Yes, it was 48 failures. I knew it was exactly 48 because I created a special Excel sheet just to track all of my applications. I was on a "job application spree" because I was traumatised by how difficult it was for me to land a summer internship offer previously. From then, I told myself that for my full-time post-grad job application, I will go guerilla and start early.
I started searching for a fresh graduate job in August 2018. There were some companies with graduate programs that have already started their recruitment process while some companies called me back to say that I was applying too early. So that's challenge #1, I had to make sure that whatever I was applying for was for the right intake. What made matters worse was that some job postings did not indicate any start date. I thought that it was always better to er on the safer side and just applied anyway. However, I was just met with silence or phone calls to reapply later.
Other than having to make sure that I was applying for the right intake, challenge #2 was me not being sure about what type of roles to apply for. What if the role turns out to be different from what I expected? What if I thought I knew my passion but I'm not as good as I thought I was? What about company culture? What if it doesn't pay me well? All of these thoughts were bombarding me - it didn't help that I was an over-thinker. I decided to take that leap of faith and try whatever roles seemed interesting to me.
After applying for the jobs, I was met with my main challenge. Challenge #3, getting hired. Getting a job these days isn't as simple as having one interview. Most companies now, after looking through your resumes, will invite you for IQ tests (be it in the form of MCQ or games), video interviews, full-day assessment centres and then multiple face-to-face interviews as well. Can you imagine the amount of time needed just to get ONE job? Not forgetting having to prepare for each and every round of the process. Given how much preparation and time was expended for the application process, receiving rejections and rejections was disheartening. So much so that I become numb to future rejections.
Thankfully, the rainbow did appear after the storm. I was so close to giving up on this certain video interview because I thought it was out of my league and the hiring process was arduous. I wanted to withdraw my application but something inside me pushed me to just do it anyway. This was the only job application which I almost give up on. I wanted to give up because I was already so tired of applying for a job. However, I passed round after round and on 12th February 2019, I received my first job offer. Surprisingly, it was also the only offer that I received (I withdrew from the ongoing applications). At that moment, I felt like if there was really some sort of celestial being up there in the sky, it/he/she/they enjoyed playing with me.
After 7 months of job searching, I evolved from an unemployed undergraduate to an employed undergraduate with a little bit more wisdom. I hope that whatever I have learned from my job search can help future undergraduates like me. Hence, here's me sharing my takeaways (other than my current job):
Learning #1 - DON'T LIMIT YOURSELF
When I say don't limit yourself, I am referring to 3 ways - job sources, job roles and your capabilities. (1) You don't have to limit yourself to only the university's job portals or career services. Look at your network and see who can help you to open doors through referrals, 3rd party HR agencies, 3rd party job portals, LinkedIn, or even applying to companies from their portal or linking up with someone in HR there. These were some of the platforms which I leveraged on for my 40+ applications. (2) Don't worry too much about your job role thinking that you need to apply for something related to your degree. Just go for anything that interests you. If you end up hating your job and be miserable, embrace it because this is a part and parcel of Life. Remember, a career is a marathon. We need patience, experience and time to finally know what our dream job exactly is and get there. At least now you know what is NOT your dream job. (3) Have some faith in yourself and don't be daunted by the interview rounds. Just apply for it and see where it gets you. Similarly to me, I wouldn't be where I am today had I continue to restrict myself from roles which I thought I wasn't good enough for.
Learning #2 - DON'T GIVE UP, KEEP LEARNING
Cliché as it sounds but really, don't give up. It's perfectly normal to feel disheartened and lose confidence in yourself. When that happens just take a break from your applications before moving on. As mentioned, I was numbed by the number of rejections I received, so much so that I became thick skin and relentlessly applied to whatever I could get my hands on. Ultimately, how I got my job today was because I didn't give up and continued to attend the many hiring rounds. I used them as a platform to practice my interview skills, learn from and observed other candidates and noted down ALL of my interview questions. With the list of interview questions, I reflected and improved on my answers even when they were over. (Random tip: Bear in mind that you still need to be yourself - know what to say but don't memorise scripts! ) As mentioned, the job offer I received and where I am currently am is a perfect example of not giving up. Had I decided to give up there and then, that one single video interview, I wouldn't have this job today.
Learning #3 - START EARLY
Start early because some applications open early as mentioned above. This gives you more choices as well because applications that open early tend to close early too. Moreover, starting early also saves you the panic as time looms towards your graduation because you'll have sufficient time to pace yourself, prepare your applications and rebound from rejections! Last but not least, you may get an offer way before you graduate so you can enjoy your final semester in peace. In job hunting, the early birds do catch the worm. That being said, if you are in no rush to look for a job upon graduation, just take your time and you do you!
Finally, I have reached the end of the post. I can't believe I've been through that much interviews after refreshing my memories to write this post. Nonetheless, I am thankful for all of them and I hope what I've learned can help you too. On hindsight, if I could do my job hunt all over again, I wouldn't have limited myself as much as I did and applied for a job located abroad. Remember, not giving up does pay off and if you want to find a job right after graduation please start early. Happy hunting!
The following article is written in conjunction with Singapore’s Career Stories 2019 Writing Competition on the theme of #MyCareerJourney organized by CareerSocius.