In April 2018, I knew life would be different. My college program, internship and campus job all came to an end. I wasn’t going to hold a summer job for four months then return to school after Labour Day. My 6-year routine was over. I was now in the “real world” and I couldn’t avoid it. To my dismay, I also found myself unemployed.
My 6 Year Background
I started my post-secondary journey with an Honours BA in Psychology. That degree typically takes 4 years to complete, but my depression got the best of me and my GPA suffered. While I did not fail any courses, I was given the option to just graduate after my 3rd year with a general BA which I refused. Instead, I decided to redo a few courses to increase my GPA then complete the outstanding courses required to graduate. Consequently, it took an extra year to get my degree while I also got help to cope with depression.
In short, I managed to graduate with straight B’s. I was also happy since I got accepted to the social service program I applied for. I felt like it was my opportunity to do better as I was in a good space mentally. As a result, I finished the program on the Dean’s List! My name behind a huge glass frame in the hallway was quite a sight to see. I did that! I excelled while juggling a part-time job and an internship. Yessss, ma’am!
Sadly, that feeling of triumph didn’t last long. It went away within the last week of my program. I didn’t feel accomplished because I had nothing lined up job-wise. That worried me and I started to have doubts that I would find a career in my field.
Welcome to the Real World
I was often told that I shouldn’t expect to find work in my field so soon after graduating. I would always hear the following:
“You expect that you’ll find something just because you went to college and uni?”
“You know how many people have the same education yet couldn’t find anything?”
“You’d be lucky if you find a part-time position, let alone in your field!”
“Be prepared to work at some random place you’ll hate girl.”
Hello??! I went to school for YEARS!! What do you mean don’t expect??!?
Despite the odds, I was hell-bent on finding something worthwhile. As a student, I had a few jobs I wasn’t fond of, but I tolerated them to make ends meet (and would you refuse jobs as a student if they work with your class schedule??). There’s one job (ironically the one where I burnt out) that I remember most. I was the youngest and there were a few coworkers who told me that they regretted not going after the career they wanted. They would often remind me to never settle and would always say “I better not find you here when you’re done with school!” to which I’d laugh and be met with “I’m serious! Get out there!”
Well, I listened. I got out there. It’s been a roller-coaster these last 6 years, but if I could sum up what I learned, it would be the following:
1. Overcome Your Fears
Rather than fearing I wouldn’t end up in my field, I had to take action. I could have accepted a 3-year bachelor’s degree instead of an Honours BA but that wouldn’t make a difference because the issue was that I was scared of seeking help for my mental health or anyone finding out for that matter.
In no way am I saying that “if you just get help, maybe things will be better”. I understand how hard it can be to acknowledge there’s something wrong, let alone seek help for it. I had to overcome the shame I felt for having depression and find the appropriate counsellor to assist me before I was able to achieve my goals.
Furthermore, overcoming my fear meant that I had to figure out what I wanted to do and prepare while still in school. I knew the positions that interested me all required a degree and significant work experience. With that being said, while I was still in school, I hunted for jobs that could be counted as a good experience and would make me a strong candidate for a career in my field. Admittedly, while I did secure relevant paying jobs, it wasn’t always easy to get them without a post-secondary degree. So, this leads to my next lesson…
2. Be Open to Working for “Free”
There are times where you must work for “free” – meaning being a volunteer or an intern. These options are beneficial provided they’re in sectors you’re interested in. If your program doesn’t offer internships, look for relevant volunteer opportunities you can do for a few hours per week/month.
Internships were a requirement for my second program. This allowed me to work with a reputable employer. That experience ended up being far more rewarding than any job I’ve ever had. It gave me first-hand knowledge of the field, which is why I continued as a volunteer after graduation (also I was unemployed so why not lol). Luckily, there was a lovely lady who allowed me to shadow whenever I wasn’t working on other projects. She thought me some valuable skills and gave me a lot of great advice. It was nice having the opportunity to shadow someone who went after the career she wanted. She was proof that one can make good use of their degree which motivated me to do the same.
