a Latin America expert: I know a little bit about the entire region and a lot about specific parts, and I never stop gathering information and seeking out more knowledge. I am a teacher. I love to share what I know, especially about Latin America, and culture, history, and politics are my favorite topics. I'm a social entrepreneur: I want to find new ways to tackle social problems in the Americas, especially health and education.

So finally, through all of this, I figured out who I am and what I am capable of. Now, I just hope I can find an employer who will, too.