Oh hey there, world! It’s been a while! (Like, quite a few years… yikes! But I promise I’m going to be a more diligent and attentive blogger!)
Things sure have changed over the years, eh? In my case, for example, I accomplished quite a few things.
Firstly, I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Guelph. I worked my butt off to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Bio-Resource Management (majoring in Equine Studies– basically, everything to do with horses!). I made some friends, wrote cool things (such as this article I originally wrote for my school newspaper, this post I originally created for my Agriculture Communications course, and most importantly, this university-published newsletter I wrote!), learned fascinating things, and found new interests.
Then I applied for a Master’s degree in a new Communications and Journalism program at the University of Western Ontario– which I didn’t get into, unfortunately. Apparently, for the first year, the program only accepted 30-40 students (I can’t remember the specific number), and there were more than 100 applicants. But hey, nothing lights a fire under your butt more effectively than failure and fear of the unknown! So I applied for entry into Centennial College’s Public Relations and Corporate Communications post-graduate program, (and got in, might I add!) and whipped my communications skills into shape. Ten months of intense practical skills development, 14 courses, hearing the words “Project Fusion” about 3 trillion more times than I wanted to, multiple events, and one awesome placement in a local hospital’s public affairs department (which included writing one of the best and most heartfelt pieces I’ve ever created) later, and I officially “graduated” with a post-graduate certificate in all things communications and public relations-y!
And during this whole stint as a student, I also worked for a transit company (see my initial post about it here) as a student bus driver. Fun times! (Well, the crazy irregular shifts aren’t fun, but I made enough money to pay tuition for both my entire undergraduate degree and my post-graduate certificate.. so, pros and cons, my friends!)… I also eventually re-applied to be a regular part-time driver while I looked for work in my field, and have been doing that ever since.
Fast forward to today… and things are still a bit of the same. I’m still a part-time driver, and I’m still looking for an entry-level position in communications/ public relations.
You’re probably wondering why I’m still looking for work, a year after completing my post-grad program. Am I a terrible writer? Why aren’t employers interested in hiring me? Am I useless? Am I a horrible person? Do my cover letters and resume suck that bad? What have I been doing to actually find a job?
Horribly negative thoughts, I know, but they pose valid concerns nonetheless. The truth is, it’s a mixture of settling, complacency, lack of motivation, and depression/rejection.
- I settled (a bit). I am paid quite well to do what I do at my part-time job. It’s not a glamorous job, nor is it entirely mentally stimulating (I like puzzles, and no offense to transit drivers everywhere, but driving circles while picking people up and helping them get places is definitely no Sudoku puzzle). But nonetheless, bus driving pays the bills, keeps me connected to my community, and gives me a schedule that I can usually fit my life around. (It changes every two or so months though, which is both a good and bad thing… let it never be said that bus driving doesn’t teach one to be adaptable!)
- I became complacent in my application efforts. I am extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to still live with my parents, and before I went back to bus driving, I was even lucky enough to not have to pay rent or buy groceries, etc. My parents were trying to help give me the time to spend looking for a job, and for that I’m forever thankful. But when you’re trying to put out 3-8 job applications a day, and all the postings you look at are asking for the same qualities/skills/etc., you start to repeat yourself over and over and over and– well, you get the point. And after a while, you’re just hammering out cover letters without any personality or creativity– which for people looking for positions in communications/PR, is not a good thing. You need to demonstrate your skill with words in both a technical and creative sense… and I just wasn’t anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I know for a fact that my cover letters were technically correct (spelling, grammar, sentence structure, etc.; I had multiple writing wizards look over my work just to be safe, and I became best friends with all my Canadian Press style writing guidebooks), but they lacked a human voice, a personality. Or maybe they didn’t lack those qualities at all, but maybe they were just missing my voice, my personality. Maybe my cover letters just depicted me as a desperate job seeker who didn’t care enough to personalize my ‘monologue’ (if you will). Maybe they went into way too much detail about my resume when they should have talked about my skills/abilities and the STARs that would demonstrate them, which are things you don’t usually have room to expand on in your resume. Or maybe my cover letters were just way too long and not always keyword-saturated (I always kept them at one page in length, but boy oh boy did I ever go to town with the margins! I even ended up putting my cover letter in Adobe InDesign so I could change the tracking and kerning, play with the fonts, and adjust spacing more intricately). In short, a robot could have written these cover letters I was putting together.
- Job hunting is a full-time job in itself. You spend so many hours each day crafting your cover letters, tweaking your resume to fit the job posting, attempting to find out who the hiring manager is, and so on. And when you’re not job hunting, you feel guilty that you aren’t, which just ruins whatever non- job hunting activity you’re doing. You start to really hate having to spend so much of your day on it, and you start to procrastinate. And since I didn’t have the impending threats of bills and debt hanging over my head (thank you Mom and Dad!), I didn’t necessarily feel as much pressure to find a meantime job as, say, someone who’s about to get kicked out of their home because they are four months behind on rent, or someone who doesn’t have enough money to buy groceries for the week. The pressure was there of course, but it wasn’t quite as life-threatening as other situations I could have found myself in.
