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What I Learned After Forty Companies Rejected Me After College

What I Learned After Forty Companies Rejected Me After College

Hopeless.

Nowhere to go.

Are there any more companies I can even apply to?

Getting rejected feels awful, especially if you’re unemployed and have been rejected by forty companies. Back in the city I grew up in, San Diego, I was forced to pick one of these two choices:

1. Work for a corporate company where I would slowly develop new skills.

2. Continue being rejected by recently profitable startups in hopes that one would hire me.

I had promised myself I would not choose number one, but I felt like I had been forced to select the corporate world.

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The reason: I’ve worked for seven failed startups during college; as a result, people were scared to hire me. First, I had the word failure written all over my resume, and second, I was seen as a job-hopper even though leaving was never a choice.

The worst part of the job hunting process: employers request work references.

Do I give them the startup founder’s name who never paid me? What about the startup founder who after day one left me as an unpaid intern, and I never saw or heard from her again for two months until she fired me through email? Maybe the startup founder who paid me, but left after day two to never return?

I know many people would say great things about me just not people who I had worked with. The hard truth: Unprofitable startups without funding present massive problems for their employees. Many of us college-graduate entrepreneurs want to chase the dream of working for a startup that takes off. In reality, it’s much more of a gamble than the Silicon Valley dream makes it seem.

I was the exception because I wanted to learn fast, and I had been willing to sacrifice everything to work for a top-notch startup. With a quick learning curve, I had hit obstacles over and again. But I tried never to make the same mistake twice.

And through repeated failures, I had slowly figured out what startups were worth working for. The problem: Those startups are extremely careful in who they choose to employ. After all, they just became profitable, and they assume you want a piece of the cake.

The problem with companies whether corporate or recently profitable startups is that they are reluctant to take risks when employing college graduates. You have the college graduate who had two one-year internships and a high GPA. Then you have the college entrepreneur who worked for seven failed startups, has completed some huge projects, and has a mediocre GPA. Companies almost always hire the former choice.

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This type of hiring mentality says a lot about a company’s long-run performance. With constant technological innovation, if you don’t take risks, then you’ll quickly become outdated in almost any market. If a company never takes a leap of faith, then they may just leap into the unknown.

But what if the numbers aren’t there?

Numbers don’t back the most important decisions you should make. They sure didn’t back Elon Musk when he started Tesla or SpaceX, and they didn’t back Steve Jobs when he made his most critical decisions at Apple.

You’ll find discomfort and people doubting you with your best decisions. And if you fail, at least you’ll know what not to do, and sometimes that’s the best lesson you can gain.

As a marketing entrepreneur, I have one of the riskiest jobs – without excellent marketing, a company doesn’t grow. So naturally, a business is already on the fence about hiring me. Giving a college graduate the responsibility of managing a company’s entire email list and digital communications is scary.

Moreover, as a marketer, you must stay with the company for a month at a minimum to execute only part of your strategy. And keeping your marketing knowledge relevant in a fast-paced tech world is hard. As a result, many marketers decide to limit their expertise to just one channel.

Every college graduate will face countless difficulties in their respective fields. However, the decision to push their limits so they can work for a recently profitable startup often comes down to a few benefits: excitement, positive energy, quick feedback, and the ability to make important decisions.

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This is why I went through tough times that included forty plus interviews to work for a company where I could retain these great characteristics.

With so many startups, how do you pick the right one?

I found my answer when I met with a CEO of a company who was willing to hear my story. Isn’t that what life is about anyways – living a life worth a great story?

If you can find someone willing to listen, you can make a life-changing connection. People can be genuine and kind, but to establish a relationship, they must always listen. And if you can find a company who’s willing to listen to your story, then those are the people who you should work for unless you rather start your own company of course.

It’s not easy. Heck, it took me forty plus interviews. You start off scouring LinkedIn and AngelList to make a well-defined list of companies you can send your resume and cover letter to. Then you organize the list by labeling companies. You denote your favorite choices by the letter “A,” down a notch are “B” companies, and your last-resort companies are “C.”

Now immediately throw all your “B” and “C” companies away. Your “A” companies exist because you don’t want to waste several years without fulfilling your potential. Several years unemployed is better than several years pretending to be content with your job.

My “A” list had included forty companies in San Diego and San Francisco. For months, I had traveled back and forth with an old beat-up car. I never landed a job in San Francisco, but it was worth it just for the experience of finding out the companies where I didn’t belong.

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I always went above and beyond for my “A” list and you should, too. I either submitted my resume in person or sent them a prepared package of between ten and fifteen pages analyzing their company’s marketing strategy. As a recent graduate in a tough job market,  I had no choice.

