Dear Sam: I graduated from college in May and I am still looking for a position. I did, admittedly, get a late start as I was involved in an honors program and was attempting to balance the rigors of my coursework with my internship. Hence, it is two months since I graduated, and I am still looking for a job. With each day that passes, I feel the need to lower my sights and apply for anything and everything just to get my foot in the door. Is that the best approach for an entry-level person who has not really carved a niche in the professional journey? Help! – Rick
Dear Rick: While that may seem like an effective strategy—casting a larger net to catch more fish—it is quite the opposite. Instead, change the bait, fish for what you really want, and increase your catch rate. I understand you are not “into” your career, yet, so you don’t have an area of expertise to sell; but I imagine, based on your degree program and internship, you already have begun carving a niche for yourself. Review job postings targeted with what you really want to do and ensure your resume is speaking that “language.” Keyword optimization is critical to getting through applicant tracking systems (and human screeners!); hence, you have to ensure your resume is speaking about the right aspects of your early experience, education, and training.
I would caution you that taking anything as your first career position can make a dramatic impact on the trajectory of your journey and your compensation levels. This first step is so important—you are laying the foundation for which you will continue to build your career—so make sure you choose really strong bricks! Refocus, target, and push your resume out there through a diverse and robust distribution strategy, and I can’t imagine you won’t see traction soon. Good luck!
Dear Sam: I am bored and unmotivated at work; the job pays well, but most of my time is spent looking at a computer. I have a graphic design certificate but never pursued a career in the field. I love art and design, it motivates me, and I would love to be a full-time graphic artist. How do I even start to transition careers? – Anonymous
Dear Anonymous: Given the analytical nature of your day-to-day work, compared to the creative drive you possess, I can see the struggle you must be facing. Have you thought about building your graphic design portfolio through freelance work or volunteer engagements? That’s a great way to build a portfolio and update your skills. I work with many clients who want to do something “different” in their career and “different” doesn’t always have to be the complete opposite of what you are currently doing. Perhaps just changing companies or industries—yet still engaging in similar analytical work and freelancing on the side—would fulfill both your need to earn a paycheck and your desire to be more artistically engaged.
It is challenging when we have to make decisions that sometimes need to prioritize financials over passions, which I completely understand. Perhaps finding a happy medium—a slightly more engaging environment to work in 9-5 but then also freelancing to use your creative juices—would be a good option.
If you do make the decision to do a career-180, you will want to evaluate what type of position in which you feel you would want to transition, and review those opportunities to gain a sense of how qualified you are for those roles, given your lack of recent experience in the design arena. It may make the most sense to segue into an organization that has opportunities for you to diversify your contributions beyond what you are doing now, hopefully with a path to getting into the more creative arena you seek.
Have you considered returning to school to secure a design degree? Have you started networking with creative associations (American Marketing Association, for instance) and attending their monthly meetings? Have you thought about going to a creative staffing firm to try and secure a part-time or contract design role? All of these ideas are great ways to start going in the direction in which you ultimately want to land. This is such an exciting opportunity, and I wish you tremendous success in your transition!