- Finally, rejection and depression are pretty much part and parcel with the whole job hunting thing. Obviously, only one person will ultimately be given the job out of tens, hundreds or even thousands of applicants. But when you’re given maybe three or so chances (re: interviews) out of fifty applications to prove that you’re the right candidate for the job… well, it’s disheartening. I know I’m a great writer. I know I’m quite awesome at using Adobe’s Creative Suite. I know I’m social media savvy. I know I’m a passionate storyteller! And I know I have the right attributes to make me just the independent but collaborative, engaging, caring, savvy creator these employers were looking for. But I’m apparently also susceptible to the crushing heartbreak that comes with nobody even replying to my applications. After a while, the depression sets in. I don’t think it’s necessarily clinical depression I experienced, but I sure wasn’t feeling sunshine and rainbows and all the other positive emotions I naturally exude.
So about four months into the job search, I realized I couldn’t continue with this path I was on. It was unhealthy and unproductive. My methods weren’t working, and I had nothing to show for my efforts. So I got back in with the whole bus driving gig.
Which is roughly around the time that things took a turn.
As it turns out, one of my awesome professors at Centennial College actually recommended me for a position at a great company that was looking for a social media person (Thanks Laurie!). I also got a few calls from interested employers, looking to set up interviews. There were issues with these opportunities, and mainly those issues were on my end. Firstly, that was also around the time when personal stuff was happening. Additionally, I had just recently started driving part-time, and I didn’t feel it appropriate to just up and quit within a few weeks/months of being hired. I know there’s a lot of time and money put into hiring someone, and all that would have been a huge waste of resources if I had just quit right after being hired… So my moral compass wasn’t pointing me in the direction of these opportunities. Also, these opportunities were located a bit too far away from home for me to make any of them work with what was happening in my life at the time. The one my professor recommended me for was on the west side of Toronto, and it would have cost me more in time and money to commute from my little city an hour east of Toronto than I could afford at the time. The other opportunities were actually in places I would have to move to (such as Barrie, Kitchener, etc.), and because of the aforementioned reasons, I wasn’t ready/willing to make the permanent move to a relatively far away place. (In case you were wondering, I applied to jobs in far away places in Ontario because at the time of sending in those applications, which were a good three to fours months before I got the calls, I was in a position where I could just up and leave.)
All in all, I just couldn’t justify pursuing any of those opportunities, and knew that if I wasn’t actually willing to commit to any of them, there wasn’t any point in continuing on in the application processes, and it wouldn’t be fair to those companies either. So, I backed out and continued to work part-time as a bus driver. Just my luck, eh? I go for months with no opportunities coming my way, and then just when I get something going, a bunch more pop up! It gave new meaning to ‘all or nothing’ for me.
Come March 2017, I decided it was time to get back in the game. I was in a position to make some big changes if I needed to for a job, and I felt that an acceptable period of time had passed since I got hired, so I felt okay with the idea of leaving my current job to pursue new avenues in my career. I learned from my mistakes from the first time around, and worked at writing better, more convincing and engaging covering letters. I even showed what I wrote for one application to TD Bank to a friend who works in HR; she was blown away by it, commenting how she could really sense how passionate I was about the organization’s work in my covering letter (FYI, true story about my love for TD Bank. I’ve wanted to work for TD since I was 16, when I started to really notice how much effort they put into their environment-oriented corporate social responsibility initiatives. I even did a huge group project on it with some awesome classmates, which might I add, we totally nailed!).
I applied to various branches of the Ontario government (mainly Ontario Parks, OMAFRA, etc.). I applied to organizations that run children’s camps. I submitted my application to Ubisoft (it was for an employee engagement position, a subject that I’m ridiculously super passionate about and would just love to base my entire communications career around!). I tried to get in with multiple universities (Guelph, York, U of Toronto, Ryerson, and so many more), and even at Centennial College in the Sports and Recreation department as a Sports Information Officer (essentially sports marketing for college sports). And of course, I applied at one of my favourite companies of all time, Cineplex (I’m pretty sure I keep them in business by going to see pretty much every movie they show.. Yes, I know I have a problem… But come on… MOVIES! *insert heart-eyes emoji here*).
