Ask Gayle is a weekly column in which New York Times bestselling author Gayle Forman answers fan questions about love, life, and everything in between! Submit a question anonymously via our Ask box. Today’s question is:
What ways can you get over your fears of looking for your first job?
The fear is probably not so much about looking for a job as it is about not finding a job. Because we’re in a Tough Economy, as the media loves to remind us, and it’s Near Impossible for young people to get their first jobs. Newsflash: Those same stories were in the headlines when I entered the job market 20 years ago. Maybe there once was a magical time when you left college and fairies handed out jobs, but except for Harvard MBAs, I’m not sure that ever happens.
In any case, the best way to get over your fear is to start looking. So here are some tips.
Tip 1: Be Your Own Ad
None of my jobs—waitressing, cashiering, cleaning, or magazine editing— ever came from a help-wanted ad. They all came from me, knocking on doors and bulldozing managers, or, in the case of Seventeen magazine, calling a certain editor once a month for a year until a job opened up. So much about getting a job is being in the right place at the right time. Your resumé can sit in a pile for months to no avail, but your phone call might come in right at the perfect time. It’s not fair, exactly, but it’s how things work. Make your own luck.
Tip 2: Build Yourself A Ladder
When I came to New York City to work in magazines, I tried to get an editorial assistant job for months. Nada. Then someone I’d interned with told me about a freelance fact-checking job, so I took that. I also got another gig as an unpaid intern. At night, I waited tables. Eventually, an editor at the internship told me about an editing job at a magazine I’d never heard of. I got that job, and worked there until I could catapult myself to the job at Seventeen.
Tip 3: Put It On The Line
Ben Hoffman knew he wanted to work in children’s publishing. So he sent heartfelt handwritten letters to a small group of editors whose books he really admired, including Julie Strauss-Gabel, my editor at Dutton. When an opening came up at Dutton (something that happens about once every leap year), Ben submitted his resumé through proper channels, but it was the letter that got him the interview, which gave him a chance to show off his editing skills, which got him the job. He took a risk, and it paid off.
Trick 4: Be Yourself—Really—At Interviews
I know people hate interviews. So nerve-wracking. But look at it as your shot to forge a human connection in an otherwise impersonal process. Tori Hill was at the end of an hours-long interview for an elite program at her university when she got one of those dreaded questions: Give three reasons she shouldn’t get into the program. She gave two canned responses, and in a moment of surrender/candor said, “The third reason is because I couldn’t bleeping think of a third reason” (only she didn’t say bleeping). The stone-faced interviewer smiled. Tori got in. I’m not suggesting you curse in interviews, but I am suggesting you reveal yourself and not the person you think they want you to be. It’s a risk. But pretty much everything worth doing is.
Want to submit a question to Ask Gayle? Drop your question anonymously in our Ask box! Check out previous Ask Gayle columns here.
Find out more about Gayle on her website, follow her on Twitter and Tumblr, and become a fan of Just One Day and Just One Year on Facebook, where you can read a 13-chapter sample of JUST ONE DAY and see daily photos from Gayle’s travels around the world!