I was seldom able to see an opportunity until it had ceased to be one.
Opportunity approaches us all differently and it’s not always easy to recognize. I’d like to think I’m pretty good at recognizing it and in some cases creating it for myself. I’ve always worked hard. I held 2 jobs through college as both an RA and working in the Computer Center of my undergraduate school. In grad school, I was a Resident Hall Director managing an upper class-men dorm of about 150 resident students. Even though I wasn’t always working in the field I studied for, I always kept my eye on the long term goal… a job!
I never doubted I was going to get one. One of the perks of the IT field, which is partly why I went this route. I’ve always loved technology. In grad school, when the finish line was approaching, I felt the pressure to begin thinking about my future. I networked like crazy with all of my peers. Most of them were working adults furthering their education for their professional goals. Several of them were managers, consultants, analysts, and even someone who was in retirement. I learned so much just being in class with them.
My class enabled me to become a self-advocate and speak openly about what I was looking for in a career. I didn’t hide it or try to be sweet about it. I was looking for a job. I actively asked, “Do you know of any positions I might be a good fit for?” and near the end of my 16 month graduate program, one of my peers (who was a manager) mentioned their intern was recently moved to another team as a contractor. While I wasn’t exactly hoping for an internship, it was paid and seemed to be a good stepping stone into the company.
So I applied for this position, a graduate level candidate, into an internship at the company I work for now. I could have possibly held out for a better entry level position elsewhere, but I was really excited about starting my career and diving into the corporate world. It was a risk, but a risk that paid off. After 6 months of being an intern and living off $15/hr, I received an offer for another position inside the company, and was met with a counter offer from the team I worked on which just had a position open up. So within 6 months I was able to secure my first salary position as a Technical Analyst and on the same team.
Opportunity does not knock, it presents itself when you beat down the door.
I have had many people tell me, “Oh you’re so lucky!” or “I wish I had the same opportunity.” My response is usually along the lines of “Yeah, luck had a little bit to do with it, but so did the work to get there.” So if I had to boil it down to 2 simple rules, it would be:
- Build Relationships with those who can help you! I know it sounds so simple. And you’ve probably heard it before, but seriously… find a mentor, find a friend in the same field, talk to them about their experience and see if they have friends. You are the only one that’s going to be able to sell yourself. And if you can’t sell yourself to those around you, you’re going to have a hard time rocking an interview.
- Don’t be afraid of risks. I had to make a pretty tough decision when I was offered the internship. I was working as a Hall Director where my living was provided. My options were either A. Take the internship, leave my Hall Director position, and start my career on a $15/hr wage or B. Stay in my Hall Director job and try to land something more substantial within 6 months when I wasn’t going to have the regular night classes with my graduate study peers any longer. I went for it. I was all in. I didn’t have a lot of spare money, but my eyes were on the long term goal of my career, not my temporary living situation.
Have you ever faced the same kind of dilemma? Did it work out for you? Do you have any advice for anyone that might be trying to get in the door? Share your comments below.