3. Have Patience! Your Time Will Come!
Though I had all the patience needed in my undergrad to work towards an Honours BA, I grew impatient after my postgraduate program. I expected instant gratification for my hard work and I didn’t get it. I was applying for jobs even before I graduated and didn’t hear from anyone. It bothered me, but I kept searching and tried to keep myself busy by volunteering. I was searching for months and eventually came across a job posting that intrigued me. It was advertised as a competition, which I found strange considering the employer, yet I was excited. They were looking for 10 people and I was determined to be one.
There was a 2-week window to apply. When the application period ended, I was antsy. I was expecting a call or email asap. A week went by and soon enough a month did too and I didn’t hear back from them. I was upset and lost the little bit of patience I had left. Given that it was June and I had been unemployed for two months, I ended up accepting one of the random jobs I had applied for. I knew I’d grow tired of the job, but my savings were depleting which scared me. Little did I know, the opportunity I wanted was coming…
4. Take A Leap. You Won’t Regret It
The weirdest thing that happened this year was in early June. On the first day of the job I settled for, the employer I assumed found their 10 candidates sent me an invite for an assessment. It was held on a day I had work, but I was able to go there without missing my shift. I thought it would be quick, yet I found myself doing a 3-hour exam that tested my analytical and grammatical skills. I thought that exam life was over. Guess not!
A month went by after the assessment before hearing from them again. This time it was for a second assessment. It was scheduled during work hours, so I used a personal day. I got to headquarter and was placed in a tiny room that held a table, 2 chairs and a telephone. The lady who greeted me at the entrance said I’ll have a conversation with a teacher who will assess my communication skills over the phone (it sounds weird but it’s a true story!).
We spoke about race issues, social work and about me (She wanted to know a lot about me! It felt odd yet good sharing my dreams with a stranger!). The teacher told me she had a few more candidates to speak to and that I’d hear from HR soon. Honestly, even though it wasn’t confirmed that I had the job, I was ready to quit the job I settled for. I didn’t enjoy it and felt stifled. There was no room for growth and I wasn’t trying to stay in a place where I was miserable. I had enough money saved to survive so I handed my resignation near the end of July.
5. Not Everyone Will Support You
Very few people supported my decision to quit a job with no guarantee that I’d get the career I wanted. Those who always had faith in me were my immediate family and my partner. Sure they asked a million questions, but I could tell they had my best interest at heart. Friends, well that’s when I learned that not everyone is supportive.
I distinctly remember some laughing and saying “wow you quit your job?? That’s stupid! You don’t even have anything lined up!”. I shared that I quit because I wanted better for myself and that was the response I got…
While I worked on achieving my goal, I learned that it’s those who didn’t go after what they wanted that had the most negative things to say (I’m not trying to be mean here. Those who want to see you win wouldn’t be negative when you are trying to improve your life!)
6. Manifestation + Action = Results!
During my last week on the job (early August), I got an email from my potential employer. I was invited to the panel interview, which was the final round. It fell on the day I’d be officially unemployed. With that being said, I had faith that things would turn out in my favour, despite that self-doubting part of me that wondered if I was indeed “stupid” for quitting my job. I was nervous before the interview but when it was my turn, I felt a shift of energy. I felt like I belonged there and I’d make sure the panel members knew it (where was that confidence in my teenage years?!?).
It took around 3 weeks to hear from HR since they were contacting my references but I got the job! My work and manifesting paid off. I was clear on the kind of work I’m interested in, the population I wanted to work with and even my starting salary. It took me 5 months (well 6 years and 5 months if you count school), and here I was after Labor Day going into a career that I’ll make sure opens many more doors for me.
2018 taught me the beauty of overcoming my fears and taking chances. It taught me that I must go after the things I want no matter what people say. It’s not impossible to get a career in your field but I must admit it takes time! It takes planning and most importantly, it takes a lot of patience! Be open to taking risks (calculated risks to be specific!). If you’re not happy with what you’re doing, take the time to reflect on what you want. Talk to people who succeeded in making the changes they wanted in their lives; you can learn so much from them!
You want to look back at these moments and be glad that you took chances to pursue your dreams rather than wondering what could have been. After all, it’s better to have tried than to have not tried at all.
All the best in your journey!