This is the story of how I got my first job after college – It will come in installments.
After graduating college in September, I was intimidated like any other college grad – Where do I go now? I had to look myself in the mirror. When you’re in school, the school makes all sorts of decisions for you. The school schedule tells you where to go, then the teacher in the classroom tells you what to study. It’s one big conveyor belt where you really don’t have to make huge decisions on your own. While in school, your only responsibility is to perform to your teacher’s standards. Prove to them that you can succeed and that’s it. You get a passing grade, do as you’re told, and you’ll do good.
But now that I’m done with school, the real world is different. Suddenly life is more than just a conveyor belt of pass or fail. It is truly life or death. In the job market when you’re unemployed, no one is telling you what to do or how to get there. I realized that real-life is much different than school. If I was going to be successful, I realized it was going to be up to me.
But where does one start, when you’re starting from scratch with a degree in your hand?
I frantically asked friends for leads. I gazed on all the different job boards. I went on informational interviews and just tried to get my name out there. One step at a time, and I knew the stairway I was climbing would have to lead somewhere. I started collecting a few non-skill job offers. I was getting closer. But I also needed a place where I could gain some professional experience because I have talent I know could help a company. But that’s what everyone wants. I had to ask myself, what makes me different than every other person in the job market with their hand raised in the air, waving a college degree, and wanting their slice of the good life? This fact became clear to me – I was going to have to go out and hustle for my opportunity rather than sit back and wait for someone to bring me my piece of the good life.
Over the last two months, I submitted a couple dozen of resume’s to different contacts. A few weeks back, I got a call while I was stacking magazines part-time for just above minimum wage.
I answered the phone.
The mysterious voice said, “This is the CEO to a promotional company, and I’m looking for an assistant who will grow into a sales career. Before we talk business, what do you think about the Minnesota Vikings game yesterday?”
At that moment, I had never been so excited for wasting thousands of hours watching professional football on Sundays over the last ten years. My potential employer was just a big as fan as I am, and we talked Vikings football for the first ten or fifteen minutes.
He said, “I found your resume and it intrigued me. You don’t see many people with as much public speaking experience as you have. Tell me about it.”
I had to think about that question on the fly. See, I enjoyed the fast life, and bright party lights when I was younger. But one night a good friend of mine died from a drug overdose when I was with him. It affected me deeply on many levels. I’ve been sober since 2002 because of that night, and through the years, I’ve been asked to speak at schools, churches, and non-profits and have inspired close to 7,000 people to make healthier decisions in their life to pursue their purpose in life. But how do you say all that to a CEO, in a professional setting, who may be interested in offering you a job?
I said, “I’d like to discuss that part of my life at an interview.”
He responded, “We’d all like life to explain ourselves in the perfect environment, but I’m a busy guy, and I do my first screenings over the phone. In sales you have your shot when you get them – and you have your stage now.”
So I took a deep breath – realized this was my shot. I decided to go 100% – and told him everything in my life story. We all have positives and negatives in our past, and I figured what the heck, being honest is powerful, and if he can’t see a transparent person determined to succeed, then I don’t want to work for someone like that.
Once you open yourself up, it takes some time to close everything back up with a nice pretty bow. A half hour later after going back and forth, and hearing that he’s a deeply spiritual man who believes everyone should get second chances, he asked me, “Can you do lunch this week? I’d like to get to meet you in person.”
And of course then I did my fist pump at the sky. But at this point I felt one step closer to my dream. There’s a lot more to come. I’ll write again soon.
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