I also knew that I had so much to learn still, which is why I applied for intern positions too. I’m not above doing what others would consider menial tasks, and I wholeheartedly believe in starting from the bottom so you can fully understand how to be successful at the top (after all, a huge part of your job as a manager/director/etc. is to help those in different levels of your organization do their jobs effectively, something you can’t help them do if you don’t understand exactly what it is they do or what challenges they face). I applied for internships at car companies like BMW and Audi (everyone likes shiny new cars, but these automotive companies have special places in my heart), and PR firms like Edelman, where I knew I would be getting the education of a lifetime. I got so excited for every opportunity I applied for, putting my heart and soul into each letter, doing my best to convey that I am passionate, excited, competent, talented, and ready to take on the challenge that these organizations offered in the jobs they were looking to fill. So many amazing opportunities!
And I didn’t hear back from a single one. (Actually, that’s not true. I got an automated message from BMW once saying that one of the intern positions I applied for had been filled.)
It’s one thing to not put much effort in and not get any response. It’s another to get nothing back when you’ve put your entire self out there, in the most creative ways you can think of, using your network to make connections and even just meet new people who can tell you what it’s like working for a company you’re interested in doing amazing things with. I understand that it isn’t companies’ jobs to cushion the blow of rejection for their unsuccessful applicants, but it would have been nice to hear back from one of them telling me why I wasn’t even considered. How can I get better and become a more viable candidate if I don’t know what I can do to be better? (And before you suggest that I do some self-help learning, I’ve been taking Liz Ryan’s words to heart, and have recently purchased her book!)
And so the cycle started again.
I lost some of my motivation in the face of all this blatant rejection, yet again. It’s hard to feel motivated when you don’t even feel like you exist in the career field you want to spend the rest of your life in. (Why won’t you let me love you, darn it?!) And with these feelings come the doubts, the lackluster moods, the apathy. And the panic. Am I even capable of doing the kind of work I’m interested in? Am I aiming too high for positions I’m not ready or qualified for? Am I going to have to be a bus driver for the rest of my life?
Thankfully, that last thought has figuratively reignited the fire under my butt. Kudos to all bus drivers out there, because you are all saints, and so funny and calm and sassy. But I can’t be, and I don’t want to be, a bus driver for the rest of my life, and I am going to do what I can to make sure of it.
Then a part-time dispatch position opened up at work. It’s a weekend gig, only 16 hours a week (with some opportunity to take more shifts during the week if I wanted), but it would be a step in the right direction for me. Firstly, it’s an office job, so I would be developing my office job-related skills (as opposed to my current position, where I pretty much only get to do some minor problem-solving and providing superior customer service. Yes, I know those are important skills to have, but connecting bus driving with comms jobs can be a bit of a stretch). Secondly, since it’s a weekend position (and we’re only allowed to hold one position at a time at the Region), I’d be free to have a regular 9 a.m. — 5 p.m. job during the week!
So I applied for the position, did all the testing (so much Excel, in which I am actually fairly competent!), and had the interview.
I didn’t get that position either, but it could have been for a number of reasons, such as seniority (something that is often the deciding factor where I work), sucking at the interview (hopefully that wasn’t the case, but I try not to over-analyze my interviews), not being as fast at data entry as my competitor(s), etc. I don’t know exactly what lost me the job, but I was told that my overall scoring was not very far off from the person who got the job. At least I was considered for the position, and tried my best. I’m a little dejected that I wasn’t awarded the opportunity, but there’s something satisfying about knowing that while you didn’t get the job, you did all you could and you put your in your best effort at the time. Okay, so the better competitor got the job. If the opportunity comes up again, I’m definitely going to try for it again, but I also know that there are things I can do to improve my application for next time, and you can bet that I’ll be doing those things in the meantime.
It’s also hard to see my friends and classmates succeeding where I’m not (way to go, Dion! I knew you’d get the job, you will totally rock it!), but I know that I just need to continue working at my own job hunt, and try not to compare myself to them either. We all have different journeys, and trying to mold mine to fit another’s path is not going to work.
So, to the figurative fire waiting to be lit under my butt: here’s your official notice– get crackling!
In the meantime, I’ve got things in the works. I’m working on a side project for a friend, I’m going to get back into trying my hand at 99designs again, and there are a few hobbies that I’ve decided to jump back into with newfound interest. I’m also going to up my photography game, seeing as I absolutely adore being a photographer and am always looking at things with a photographer’s eye. And of course, I’m going to continue with personal blogging. It gives me an outlet to voice my thoughts while also honing and testing my writing skills, and is a means of connecting with the world around me.
I’m choosing to look at my life up to this point as an adventure… Because we all know the best stories always include adversity! Nobody wants to hear about Jillian, the woman who did things that were easy and was given opportunities that she didn’t earn and never faced obstacles. Nope, in the end, I want people to want to hear about Jillian, the (figuratively speaking) Dragon Slayer and Challenge Obliterator! (Or something like that. I may pursue the pirate’s life, or be the next Doctor‘s Companion. We’ll see how life plays out.) So stay tuned, friends! I’m sure something interesting will be coming along soon.
Also, side note: After writing this post, man do I feel inspired! See, I knew blogging was good for something. #ToBeContinued