Each time I walked into a company to submit my resume, EVERY employer gave me credit for having the guts. I even applied to companies that weren’t hiring just because they were on my “A” list. You have no choice, but to repeatedly try until they give you a chance.

Moreover, you only have one life, and you’re competing against job seekers who are willing to go above and beyond. If you’re not getting the results you want, you’re probably not trying hard enough.

So what happened?

After interviewing with numerous startups, I realized it wasn’t their product or service that made me interested in working for them – it was their culture. I saw what a good culture looks like when a CEO finally gave me the opportunity to tell my story.

I stuck it out with forty plus rejections to find someone who was willing to listen. And now, I barely notice rejection anymore and I’m happily employed at a great company.

My advice: Work where you will learn the fastest and make it your mission to be overambitious in your job search to ensure that company has an incredible culture, too. So the next time you’re looking for a job, you won’t even think about making a “B” and “C” list.

Featured photo credit: handsome young hipster guy in hat looking at hazy sunshine through a thick mist on a calm sea and blue skies back view via shutterstock.com

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Last Updated on April 6, 2020

How to Make a Career Change at 50 for Great Opportunities

How to Make a Career Change at 50 for Great Opportunities

Turning 50 is a milestone in anyone’s life, after all you are half way to 100! But seriously, turning 50 is often a time in life when people can sit back and take a look at where they’ve been and contemplate what the future holds.

Can you change careers at 50? It’s not uncommon for people in their 50’s to consider a career change, after all if you’ve spent 20 to 30 years in a career, chances are that some of the bloom is off the rose.

Often, when we are starting out in our 20’s, we choose a career path based on factors that are no longer relevant to us in our 50’s. Things like our parents’ expectations, a fast paced exciting lifestyle or the lure of making a lot of money can all be motivating factors in our 20’s.

But in our 50’s, those have given way to other priorities. Things like the desire to spend more time with family and friends, a slower paced less stressful lifestyle, the need to care for a sick spouse or elderly parents can all contribute to wanting a career change in your 50’s.

Just like any big life changing event, changing careers is scary. The good news is that just like most things we are scared of, the fear is mostly in our own head.

Understanding how to go about a career change at 50 and what you can expect should help reduce the anxiety and fear of the unknown.

What are Your Goals for a Career Change?

As in any endeavor, having properly defined goals will help you to determine the best path to take.

What are you looking for in a new career? Choosing a slower less stressful position that gives you more time with family and friends may sound ideal, but you’ll often find that you’re giving up some income and job satisfaction in the process.

Conversely, if your goal is to quit a job that is sucking the life from your soul to pursue a lifelong passion. You might be trading quality time with family and friends for job satisfaction.

Neither decision is wrong or bad, you just need to be aware of the potential pitfalls of any decision you make.

Types of Career Changes at 50+

There are four main types of career changes that people make in their 50’s. Each type has it’s unique set of challenges and will very in the degree of preparation required to make the change.

Industry Career Change

In this career change, a person remains in the same field but switches industries.

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With an industry change, a person takes their set of skills and applies them to an industry that they have no previous experience in.

An example would be a salesperson in the oil and gas industry becoming a salesperson for a media (advertising) company. They are taking their skill set (selling) and applying it to a different industry (media).

This type of career change is best accomplished by doing a lot of homework on the industry you want to get into as well as networking within the industry.

Functional Career Change

A functional career change would be a change of careers within the same industry.

For example, an accountant at a pharmaceutical company who changes careers to become a human resources manager. It may or may not be with the same company, but they remain within the pharmaceutical industry. In this case, they are leaving one set of skills behind (accounting) to develop a new set (human resource) within the same industry.

In a functional career change, new or additional training as well as certifications may be required in order to make the switch. If you are considering a functional career change, you can start by getting any training or certifications needed either online, through trade associations or at your local community college.

Double Career Change

This is the most challenging career change of all. A person doing a double career change is switching both a career and an industry.

An example of a double change would be an airline pilot quitting to pursue their dream of producing rock music. In that case, they are leaving both the aviation industry and a specific skill set (piloting) for a completely unrelated industry and career.

When considering a double career change, start preparing by getting any needed training or certifications first. Then you can get your foot in the door by taking an apprenticeship or part time job.

With a double change, it’s not uncommon to have to start out at the bottom as you are asking an employer to take a chance on someone without any experience or work history in the industry.

Entrepreneurial Career Change

Probably one of the most common career changes made by people in their 50’s is the entrepreneurial career change.

After 20 to 30 years of working for “Corporate America”, a lot of people become disillusioned with the monotony, politics and inefficiency of the corporate world. Many of us dream of having our own business and being our own boss.

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By this time in our life, we have saved some money and the financial pressures we had with young children have passed; so it’s a perfect time to spread our entrepreneurial wings.

