How to Land the Job of Your Dreams: The Arbitrary Interview Process

interview_blogI have been working at Beyond Spots & Dots for two full months. It feels like a lifetime. How did I get so lucky, when some people struggle to find a job they love?

I have been thinking  lately that the whole job search process is a blend of luck and strategy and wit and formula–therefore it is entirely and completely random. There is no “process.” No one is right or wrong, no one has the advantage. It’s everyone for themselves. Yet we try to help each other out by doling out these rules and say that they will work if you follow them to a T.

Like little robots, college students come out of graduation with resumes and cover letters in hand, and carefully practiced answers to interview questions. With a degree, some activities and an internship, they all look the same on paper. What it comes down to must be the interview. Continue reading

Enough of 2012, Bring on the New Year

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The last time I took a moment to reflect about an entire year, I was a freshman in college and had experienced so much change between high school and the University of Delaware that it would have been wrong for me not to think back on it and appreciate it. At that time, I was growing up, moving out, making new friends, having new experiences and learning from everything.

This too, has been a year of changes. If I could have made a prediction years ago about where I would be at this point in my life, it would not be here. I would not be living at home with my parents, I would not still be serving at a restaurant, I would not even be in Pittsburgh. But now that I’m here, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

Today, January 1st, 2013, looks just like yesterday, December 31, 2012. The sky is gray, snowflakes are falling gently from the sky onto what already looks like a foot of snow on the ground. The house is cold, the coffee is brewing, the TV is on. But people love a new year because we all want to say goodbye to the old and look ahead to what we have to come. We want closure for our troubles and we want a new beginning, a fresh start.

Well last night, my fresh start began with a glass of champagne and my dog, hanging out in the kitchen watching my parents and their friends play “Catchphrase.” I had to work last night. And I guess it was a fitting way to end the year. This year that I spent more time in a restaurant waiting tables than I did anywhere else. Why not end it that way too? But this is starting to sound depressing and my year was anything but. So I’ve said before, the best place to begin a story is at the beginning.

Last year I celebrated the new year in Buffalo, New York with a kiss from my boyfriend in a room full of strangers. It was a scene from a movie and it was perfect. A perfect prelude for the year to come.

I was finishing up my senior year of college. From January through May, my days mostly alternated between waitressing and going to classes. During my final semester, I only had to take three classes and had four day weekends. Which of course left more time for working. I worked a lot, but I made a little time for fun.

I enjoyed a memorable end to the production of my student-run television show. We successfully produced five shows during the spring semester and celebrated our accomplishments. I worked with some great people on that show, people with big ideas who will definitely go places. Without them, the show would not have been the same.

Jim and I took a short trip to Washington, D.C. in March to walk through all of the museums. It was an absolutely wonderful day. We went to Virginia Beach for a few days together during our spring break. The weather wasn’t on our side, but we had more fun than I thought possible in such a short amount of time.

In April I was honored to be a bridesmaid in my cousin’s wedding and watch her walk down the aisle to her new husband, so obviously in love and so obviously perfect for each other.

Jim dragged me to a Rick Ross concert at the end of our senior year. I tried to keep an open mind, allow my musical tastes to expand. But I don’t think they expanded that much.

I graduated from the University of Delaware at the end of May, one day before I turned 22. I graduated cum laude with a degree in Communication, a well-rounded resume and no job to speak of. I decided to celebrate anyway.

And then I had what I’m sure will later become known as The Summer of Frustration. The day after I moved back home, I pulled out the computer and typed up cover letters, tweaked my resume and scoured the job boards. I had goals, I had a system, I read “how-to-get-a-job” blogs and “how-to-ace-an-interview” articles (although I didn’t get many interviews). I updated my social media profiles and launched Measure with Coffee Spoons. I went on a solo trip to New York City to meet with a friend’s boss and talk about her company. And in between all that, I watched seasons three through seven of Grey’s Anatomy. Jim and I travelled back and forth between Pittsburgh and Buffalo. I went to a few Pirates games with my family. I went on my family vacation to Myrtle Beach. I babysat. I taught private swimming lessons. And I started running. All the while, wallowing in self-pity because I was job-less, living at home, and I missed my Delaware friends terribly.

By the end of the summer, I got hired at a new restaurant as a server and things started to look up. I took my nose ring out, got off the couch, and got a Macbook. I started interning at Steeltown Entertainment Project and loved it. I volunteered to work as a production assistant for an independent film being produced in the area.

Through all of that, I met some of the greatest people. I worked with some great servers and chefs and kids they call server’s assistants. People who love restaurant work and people who are in it for the money. People with big dreams and small incomes. People who are juggling school and work and children and husbands. People who are taking a break from school but when they go, they’ll make something of themselves. People who are perfectionists, who want every lemon on every plate to be facing the same way. People who don’t care, who bus the tables and get their stuff done so they can go out with friends. People who have climbed the ladder, who’ve fallen and gotten back up. You don’t know their stories, but they are inspirational.

I met great people on the set of “Lemonade.” People who are doing what they love, even if they don’t get paid for it. People who know what they want and are working to get there. People who don’t know what they want, but are figuring it out. People who have exactly what they want and every scene is a relaxing joy for them.

And I’ve met great people at Steeltown. People whom I hope to get to know better. Because I’ve accepted my first real job with them. And I start tomorrow.

