I was speaking with my boss recently about college and our first jobs after graduation, and I used the word “lucky” to describe how I got my first job. It was my last on-site interview of the semester and I had already gone through about two dozen rejections (seriously, maybe more). The prospective employer flew me down to D.C., I went through a day of interviews, stayed overnight and drove back with a friend. I had an offer a few weeks later.
I called it all lucky because I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life or my career back then (I still don’t). I figured it was just luck or the Hand of God intervening on my behalf out of pity, because after so many rejections, I didn’t think there was anything I could say or do to get a job for myself. I didn’t have much confidence in myself by that point.
But as I stood there talking with my boss, a thought flashed briefly through my head, but I dwelt on it all day…
I was on a mission
While I don’t think I knew it at the time, I was on a mission. Looking back, I realize now that I didn’t apply for any jobs in my hometown in Pennsylvania, or even surrounding areas. I didn’t have a “fallback plan” in case nothing else panned out.
I subconsciously wanted to get out of the area!
I didn’t despise my hometown, or central Pennsylvania, but I guess I wanted more opportunity. More chances. More excitement. I saw that, being in the IT field, I had limited mobility in my career if I stayed in central PA. So I interviewed for jobs in Pittsburgh, Philly, D.C., Florida, California, and even a few overseas assignments. As a note, these were all done through job fairs run by the school, during the dot-com boom, so it wasn’t incredibly difficult to get into the first interview. The second one seemed almost impossible though.
So without being aware of my intentions, I paved a way towards my current state of prosperity by simply denying the possibility of settling for less. I wanted a good job in a big company, so I only applied to big companies. And regardless of the mountains of rejection letters I received that semester, I kept trying.
In fact, I had received only two offers to on-site interviews. I was invited to a third (a certain cookie maker in Connecticut), but I declined as I didn’t want to move to Connecticut to be a database administrator.
The Ford Leadership Conference
The first of the two on-site visits was with Ford. I won’t say who the second was with as it was obviously one of my employers. But back to Ford.
Ford flew/drove a couple hundred college recruits TO the Ford headquarters in Dearborn, MI for 4 fun-packed days of test drives, tours, wining, dining, speeches and interviews. We stayed in a super-posh hotel (ooh, the bed was “heavenly”), ate till we burst, got to drive some of the hottest Ford family products (e.g. Jaguar XJ8) on their test track or ride in really fast ones with professional drivers, and many other activities meant to fatten us up and make us happy before the hell of Interview Day was upon us.
I just recall that Interview Day was a blur, and I stumbled my way through interview after interview, but had no idea where I stood against the other candidates when the day was over. But at the end of the day, my future was decided the same as everyone else: they slipped an envelope under your hotel room door with either an offer or rejection letter. My coworkers tell me this sounds like pledging a fraternity.
I opened it up and it was a rejection. I was heartbroken. I thought this was my best chance to get a great job at a strong (don’t laugh) company. I cried. I called my parents and told them the news. That was my first experience, but definitely not my last, with hyping up a job offer then having my (day)dreams come crashing down with a “no thank you”. The next day I had to mingle with everyone else on our way to the airport, including those who got job offers. I didn’t want to be anywhere near these people.
I took the rejection hard and blamed it on myself, but I had to gain my composure because I had the other site visit the next weekend.
My “other” site visit
Although my memory may be fuzzy, I distinctly recall that my attitude during the D.C. job site visit was much more subdued and less optimistic. I was about ready to call it quits, but I hid my lingering disappointment well. I was the only recruit that weekend, so I had much more attention from the employer. I went through 4-5 difficult interviews with various divisions, had a few expensive dinners out, and I went back to PA. I would have to wait for a couple weeks for their response.
With Ford, I was pretty confident I would receive and offer, so with this second job, I didn’t get my hopes up. I was still pretty depressed. Perhaps that’s why I made the insane decision to go buy a $20,000 car before I even heard back on the job. Yep, while I also had over $12,000 in credit card debt and $20,000 in student loans, I now had a $20,000 car loan. And I only made about $7.00 an hour working in retail part-time.
But that night, as I was coming home from the car dealer in my new car (my first car, mind you), there was a FedEx package waiting on my doorstep. My roommate and I took it inside where I opened it. I quickly scanned through the letter and saw I had a job offer. And it was a BIG SALARY, especially for someone coming from central PA.
It’s not luck, it’s YOU
I think I was in shock for years that I even got the job, so I never went back to consider everything that happened. Since I wasn’t much of a Christian back then, I can’t quite say I attributed it to God’s handiwork, but seeing who I’ve met through the years, and how they’ve touched my life and how I’ve touched others’ lives (you included), I can begin to see that job offer wasn’t pure chance or luck.
Through my own fortitude and resolve, and with God’s (or Fate’s) guiding hand, I achieved what I set out to do, or at least what I didn’t want to do. I got out of the rut that so many others from my hometown find themselves in and moved to the “big city”. Granted, now that I’ve been in D.C. for over 7 years, I wouldn’t mind moving to a small town to do something I love, but I’m still figuring out what that is. But right now, I’m married to a wonderful woman and earning a very reputable salary. I’m able to save towards retirement, pay down debt and still have enough money to not worry about emergencies.
I never gave myself the credit I deserved because I never had the confidence in my abilities. I’m still pretty insecure about my capabilities, but as I grow in age and experience, I’m learning more about myself each day. What I see from my interactions with others, though, is that people respect others who have a plan, a mission or just seem to understand themselves. One way towards a prosperous life is to be confident in yourself; to know who you are, and who you’re not.
In hindsight, I guess it was a good thing I didn’t get the Ford job, given its, and Detroit’s, troubles in the last few years, but it was still a very depressing experience. But subconsciously I didn’t give up. I believed I was capable of more. I succeeded where I failed so many other times, and now I’m finally realizing that it wasn’t just luck.
So don’t shortchange yourself. Find a goal and work hard to achieve it. Know yourself, what you stand for or stand against. Be confident in your decisions, whether others question you or not, but be sure to have do done the proper legwork before coming to your conclusion. Listen to all parties and put yourself in their shoes, because you might learn something new (you usually will) that will help confirm your decision or sway you otherwise.