I have numerous family members who are just graduating college and are trying to navigate through the job search, and are having a hard time. I remember all too well how I felt at graduation so I've tried to offer a bit of advice, but I think it might be one of those lessons that you have to learn first hand.
But today I wanted to talk about how I got my job. I know that some readers feel a bit alienated when they see the income that we pull in each month, and so I wanted to provide a bit more detail as to how I stumbled into this high paying job in the hopes that I'll seem a bit more relatable.
First, when you see our monthly figures, my job is making up the majority. My husband works in a creative field that he loves making $29,000. He fully contributes to his 401K (which his company limits to 50% of his income) and so after taxes he pulls in about $900 a month. While he makes less than me his work is his life's purpose and he is very happy. I fully support him in this, and his salary was one of the first reasons that I wanted to live a smaller lifestyle - I wanted my husband to have piece of mind that he could support us if necessary.
So that leaves my job. Let's start from the beginning.
I went to a top 10 university and majored in a science/engineering field. While I enjoyed it, I knew after spending countless hours in a lab that it wasn't what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted more human interaction. The last semester of college was the hardest of my life and I was studying like mad until my very last final. Thus I didn't go through rounds of interviews and graduate with a job waiting for me. Instead I graduated with about $1000 to my name from waitressing and an invitation from my parents to come live at home until I got on my feet.
Well I wanted nothing to do with that. I wanted to support myself and live on my own, so I chose a somewhat random course. I have always been interested in music and thought I would like to work in that field so I decided to move to a city with numerous options. What I found was eye opening. There were people that had been training and networking for just these kinds of jobs for many years, and just getting an interview seemed impossible. My $1000 was running out quickly and so I started interviewing for whatever jobs I could find.
I would up working for a small mom and pop shop as a secretary for $25,000 and for a moment I was happy. Sure it wasn't the work I had dreamed of doing, but I had found a way to support myself and the independence felt amazing. After a few months though I was bored and started interviewing for other jobs. I had multiple rounds of interviews and I'm guessing that my indifference to my existing job showed, because only a few months in I was let go (a day before my probation period ended).
It was devastating. I had always been a good worker, a top student, and it felt like I had been punched in the stomach. The people I was working for weren't educated and didn't even seem to know how to run the place, but nevertheless it was their business and they had the right to let me go. It felt awful.
So I kept on with my interviews, and eventually got a job offer. This one was back in the Midwest and was a silly office job at a technology company. My college friends had glamorous jobs that seemed to have a real impact and my job was to put together binders and make sure that conference rooms looked nice. I was making $30,000 which was a bump up but still nothing to write home about. Again, I thought the work was a bit boring but I did it to the best of my ability and I took on extra projects.
A few months in one of the vice presidents took notice of me. She would assign me special tasks and seemed to think that I could do more. She invited me to a presentation training class for the sales team which I was not yet a part of, and I was shocked when she asked me to get up and make a presentation with people ranked much higher than me. I stayed up late the night before working on my speech, and it paid off because the next day I won the entire competition. Little did I know that had been a job interview, and I had passed with flying colors.
From then on out I continued to work really hard. I joined the sales team and learned about one of the products sold by our company. I then went on to learn a second, becoming one of only a handful of people to do so. I continued to excel and prove myself in sales deals and was promoted to a senior position.
Then a manager role became available and I talked to my boss about my possible interest. I was told that it was probably too early for me, but that I could interview for practice. But my goal was to earn a manager spot, so I worked really hard to prepare. I read numerous books, practiced interview questions and presented a plan for my first 3 months. I was told that I was the most prepared out of any candidate, and I still can't believe, I was given the job.
Along the way, I got significant raises and stock grants with each promotion. I have never pushed very hard for money and was grossly underpaid compared to my peers, until the last couple of years. But what I've found is that going above and beyond at every opportunity pays off. Even when my job was to make sure conference rooms looked nice I took great pride in it and told myself that I would do that task better than anyone ever had. It was what I did in that first administrative role that opened the door to great opportunities, and so I believe it was my actions there that were the most critical to my current success.
So, if you or someone you know is just graduating college and they have heartburn over taking a remedial job, tell them that it is a foot in the door to great things. If they find a growing company, and go above and beyond, the possibilities are endless.
I was lucky to have stumbled upon a great place of employment, so I can't take credit for that discovery, but I did make the most of it by trying my hardest along the way. Just hard work, nothing magic.