I applied to over 100 jobs before finding a job. It was a doozy.
I am going to try my hardest to keep this article as short as possible. But it will be lengthy regardless because it is a beefy topic and an experience that lasted three months. Let’s dive right in.
Some Background About Me
Before I start talking about my job search, I think it is important to highlight my educational and other job experience, as well as my career goals. These are factors that heavily influenced my search.
I graduated with a bachelor’s in child and family studies (a mix of psychology and sociology) and a combined major in Spanish. I am looking to pursue a career in counseling and am starting my master’s degree in family counseling. I had a lot of experience with psychology research during my undergraduate career as well as serving as a teaching assistant for statistics and psychology research design. I also worked two jobs in food services and worked as a resident assistant and lead resident assistant on my college campus.
Given my comprehensive experience in research, I figured this would be a great field to get into during the next few years spent in a master’s program. At the very least, I was looking for a job related to my field.
The Hunt Begins
I started my job hunt in June of 2020. At first, I was just browsing Indeed and looking at jobs in the city that I would be moving to for school in August. Quickly, I found research positions that I was interested in and I began to apply for jobs shortly after starting my search. At the beginning of my search, I also looked at working as an administrative assistant in an office setting.
As mentioned, I wanted a job in related to my previous experience and related to my desired field. I also had to keep in mind that the job had to be a daylight shift because I was enrolled in four courses during the week that began in the evening. As for pay, I hadn’t found and signed the lease for an apartment until the end of my second month job hunting, but I had a target rent in mind and looked for jobs that paid enough for me to pay for rent, utilities, car payments, tuition costs, groceries, some extra spending money for going out, and some to put into my savings. With all of this in mind, I decided that I would be searching for a job that paid at least $15 per hour and that was a typical 9-5 shift.
I also kept in mind the location of the positions, factoring in location to where I wanted to find an apartment and proximity to my college campus so I had enough time after work to get to class in time. I also wasn’t sure at this point if I would have a car or would rely on public transportation, so I tried to look no further than a ten-mile radius from my college campus.
I began by using Indeed exclusively. Sometimes, though infrequently, I would look directly at a company site for their job listings. Towards the end of the second month of my search, I looked also at Monster and ZipRecruiter and postings on Google. Indeed remained my favorite platform to use, but periodically I would look at job postings on these other job boards.
Time to Apply
As soon as it was time to apply for jobs, I realized how much time is required to apply for jobs. Wow. Job hunting really can be a job within itself. I would find myself settling down for the night and deciding to briefly look at new jobs on Indeed in case there were one or two that I might be interested in. I quickly found myself absorbed in the search, no matter how much I told myself that I would only look for ten minutes. I easily spent between 2-4 hours multiple times a week searching for and applying to jobs.
Job hunting doesn’t just involve looking at what is available. It involved creating your resume and changing it and updating it and modifying it to be specific for each job you apply to. It involves writing a cover letter that makes you stand out from 50 other candidates but that also fits the exact job you are applying to. I have a dozen different cover letters that are tailored for one specific position. One of my biggest mistakes was not doing this sooner, but I will get into that in a bit.
Job hunting is also incredibly tedious and repetitive. You are entering the same information about yourself for each position, with a few different questions each time that are specific for the role or company. I entered my previous work experience over fifty times into different website applications. Luckily, I applied to many jobs within the same large company and was able to save my information for easy application completion.
Lowering My Standards and Broadening My Search
Applying to research positions and administrative assistant jobs within my standards ($15/hr, daylight shift, weekdays, close to campus… etc.) was not looking too promising. I don’t think I got any emails or callbacks about scheduling interviews, meaning no company that I applied to found me to be a desirable candidate.
Consequently, I had to broaden my search. It began by looking at research and office jobs that paid a bit less than $15/hr. I also began to look at jobs with less conventional hours, such as weekend hours to early mornings (I still could not work past 5/5:30 because of class). I started looking at jobs besides research and administrative support. I found jobs for less pay that were more treatment based within my field, such as treatment aide positions in recovery centers or hospitals. I also looked into jobs such as elderly caregiving or customer service work.
Work Smarter, Not Harder
Well into my second month applying to jobs, I still wasn’t getting any interviews. I decided that I needed to work smarter, not harder. I spent more time working on my resume and cover letter and spent less time applying to every job possible.
I totally redesigned my resume, thanks to a pin my mom sent me on Pinterest (linked at the bottom of this article). It was a bit more modern looking than my old resume, which was more or less an outline of my educational and career experience. I created different resumes, too, based on the type of job I was applying to. I had a research-related resume, a medical experience resume, a customer service resume, and an office-related resume.
