Friday, June 15, 2012

So, you want a job in DC.................

Let me guess. You are a young, idealistic college graduate from one of DC's major universities. You likely studied political science or international affairs and maybe you had some Hill experience, studied abroad, interned with a non-profit or a mix of the three. Now, you are thrown into the chaos of searching for full-time employment in a supposedly recession proof city. What's a young adult to do?

I'm not here to tell you how special, qualified, or intelligent you are or that your past experiences will definitely get you a job. A career adviser probably already told you that. I'm here to give you the real facts, compiled into a list. I have full confidence that you'll nail a job in the Beltway but it may take some playing around to do so. Here goes:

1. Do NOT expect your dream job right away. You're a highly qualified, intelligent everyone else who goes to school in DC. The thing is, it's about luck and who you know in this town. There are those who have a lot of connections, who have family down here, who could afford five or six unpaid internships, half of which were on Capitol Hill. I have full confidence you will achieve your dreams. It's just not going to happen right now.

2. Temp agencies are your best friend. If you are like most people, you probably had to have a paid job, waiting tables, answering phones at a school office, making coffee, selling overpriced textbooks, you get the gist. Likely, you couldn't do a million unpaid internships or even take an office job and now, all the "entry-level" positions are wondering where your two years of office experience is. The secret? Most low-level office jobs are contracted through temp agencies and then, if the employee can prove her/himself, the organization will hire them permanently. While you may not have dreamed of being a receptionist all your life, they could get you your dream organization that will lead to your dream job. Plus, you're making money.

3. Get every baby-sitting, dog-walking, house cleaning gig you can get. While you're waiting for the temp agency to get back to you and the competitive firms and non-profits to call you up, you might need cash and a little something to do every day. Go for it. You can make a ton of cash, not to mention your client might actually know someone who can help you. Which leads me to.......

4. Network, network, network. Go to the networking happy hours but don't drink except for a water or a soda (you don't want to look bad and you can't afford it anyway). Set up informational interviews with people you admire. Ask former professors and supervisors who may know someone. Also, be nice to the people on the Metro. You never know who you're going to meet.

5. Apply for the admin type jobs you thought you were overqualified for (receptionist, filing assistant, etc). Like with temp work, this gets you an in. You may think, "A monkey can do this," however, a really smart monkey (you) won't be in those positions for too long anyway. Keep it until you're promoted or you spot something better, but keep it for at least a year so that you build up a reputation.

6. Use your contacts. There is nothing wrong with asking them to help. Just make sure you send a thank you note, regardless of the outcome.

7. Buy a black suit. It's DC. You need one. Not gray, not red, not blue. Just buy a black suit. As Barney Stintson of HIMYM said, "Suits are awesome."

8. Proofread your cover letters and keep your resume brief.

9. When you get to the interview, make relevant connections to your long term goals. For example, if you're passionate about women's rights and you are interviewing with an organization that sells educational training materials (for those questioning, you gotta get that job somewhere), talk about how important you think education is and that, while your long term goal is to advocate for women worldwide, contributing to education would help support your goals since educating others is a part of advocacy and social change.

10. Keep persevering. It's a tough world out there. The only way you're going to make it is if you keep going. If you're determined enough, you will eventually make it, even if you have to take several detours to get to that path.

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