What I Know Now…Don’t Give Up



Q.  I’m looking for advice about finding your first job out of college and what 40-somethings would tell a 20-something just trying to figure her life out:

I graduated l18 months ago with a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and have yet to find my first job. After I graduated, I took an unpaid internship at my local community newspaper (I live in the Chicago suburbs), and while I learned a lot and made great connections, they were not hiring for full-time at the end of my internship, so I decided to move on.

The job market was very bleak and finding a job in journalism was extremely difficult. I decided to look into other creative fields (public relations, marketing, advertising, social media). I thought it would show that I was a well-rounded individual who could handle any project in a deadline-driven environment.

So I took yet another unpaid internship at a small public relations firm in the city and found passion to begin a career in public relations. It was a great way to get my feet wet in the field, and I knew it was something I wanted to do in my future. However, like the last company, they were not hiring upon my completion of the internship, so it was back to the drawing board for me.

I took a part-time job to keep me busy while job searching, but I feel like I am in the same place that I started. I seem to be able to get the phone and in-person interviews, but I can’t seem to make it past that step.

I’ve been blogging for myself and for a few smaller websites to keep my writing skills fresh, and was even published in a Chicken Soup for the Soul-type book about post-grad life (Ironically, the post is about what to do while waiting for a job, something I am still in the process of doing).

I’ve met with a few advisors who have given me helpful interview pointers and met with a few temporary agencies, but nothing has come through. It’s been very frustrating having to do the search, submit materials, do my elevator pitch (I’ve probably gone on about 25 interviews for both large and small companies in the Chicagoland suburbs and in downtown Chicago since graduation), utilized my connections for positions, and still not be able to get hired. I’ve looked elsewhere career-wise in starting in an administrative position, but every one that I’ve found has been asking for 2+ years of experience and the ability to manage a team, and I don’t have that. I really don’t want to give up on my dreams, but I am itching to get out of my parents’ house within the next year and start a life for myself.

For the 40-somethings, what would you do in my position? I know the job market was obviously very different after graduation in your time, but I’m slowly running out of fuel.


A.   Do not quit and stick with following your passion.

I made the mistake in my 20’s of not following my gut for what I really enjoyed (which was writing) and instead pursued a business degree. Although I don’t regret the degree (an MBA), earning money or the experience, I DO regret not trying to figure out sooner what I truly enjoyed. It took me about 15 years to realize I wanted to be a writer and not work in marketing. You sound like you are doing all the right things by exploring different ways to land a solid paying position (internships, networking, blogging, etc.). Definitely keep up with the blogging because I have found that it leads to other opportunities. If a career in journalism is what you truly desire, don’t give up. Yes, the job market is tough now, but there ARE jobs out there, especially for eager college grads who are willing to take risks. Also, the digital world is rapidly changing so make sure you keep looking for web-based opportunities as well. Good luck! – 40-something, author / blogger, Connecticut


A.  I highly recommend the latest version of “What color is your Parachute” and in the meantime take any job you can get.

It’s not you it’s the global economy. I’m 44 and making $1100 / month. When I was 27 I made between $4,000 and $10,000 a month. Times are challenging and it’s humbling and humiliating. But it’s not you. Period. I believe the whole concept of work and productivity are in transition. With our global population, the whole world doesn’t need to work. Careers are not all they’ve cracked up to be either. No job is a stable job. Have fun! That is the most important thing. When I was unemployed I’d send out 10 resumes a day for the gamut of positions then go to the dock at 4 pm and crew for sailboat races 4/5 days a week. It was also unpaid work but I usually got a meal out of it met some lifetime friends who eventually hired me. Do what you love. Realize and aim for your life’s goals. All work is noble and most of it temporary. Concepts about work are archaic. Be innovative, start your own company, write a book, go back to school. Just enjoy your life. — 40-something, artist, musician, surfer, Los Angeles, CA


A.  You have been published. Congrats. Keep that up and keep  building your personal brand.

You have worked for a newspaper and a PR firm. Tell your own story. Build a thread and position yourself as an author , a social media consultant…whatever.  Socialize your own blog to get some consistency and build a name. And just keep going. Even the most successful people got rejected…some 99 times or more. So stay motivated. But don’t hold out for he perfect job. There is always the opportunity to re-pitch the job. Some other ideas:

  • You have had two internships. They seem to have gone well despite not turning into real jobs. Have your employers written you recommendations or endorsed you on LinkedIn? If not ask them to.
  • You say you have utilized connections….good. Keep at that. And keep making new connections. Seek out networking groups, meet-ups, industry events etc. Ask for informational interviews or one time mentorship “coffee”. Find out what they did to get where they are and what advice they have. Don’t ask to “pick their brain.” Make it reciprocal. Ask them if you can do a little editing for them…or if there is something you can help them with.
  • Get feedback from the people you have interviewed with….can you get some ideas on how you could improve. – 40-something, marketing consultant, Columbus, OH

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