When I Grow Up I Wanna Be …
AKA: When I Graduate I’m Going to Be
It’s been a while since I sat in Mrs Sharpe’s Transition class and drew a picture with me and what I think was meant to be a cat saying ‘When I grow up I want to be a Vet’. At the time I was obsessed with Animal Hospital on the TV because my mum let me sneak downstairs to watch it without my younger brother or sister. And since then I’ve definitely wanted to be lots of things.
Including an astronaut but that’s another story….
Always a writer. Always a storyteller, though in various incarnations. Novelist, poet, journalist, travel writer, blogger, PR exec, academic. So perhaps some of you will remember when I was living it up in limbo, musing over job applications, lamenting the Static Sound of Silence when yet another application went unacknowledged and likely lost to the aether of another HR inbox? Well, it looks like I’ve taken at least a couple steps forward from that and I thought I’d share. Especially since it’s meant that I’ve been answering the question, ‘So why do you want to be one of us?’, repeatedly in recent weeks.
The first time I was asked it was back before Easter when I finally broke the Silence of Doom. I had a skype interview. And when that went well I was invited to their Assessment Day. I was in the FINAL TWENTY. And there was a chance that I might end up on Grad Scheme that looked like a Totally Awesome First Step. They asked me: why us, why you, why this job. And I answered with the truth: because I am storyteller but I want a job that lets me be creative within the unique, dynamic and multifaceted world of PR (ok there’s some gushing in there but look a tricolon! creative!). Now, I didn’t quite make the final hurdle onto that First Step. But the whole experience was a learning curve and of course, I picked up the tattered flag of my unworldly dreams and started the process of applications once again.
I mean come on, if J.K. Rowling can be rejected a gazillion times (with Harry Potter AND The Cuckoo’s Calling) then I could handle the Big Final No as well.
TOP TIP NUMBER ONE MY FRIENDS:
Since that so-close-yet-so-far encounter, I’ve changed tactics a little on the ‘please employ me’ front.
In fact, you could say that I’ve overhauled my game plan.
No more speculative emails to ‘Dear Sirs’ or ‘Dear Madams’. No more long, wiffle-waffle cover letters that plead my case. No more mucking around with the design of my CV. I’ve bid goodbye to my trusty typewriter font, shuffled the format so it looks streamlined, clean-cut. Everything is integrated with my finally updated Linkedin that is also Finally Gaining Views. I wanted to show people exactly who I am and what I want to do.
Thus, even beyond the paperwork and the applications, I’ve taken to networking with all the razzmatazz I can muster. Since a lot of what I want to do will be about who I know and how I communicate, this step is really something I should have been doing since the beginning. I could make excuses: Edinburgh/Durham is sooooo far away from London. Or: I’m still doing my final dissertation for this masters programme, I couldn’t possibly have done this earlier.
But these excuses are excuses.
As excuses go though, they’re pretty feeble when it comes to networking. Because there’s this thing call the interwebz! Thanks to a little help from some friends that I’ve been talking to via email, Facebook and even LinkedIn, I’m now in touch with a number of fantastic people and some brilliant companies. Some have landed me interviews (woop woop) and others have led to amazing conversations full of advice and further recommendations on what to do (equally woop-able). Every single person I have spoken to has helped in some way and I probably certainly owe them a drink (Smiths of Smithfields one night maybe?).
In fact, right now I’m talking to a company who I think might have The Job of My Dreams and we’re Actually Having a Conversation about it. What happened to the Silence of Doom? I don’t know. But since I’m having to answer that question again: when I graduate, why do you want to come here and why should we have you… well. I think it’s a good thing.
And mostly this has occurred by remembering some of the golden rules of networking. Here we go, here are some of them.
- Remember that the ‘contact’ you’ve made is a person. They’re probably awesome otherwise they wouldn’t be willing to talk to you, give you advice or help you figure out where the stepping stones are in order to cross the big wide river between you, the graduate, and them, the employed.
- Think about them before thinking about you. See if there’s anything you can also offer them or find out what’s important to them for later. It’s a two way street, so if you can’t do anything more than buy them a nice glass of wine or a triple shot soy chai latte with caramel and extra cream, do that. Otherwise, maybe they’d like to meet someone you know as well. Or perhaps you can make a note and save it for a rainy day.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. There are probably stupid questions to ask, but you’re new. You’re starting out. So unless you’re wondering if Paris is the capital of Belgium (keep that for google), ask the question and then hopefully you won’t look like a numpty later.
- Be proactive. People won’t come to you. If your friend gives you the name of someone she or he knows then it’s up to you to contact that person. Don’t leave anything to chance. And just because you’re more interested in one sector over another, doesn’t mean you should ignore an opportunity to talk to someone in a different field to you. ie. talk to the guy in contracts even if you’re more inclined to FLS, you never know where it might lead. Also think about your social media and online presence – use them to your advantage.
- When ‘getting in touch’ with someone new, don’t simper and don’t waffle. Keep it short, tell them why you’re emailing/calling them and, if relevant, remind them who you are and who gave you their details.
- Keep in touch and nurture your network. Don’t plug someone for advice, contacts or job and then never speak to them again. Not only is it rude, but no one wants to be That Guy. You want to be the BNOC.
- Be yourself. Be friendly. And if that fails, maybe read a book by someone like Dale Carnegie. Then start again. Prove that you want to be what you’re saying, don’t just think things to yourself. So to top that off: Be hungry.
- Persevere. Persevere. Persevere. I can say no more. From the first person to say it to me (he’ll know who he is), right through to my dog who repeatedly demonstrates her skillz when squeezing herself onto the sofa between my mother and sister, this is by far the best bit of advice I’ve heard. WE CAN DO IT PEOPLE. WE CAN.
Anyway, that’s quite enough from me. There’s a great deal to think about and even more to prove before anyone believes that I can be the person I want to be, and that’s likely the same for most of us grads. But that’s ok. One step at a time, one question at a time, we can do it.
Je serai poète et toi poésie,