This past year was about meeting and spending time with some amazing people. They helped me get where I am and I wouldn’t be who I am without them.

Here’s to closure for 2012. Now bring on the new year.

(photo via)

The Pursuit of Something Else

Sometimes I compare things in my life with movies. I’m sure everyone does, but maybe I’m a romantic and you hear me saying it more often. You know the phrase, “-but that’s how it is in the movies!” or “it never happens like that in the movies.” And people respond “yes Meg, but those are just movies.” 

Well I found myself doing it again. You see, I have good days and bad days, as does everyone. On the bad days I wonder where my life is going and whether I’ll  ever get a real job and I think about my friends who live far away and can’t visit and the student loans I’ll have to start paying because my six-month grace period will be up….. And on the good days I remember that life is an adventure and I’m just living it- that everything will eventually work out and then when I’m old this will all be part of the awesome story I have to tell.

So the other day, I was having a good day. And for some reason I started thinking about the movie, The Pursuit of Happyness. For those of you who haven’t seen it, it is based on a true story about a young man with a wife and child living in New York City. The man is a door-to-door salesman, but his hospital equipment isn’t selling well. They can’t make rent and his wife leaves him and their son. And this man just thinks that if he wore a suit and worked as a stock broker in a big city building that his life would be happy. So he takes this unpaid internship, while still trying to sell the hospital equipment and raise a son, and he goes through arguably the hardest part of his life and comes out the other side.

I own this movie, but I don’t think I’ve seen it in awhile. Which is why I was surprised that I was just driving along and it suddenly came to me. And I wondered, are we really in the pursuit of happiness? I don’t know if that phrase is quite accurate.

I find myself in a similar, but most certainly not exact, situation. I took an unpaid internship, in addition to the job that makes the money, and at the end of it, I hope a real job will be in closer reach. I’m working almost every day and I’m busy and stressed. But remember, I was having a good day. So I kept in mind that I don’t have a spouse that just left me, I’m not saddled with a kid, I don’t have rent to pay (right now), my internship isn’t a full time job taking up all my time, and I’m not homeless and sleeping in subways. And suddenly I felt much better about the situation.

My internship is two days a week, four hours a day. So far they haven’t had me doing anything super exciting, but there is the prospect of doing exciting things down the line. I really like what the organization is doing and the projects that I’m working on. It’s all very peace-hope-and-love stuff that you can’t help but get sucked into. The interviews that I’m transcribing right now do give me a little hope for humanity, if only there were more people with as much positivity and kindness as this woman. And I love the atmosphere of this non-profit/public television workplace, the people who say hello to me in the halls and the good vibes you get when people love their jobs.

I’m definitely in pursuit of something, but I don’t think it’s happiness. Hopefully there aren’t a lot of people in the world who are in search of happiness. I think that happiness can always be there, but often people are too tired or stressed to notice and accept it. And so they think they’re not happy. In the movie, Will Smith had happy moments, I think. His son was a huge source of happiness for him, when he noticed. The problem was that he broke his life down into a tiny little word used to sum up the whole time period (example: “This part of my life is called running.“) But life is so much more complicated than a single word and he limited himself by boxing it all in like that.

As for me, I think I’m happy. I think I have a lot going for me if I have a good day and take the time to remember it. I’m in pursuit of something else. The pursuit of a plan. Or stability. The pursuit of a long-term achievable goal. I wonder if we could spell that wrong and make it a sequel. I’m clearly in pursuit of something, but if I weren’t, my life would be boring. And I’m really looking forward to having a good story to tell.

An Explanation of My Life’s Next Chapter

And suddenly, with little notice, the unemployed has found herself incredibly busy.

For the first half, or more like two-thirds, of the summer, my days consisted of my morning coffee and newspaper routine, while watching the Today Show, followed by a trip to the gym or to the park for a run, then a few hours scanning career search engines and company websites, sending out a few resumes here and there…and then I would relax, read a book, sit in the backyard and get a tan, watch movies, take naps. I had quite the life, you might say. Student loans, cell phone bills and the prospect of a needing a new computer were hanging over my head, but no matter–I had time to nap. What working adult can say that?

But then I finally got through my server training and now my schedule has me waiting tables about 35 hours a week. I continued teaching swimming lessons to my neighbor as long as I could but I taught the last one last week. I still have my coffee in the mornings, but I don’t always have time to run or play around on the internet. Definitely no time to nap. And as soon as I got used to this new routine, I got an interview for an internship with a non-profit entertainment media company. I interviewed on a Thursday and on Monday, I got an email telling me I could come in to start the very next day. So now I’m interning two mornings a week and am able to keep working full time at the restaurant. Thankfully there are no more swim lessons.

I’m busy now, but grateful to have something to keep me occupied. Since the work schedules only come out the week before, I can only take my life one week at a time, but this suits me for now. I can still request some days off to visit my boyfriend or see a Steelers game. And let’s face it, too much time spent with the family would have started making me crazy after awhile.

So this little blurb is brought to you by a busy working girl to explain the lack of recent posts. And I have just gotten my new computer, so now I will be so excited to use it that you should probably expect a post every day. Or twice a day. Because it’s such a pretty little computer and I can’t let it just sit there.