Monday, June 16, 2008

[Feature] True Life: Transitioning from College Graduate to Working Professional (Part 2)

(c. 2008, my huge cubicle at Cartoon Network, it normally looks a lot messier than that)

This is Part 2 of my story of transitioning into the real world from college. In Part 1, I talked about my struggle to land a job after college, and what my very first corporate job was like. After a year and some months being stuck at a job where I was going nowhere, I decided I had enough and was ready to move on.

The Next Steps
Job searching is a long process. You don't wish for a new job and it happens. Applying, interviewing, and accepting are weeks-long processes. I started hard-core searching in February, perusing daily: mediabistro.com, nytimes.com, timewarner.com, bookjobs.com, not to mention specific companies and their career sites. In the middle of all my job searching (which was hampered by the fact that, you know, I actually had work to do at work most days), I found a job posting for a Coordinator position in the Corporate Sponsorship department at Sesame Workshop. I've always wanted to work there, because I believe in their mission of furthering children's education and development through various sources of media. I applied for the position, but knowing what I know about applying for jobs, I also enlisted the help and advice of a co-worker, who had worked there for a really long time before moving over to Cartoon.

This statement is probably going to get me in a lot of trouble, but it's the way I feel. It's so much harder to get anywhere in your career without someone's help. No, this isn't a hard truth, but in my experience, I've found it to be truer than not. I got my interview at Cartoon because my friend Leslie (who had already been working there) passed my resume along to the assistant who was moving on and vacating that position. And almost everyone I know at Turner got into the company because they knew someone who was already in. But let me clarify, this doesn't mean that just because you know someone somewhere you're going to get that job. It just means you get to bypass the 'did HR even see my resume/cover letter??' waiting game.

I can't honestly say that I would have gotten an interview without my co-worker's help. She ended up knowing the head of the Corporate Sponsorship department, and emailed her, recommending me for the position. A week later, I had an interview scheduled with her. When job searching, exhaust every contact you know, I can't stress that enough. And honestly, while you might feel bad calling up someone you haven't talked to in awhile to be like, "Hey, you want to pass my resume on to your HR dept/your former co-worker?" you have to understand that people do it all the time. I don't mind doing it for other people because I know how stressful job searching was for me, and I think that's how a lot of people feel. The worst you can get is a no, while the best outcome could be that job you want, right?

The Interview and the Aftermath
My interview at Sesame, 2 hours and 4 people later, was the best interview experience I had for a variety of reasons. I had a lot to say because I really do believe in Sesame's mission, which always helps- DO YOUR RESEARCH on the company! By the grace of God, I was able to intelligently and articulately (I am neither of those things most of the time) put into words not only why I didn't want to be in advertising sales, but why my ad sales experience would parlay well into the corporate sponsorship department at Sesame.

The first round of interviews left me on cloud nine, because I had connected well with my interviewers, and I was told I was one of their top candidates at that point. Long story short though, I was passed over in the end. I was pretty upset, and because I had been really optimistic about this job, I had halted my job search entirely. So as depressed as I was, I threw myself back into job searching, as well as work, because I was helping to plan a really big work event coming up. But I received another call from Sesame less than 2 weeks later. It turned out someone was leaving the department, and they were restructuring responsibilities around to accommodate a second coordinator, which they were hoping would be me.

You have no idea how elated I felt about all of this, not only because it was the job I wanted, but because people genuinely wanted me at the company. The department head called me to make sure I was still available and interested before they even officially created the position, because they weren't going to post the job if I wanted to accept it. Honestly, the timing couldn't have been better. If I had gotten the job originally, I would've left Cartoon at a really busy time, and I know I would've burned a couple of bridges. Sometimes, even when you think a door has closed, it really hasn't; you just have to be patient. Which is also why you have to remain grateful and enthusiastic to your interviewers to the end, even if you've been rejected, because you never know when the company might have a job for you.

Negotiating the Offer
Getting the offer was awesome, but it's always good to read the fine print and discuss the things you are questioning before you accept the job. Even though I was fine with my base salary (it's definitely a raise from my current one), I knew that it would be a good idea to put it on the negotiation table, so that they had it on record that I asked for more money. Why is this a good idea? If you don't say anything about salary, people can take advantage of you by passing you over for bigger raises, or not giving you what they technically could give you. As uncomfortable as it is to have money discussion, it's always good to have on record that you asked for more, and that you know the value you bring to the company. In the end, I didn't get more money, but that's ok, because I really wasn't expecting to win that one. I was just really proud of myself for having put it out there. And I also negotiated a later start date, so I was pretty happy.

Accepting this job meant I had to quit my other job. Giving my two weeks notice was a really scary one for me. I wasn't sure how my bosses would react, and if they would take it personally that I didn't want to follow in their footsteps. I was literally shaking in front of my boss's office before I went in to break the news. However, I think that I underestimated how, more often than not, people like to see other people move on and pursue what they actually want to do. I was grateful, thanking them for the opportunity I had been given there, but I also stressed how excited I was for this new chapter in my life, and in the end, what could anyone do about that except be happy for me?

I was so genuinely touched by the fact that EVERYONE- my bosses, my co-workers, and my acquaintances at work, were really happy for me. And the lesson learned here is that if you do your job and do it well, and you're easy to work with, people will actually care where you go. I hated my job at times. But I did my work, I did it thoroughly, and I think people really appreciated that. And now I have all these references who can vouch for my work ethic, should I need to use them in the future.

So my new job at Sesame starts today, and I have no idea how it's going to go honestly. All I know is that it's what I wanted, I went for it, I got it, and hopefully it'll be a good start to my "career." I learned a lot about job searching, job negotiating, and job accepting through this process, and I'm really grateful to all of the people who have helped me out along the way. I really believe everything happens for a reason, and I couldn't be more thankful for the way things have worked out. I'll keep you posted on my climb up the corporate ladder.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yay, Jen. Good luck - I think you'll do awesome.

leo said...

bravo jen, bravo! i'm so happy for you haha this is a real upper =]