• Tawanda Mulalu

Talking to People

You know when people say “apply anyways” to positions that you’re probably under-qualified for? It’s not advice that I took seriously for a long while. Self-esteem issues aside, I’m wary of wasting people’s time. But— and a very big “but” here— sometimes people don’t really know what they’re looking for in a potential hire until they land upon a particular resume. This is especially true in the case of start-ups and younger and more flexible companies. I’ve been experiencing this lately when I do summon up the gusto to send out my resume to something that I’m interested in but otherwise unqualified for. Sometimes, that resume leads to an unexpected phone call with a founder who might be able to slot me into a similar but less experience-intensive role, or will talk to me about something else entirely and introduce me to someone else who might be able to help.

Just to be clear: most of these conversations don’t lead to anything resembling a coveted full-time job (or don’t lead to them with the immediacy that I feel that I need). Rather, the conversations are learning opportunities to get a chance to ask people who do interesting things about why and how they do what they do. Let me tell you two slightly surprising things that I’ve learned from these conversations that sound rather contrary when put together:

The first thing I’ve learned is that I’m personally uninterested in the vast majority of possible work that exists. This might sound a little extreme, but most people are uninterested in most things— it’s just that the ongoing desperation behind a job search might convince you that virtually anything is worth doing just so long you can get paid. Certainly, this is not to criticize anyone just trying to get their bag by any means possible. But it’s worth admitting that most things we do to get the bag are things we’d rather not do (which is partially why someone is offering money for anyone to do that work in the first place).

The second thing I’ve learned is that I severely underestimated the variety of things I could do that I’m potentially interested in. Talking to people— even in non-interview situations— is helping me manage the sorts of things that I should be applying to. When I’m lucky enough to feel a certain spark or resonance when someone tells me about the work they do, then I can go on a Google search-hole looking for stuff that’s similar to what I've been told about. There’s rarely a serendipitous moment that suddenly leads to a direct hiring pathway, but it does give me a sense of hope with regards to the type of work that I could be doing in the future. Given how things have been in the world lately, I’m grateful sometimes even for just the hope that I’ll eventually be able to fill my time with stuff that I might like doing.

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