Entrepreneurial career changes can be within the same industry and using your existing knowledge and contacts to start a similar business competing within the same industry. Or it can be completely unrelated to your former industry and based on personal interests, passions or hobbies.

A good example would be someone who played golf as a hobby starting an affiliate marketing website selling golf clubs. If you are considering an entrepreneurial career change, there are a lot of very good free resources available on the internet. Just be sure to do your homework.

Practical Tips on Making a Career Change at 50+

So you’ve decided to take the plunge and make a career switch in your 50’s. No matter what your reasons or what type of a career change you are embarking on, here are some helpful hints to make the transition easier:

1. Deal with the Fear

As stated earlier, any big life change comes with both fear and anxiety. Things never seem to go as smoothly as planned, you will always have bumps and roadblocks along the way. By recognizing this and even planning for it, you are less likely to let these issues derail your progress.

If you find yourself becoming discouraged by all of the stumbling blocks, there are always resources to help. Contacting a career coach is a good place to start, they can help you with an overall strategy for your career change as well as the interview and hiring process, resume writing / updating and more. Just Google “Career Coach” for your options.

I also recommend using the services of a professional counselor or therapist to help deal with the stress and anxiety of this major life event.

It’s always good to have an unbiased third party to help you work through the problems that inevitably arise.

2. Know Your “Why”

It’s important that you have a clear understanding of the “why” you are making this career change. Is it to have more free time, reduce stress, follow a passion or be your own boss?

Having a clear understanding of you personal “why” will influence every decision in this process. Knowing your “why” and keeping it in mind also serves as a motivator to help you reach your goals.

3. Be Realistic

Take an inventory of both your strengths and weaknesses. Are your organizational skills less than stellar? Then, becoming a wedding planner is probably not a good idea.

This is an area where having honest outside input can be really helpful. Most of us are not very good at accurately assessing our abilities. It’s a universal human trait to exaggerate our abilities while diminishing our weaknesses.

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Requesting honest feedback from friends and co-workers is a good place to start, but this is another area where a career coach can come in handy.

4. Consider an Ad-Vocation

Sometimes, making a career change all at once is just too big of a change. Issues like a severely reduced income, geography and lack of benefits can all be impediments to your career change. In those cases, you may want to start your new career as an ad-vocation.

An ad-vocation is a second or ad-on vocation in addition to your primary vocation. Things like a part-time job, consulting or even a side business can all be ad-vocations.

The benefit of having an ad-vocation is being able to build experience a reputation and contacts in the new field while maintaining all the benefits of your current job.

5. Update Your Skills

Whether it means acquiring new certifications or going back to school to get your cosmetology licence, having the right training is the foundation for a successful career change.

The great thing about changing careers now is that almost any training or certifications needed can be free or at very little cost online. Check with trade associations, industry websites and discussion groups for any requirements you may need.

Learn How to Cultivate Continuous Learning to Stay Competitive.

6. Start Re-Branding Yourself Now

Use the internet and social media to change the way you present yourself online.

Changing your LinkedIn profile is a good way to show prospective employers that you are serious about a career change.

Joining Facebook groups, trade associations and discussion boards as well as attending conventions is a great way to start building a network while you learn.

Here’re some Personal Branding Basics You Need to Know for Career Success.

7. Overhaul Your Resume

Most of us have heard the advice to update our resume every six months, and most of us promptly ignore that advice and only update our resume when we need it.

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When making a career change, updating is not enough; this calls for a complete overhaul of your resume. Chances are that your current resume was designed around your old career which may or may not apply to your new goals.

Crafting a new resume emphasizing your strengths for the new position your looking for is key. There are many places that will help you craft a resume online and it is a service included with most career coaching services.

8. Know Your Timeline

There are a lot of factors when it comes to how long it will take to make the career change.

Industry and Functional career changes tend to be the easiest to do and therefore can be accomplished in the shortest period of time. While the Double Career Change and the Entrepreneurial Career Change both require more effort and thus time.

There are also personal factors involved in the time it will take to switch careers.

Generally speaking the more you are willing to be flexible with both compensation and geography, the shorter time it will take to make the switch.

Final Thoughts

Changing careers at anytime can be stressful, but for those of us who are 50 or above, it can seem to be an overwhelming task fraught with pitfalls and self doubt.

Prospective employers know the benefits that come with more mature employees. Things like a wealth of experience, a proven work history and deeper understanding of corporate culture are all things that older workers bring to the table.

And while the younger generation may possess better computer or technical skills than us, if you’re willing to learn, there are a ton of free or nearly free resources available to you.

Deciding on a career change at 50 is a great way to experience life on your own terms.

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Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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