What Should We Be Doing Right Now?
Like virtually every other recent college graduate, I’ve spent the past few months tweaking away at my LinkedIn in the hopes of starting what is called a “career”. It’s been a fairly distressing summer. For one thing, to read the news is to continue watching the world burn. COVID-19 still plagues the globe while America and China’s internal and external political frustrations make us question the hope for social stability. On the other hand, I’ve been playing The Beach Boys’ ‘All Summer Long’ on an infinite loop in my headphones while shooting out my resume to several digital vacuums. The cognitive dissonance is remarkable: the expectation to do work, seek work and find meaning in work remains insistent in this moment of widespread suffering. I toggle between feeling ashamed at either my own narrow-mindedness in concerns (where will I work and who will I be?) and being befuddled by my interactions with recruiters (why do people label jobs that require 3+ years of experience as “entry level”?)
Everybody wants things to return to “normal”. But the ongoing crisis of re-infections that creep up after different states reopen makes it clear that things will not be the same. Even if a vaccine arrives, our sense of trust for others has been severely undermined by our newfound fear of touch. Though we might miss it, that feeling of its riskiness might remain long after. Not to mention the ease of blaming some other person from far away for our problems, how the word “Wuhan” has become a dirty rhyme for a dry cough. And how that sort of careless violence— in misnaming— is too hard to forget for the sake of going back to “normal”.
But how to start a career in these times. This was already hard, harder still if a widespread virus serves as an invitation for companies to reconsider what labor is needed and what labor is not. Though none of this is new. Whether through technological development, outsourcing to cheaper shores, or forcing one person to do the work of several people, companies has always found ways to make things more efficient in terms of labor costs. If more capital can be more usefully used elsewhere to do good things in the world, then we should be for this. It would be a good thing to keep replacing the old with the new— were we in the presence of a social system that adequately cares for displaced laborers while they seek work in the next best thing. This is not the world I recognizably live in. Though I dream for it quite deeply.
Let me be useful to you. A few things that have been working for me lately: emailing recruiters directly instead of sending my resume to the online void, talking to my friends (some prefer to say “network”) and asking them if they know companies that I might be a good fit for instead of Googling jobs aimlessly, applying for jobs I’m under-qualified for anyway and receiving interviews for others roles that I would be better at, looking at smaller, newer companies and start-ups and cold-emailing one or two people who work there, having an open mind about what kind of work I might want to do but being specific about how I can help my potential future employer when interviewing— all the seemingly obvious sets of tips that do work if you follow them. The approach fundamentally seems to be rooted in answering the question, “What can I do to get a human voice to talk to me so they know that I’m real?” I hear the trick is in finding the motivation to keep trying to get direct contact even after getting lots of nos. The answer to that exercise lies with the reader.
If it helps you, I’m also trying. You’re not alone if you’re reading this. Part of the work we’re doing here at ExecuTalks is trying to figure out ways that people can have a positive relationship with this thing we call a “career”. The most obvious way that our founder Ash does this is by interviewing successful business leaders about their path. The idea behind this is that it’s helpful to look at what other people are doing in order to figure out what you should be doing. It might be simple, but listening to someone else can get you to think a little larger than you first thought. We all need larger thinking. Especially now, here in this world.