My cover letter got a ton of TLC as well. I also had different cover letter templates for different jobs and made them easy to tailor for each company and position.
An Unfortunate and Unavoidable Obstacle
I began to get more interviews and callbacks around the same time that I signed my lease, and I don’t think this is a coincidence. By this I mean that once I signed my lease, I could officially write that my address was in the city that I was applying to jobs in, whereas before my address was listed as a town across the state.
I believe that many companies may have looked at my resume or application briefly and dismissed it as soon as they saw that my current address was five hours away. Although this was not confirmed, it is a hunch based on my sudden increase in interview opportunities after adding my new address to my applications and resume.
Once I changed my address and revamped my resumes and cover letters, the interviews began to roll in. I was able to schedule four interviews during my first week in my new apartment in the new city – two administrative support positions, one elderly caregiver position, and one treatment aide position. These interviews were primarily done via video conferencing. If you have questions or concerns about interviewing for jobs or colleges over video conferencing software, check out my article “Interview Outfit Inspiration + My Favorite Office Attire.” I am kind of a zoom interview expert at this point!
The next week, I had one interview for a customer service position. The week after that, I had four more interviews – two nannying interviews, one treatment aide interview, and one research interview.
I also had a few companies reach out to me to set up an interview. A handful of these offers, I declined because I decided the job wasn’t a good fit or was too far out of my desired range for transportation (i.e. if I applied to a job outside the city to the north before finding my apartment in the southern part of the city, I had to decline the offer because the commute was not feasible with my confirmed apartment location). I agreed to interview for a few of these positions, and whether or not I ended up interviewing, these positions all fell through as a result of ceased communication from the company.
I was offered a position with an in-home caregiver company for elderly individuals. Around the time that I was offered the position, I received an offer to interview with another company that had better pay and offered the opportunity to work from home. I could have taken a job as an aide in a halfway house but decided that the hours were not compatible with my schedule.
So, Did I Find a Job?
Yes! After three months and 108 job applications, I received an offer for a position that checked all my boxes. I have begun work as a nanny for a great family. The pay is enough to keep me comfortable in paying my bills and other costs, the location is close enough to my apartment and my campus, and the job is related to my future career as I am working with children and the family.
A Breakdown of My Job Hunt
In total, I applied to 108 jobs. Below is a breakdown of the number of jobs I applied to in each category (research, treatment, administrative support, senior care, nannying, customer service, HR/staffing, and other). I also included the average pay for each category, based on the pay listed in the job posting. It is also important to note that not all jobs had a pay listed, so the averages do not include the pay from every job in the category.
- I applied to 29 jobs in research, most of which were psychological or medical in nature. The average pay for these research jobs was $16 per hour.
- I applied to 10 jobs related to treatment, most of which were psychological. The average pay for these treatment jobs was $14.80 per hour.
- I applied to 40 jobs related to administrative/office support and most of these jobs were in a medical or business setting. The average pay for these administrative jobs was $14.32 per hour.
- I applied to 2 jobs for senior care. The average pay for these senior care jobs was $14 per hour.
- I applied to 7 nannying jobs. The average pay for these nannying jobs was $20.36 per hour (I will be honest, though, and say that my position is below this average).
- I applied to 7 jobs related to customer service. These jobs were pretty diverse, ranging from guest relations in a spa to server jobs to customer service representative jobs. The average pay for these customer service jobs was $15.70 per hour.
- I applied to 6 jobs in a human resources or staffing position. The average pay for these HR jobs was $17.72 per hour.
- I applied to 7 jobs that had no category. These jobs included data entry, medical screening (temperature taking for COVID-19), and even a job as a breast milk donor screener. The average pay for these “random” jobs was $16.50 per hour.
Okay, this article is not short or brief in any way. But it is thorough and comprehensive and hopefully offers some insight to anybody starting, in the middle of, or finishing up their own job hunt.
I am not going to lie, it was really defeating at times. I was a successful student and offered great work in my previously held jobs, yet I still could not get a job!
I often had to remind myself that job hunting during the pandemic is a recipe for disaster. So many people were laid off and unemployment rates are high, so the applicant pool is higher than normal. I understand why a company would prefer a candidate with more experience who was recently laid off over me, a recent graduate with no experience.
Ultimately, I am grateful for the experience. It taught me a lot about holding myself accountable, about perseverance, about interviewing, and about refining what I want from my job. I am sure that I will find myself in another job hunt in the next few years, especially once I graduate from my master’s program and look for a job related to my degree, but now I have more extensive knowledge about how to perform a careful and successful job hunt.
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