This is a re-post of a guest post I did for Greenhorn Connect. You can find the original post here. Greenhorn Connect is a great resource if you’re looking to learn about the startup ecosystem in Boston. There’s things like a job board and events calendar to connect you to like-minded startupers in the area. Check it out!
I’m awful at math. In 1st grade we learned things like odd and even numbers. When other munchkins were ready for things like addition and subtraction, a perplexed 6-year-old Janet thought, “What the hell?” and scripted surprisingly well-articulated essays about why I hated math during writer’s workshop.
Battling my “clinical inability to deal with numbers,” I always had to ask for extra help after class or do corrections on math tests in high school. I was pretty cool. My amazing mother reassured me on nights I actually cried over algebra homework that learning to work hard was preparing me for something later in life. It did.
This taught me to turn anxiety into action, that achieving goals boils down practical execution and that believing in yourself means trusting you that you’ll do what it takes to make things happen.
I’m from Buffalo, NY and I graduated from St. John Fisher, which is nearby in Rochester, NY. I moved to Boston right after graduation in June 2009 for a PR internship at SHIFT Communications. In August 2009 I got my first big kid job as an account coordinator for Kel & Partners. Every single day I feel lucky that I got to move to Boston.
Unless you’re a computer science major, finding your first job out of college is generally tricky. You have to get someone to give you your big break because you haven’t proven yourself professionally yet. That’s tough in any economy, and 2009 was NOT an ideal time to be looking for that first job. Let me be clear: The recession sucked.
But I did it. I got my first job and moved to the city I love — and I am not special. You can do it too. These are the specific things I did that worked for my job search to move to Boston, and I hope these lessons can help you as well:
1. Networking on Social Media
I joined Twitter in the fall of 2008 for Introduction to Digital Media class. I knew I wanted to be in Boston and do PR. I followed PR agencies and PR people working in Boston to learn about the job market. I read blogs and wrote about my job search and what I was learning about social media on my own blog. This helped me connect with the Boston PR scene even though I was still in Upstate, NY.
My passion for social media stems directly from the humbling generosity I experienced during this time. People I met through Twitter, who didn’t know me and who had absolutely no reason to invest time in me, answered my questions and offered candid advice. People commented on my blog posts and shared them and that built my confidence. I quickly realized that the connections you can make in social media are very real.
These people know who they are and all I can say is thank you. You really helped me. And I’m doing what I can to pay it forward.
2. Informational Interviews
Everyone told me the same thing: “No one is hiring.” I couldn’t get real interviews, so I did a ton of informational ones instead. I figured that way, they’d know who I was if they were hiring in the future. (It worked! That’s how I got my job at Kel & Partners.)
In February I went on spring break with friends from BC. I turned that into an opportunity to (skip a midterm and…) line up an intense day of 5 or 6 informational interviews. That day was great. I experienced that exhilarating hustle of Boston that people can take for granted after a while and that you don’t feel when you’re here for vacation. Boston swept me off my feet that day and I knew I would make my job search a success because I wanted to be here so badly.
3. Ignored the News
I was relentlessly bombarded with articles about the bleak job outlook for 2009 graduates. The media loves a good sob story. Early on in my job hunt, I made a deliberate choice to have a Pollyanna attitude about it all and focus on things I could control – my actions.
I couldn’t control the economy or what the government was or wasn’t going to do to help. I could have perspective: I could feel compassion for the thousands of people whose names I didn’t know who got laid off at companies across the country that were on the evening news. But I couldn’t let negative news get to me and slow down my momentum in my job hunt. So for the most part, I just ignored that news.
I recommend this to all job-hunting 2011 graduates. It’s fine to be aware of the challenge ahead of you, but leave it at that and keep moving forward.
4. Kept it Real and Took a Chance
Of course I wanted a “real job,” but I was acutely aware of situation with the economy. I took a leap of faith and moved to Boston for a paid internship. I trusted myself that I would do what it took to get a full-time job for after the internship once I got here. This prepared me for startupland, where many times you’re faced with uncertainty and you have to trust yourself that you’ll just do what it takes to make a situation work.
Who Ya Calling Entitled?
People love calling Gen Y entitled, like we think the world owes us a job because we went to college. I’ve read news stories about people suing their alma maters because they couldn’t find jobs after graduation. Now that’s crazy talk, son.
I never felt like anyone owed me a job. Sometimes I felt scared because I was in Boston alone doing this internship, my student loans were coming and I didn’t really know where my life was going. (I’m only human; it’s called being 22.) Then I thought about hypothetical people with real responsibilities like babies and mortgages who maybe had just gotten laid off, and I clearly stopped feeling sorry for myself.
Most importantly: My story is not unique by any stretch of the imagination.
I am one of millions of motivated young people who want to work hard. We’ll stay late. We’ll rise to the occasion. We aren’t afraid of an uphill battle.
When you think about the future of Boston, don’t think of the entitled Gen Y-ers. Sure, there are people like that – from every generation. But those are the minority, the particularly odd and special cases, and that’s why they get coverage in the NY Times.
There are many young people in Boston who are not acting like people owe them jobs. They’re creating jobs by building companies and enhancing our startup community. HerCampus, Greenhorn Connect, Bostinnovation, Gemvara and Dart Boston are all led by Gen Y-ers and are all here in Boston doing incredible things.
A blurry sense of opportunity in Boston drew me here, but the very tangible innovation and optimism in our startup community is what makes me want to stay. I couldn’t be more thankful to those whose advice helped me move here, and I couldn’t be more thankful to that anxious, mathematically-challenged college graduate who took a chance on an internship and moved to Boston on a whim. You did the right thing.