2015 was a huge year of personal growth. I learned how to cook kale so that it tastes slightly better than rabbit food — thanks, Mom — properly invest for retirement (401-what?) and buy furniture from establishments other than IKEA.
I also finished the second year at my first job and started with a new company called Earnest.
When I began putting out my new job feelers earlier this year, someone told me that, while first jobs are hard to land, second jobs are even harder. Motivating, right? According to one career psychologist, finding your second job involves greater costs than the first — particularly because it makes sense to be pickier about this one. Regardless of how hard or easy it is, finding employment and liking where you end up is such an important part of life, so here’s to hoping my journey can help you in your first and second job hunt — or even further down the road.
Figure out what you want
Throughout college, I had planned on attending medical school, so career path ambiguity is still new to me. Once you decide to become an MD, your entire life is pretty much laid out for you. Once I decided that becoming a doctor was not for me, I looked towards the technology industry to try something new.
What I’ve learned about navigating this giant industry — especially since there are many different ways to work in technology — is that it helps to be able to clearly articulate what you’re looking for in a new job or company. I personally spent a lot of time talking to people who weren’t potential future employers — mentors, friends of friends and ex-coworkers — and by the time I was actually interviewing, I knew exactly what I wanted from my next job.
Take the time to find a company that needs your skills
It’s easy to fall into the trap of submitting resume after resume, then getting discouraged when nobody gets back to you. Often, the problem isn’t your background — it’s that you’re not applying for the right jobs. Rather than blanketing every job site with your resume, pick a few key prospects and tailor your approach for each. When I was looking for my first job, I probably sent 100 applications. This time around, it was more like 10. The takeaway? Spend the extra time it takes to find jobs that actually fit your skill set.
Know you have real, desirable skills
Remember, you’re no longer “entry level” when you get to your second job search, and it’s up to you to find the employers seeking out the skills you’ve spent the past months or years cultivating. A number of companies I looked at didn’t really need the skills I could offer at the time — so I didn’t bother pursuing jobs with them. Instead, I made a list of my skills and then targeted companies that needed someone like myself. The right places are out there, but they won’t necessarily fall in your lap. Make it your goal to find them.
I’ve heard this since I was in grade school, but it’s taken nearly two decades to sink in: asking questions adds to your credibility, rather than detracts from it. It shows you’re engaged, interested and excited to learn. My new role is at a financial technology company that offers student loan refinancing — something I didn’t know existed six months ago. I am fortunate not to have student loans myself, so familiarizing myself with how lending works regarding student loans was a pretty steep learning curve. In my first week, I asked our CEO what LIBOR is, a term as familiar as “orange juice” to those who’ve made their careers in finance. (LIBOR, by the way, is the rate at which banks lend to each other.) I’m pretty sure the CEO thinks no less of me, and now I am building even more skills and knowledge in a new field.
Make your own financial decisions
Starting your first job is pretty overwhelming. For many of us, it’s our first time having a real paycheck and therefore needing to keep a budget, choosing our own health insurance and contributing to a retirement account. In my case, I relied on my parents to help with these financial decisions the first time around. As young professionals, we have a lot of tradeoffs to make — splurge on nicer vacations or splurge on living in a nicer neighborhood? Stay living in the smaller town your parents or college are in or move to a bigger city? Save for retirement or pay off student loans?
It’s easy to ask other people to make these decisions for you, but the second time you go through benefits selection is a good time to finally be a grown-up about it. Nobody else knows your situation as well as you do, so while it’s good to ask for advice, you should be the one making the final call.