This is the first in a series of articles that will explain, in great detail, how I was able to go from a $7.75/hour part-time job to an $18/hour full-time internship in only 8 months. These articles are not intended to establish stepping stones that others can recreate and see similar success, just to outline the things that I did that worked for me as well as principles that I follow that seem to bring me more success in job searching than I see others have. I am not a career counselor and I certainly don’t have a degree in a field that would qualify me to be one; I’m just a guy who’s learned a few tricks and wants to tell his story in case it can help someone else.
To begin, it is important to note that in January of this year (2013), I was unemployed. Technically, I was self-employed, as I’ve owned my own business since October 2011, but as of January of this year that business was not doing well enough to provide me any income whatsoever, which is why I considered myself unemployed. Having tried to use that business as my source of income for about six months while attending college, my family was at a point where if I didn’t get a job, we were going to be borrowing money from relatives or the government in order to make rent. Feeling that neither were options, with the new year I began to look for a job.
I started on ksl.com, seeing how many job listings there were and thinking for sure there was a good match for myself that I could get hired at. Out of the gate, I had determined that my time was worth at least $12.50 an hour, and I didn’t even bother applying for jobs that paid less than that. I was able to get a little contract writing work that kept us afloat for a couple weeks, but nothing permanent. At this time, my wife was working as a waitress, and her income was enough for everything but our monthly rent. We were living in my parents’ basement at the time, so our “landlord” was pretty lenient, but still expected us to pay our part. After a few weeks of applying for jobs at ksl.com and getting nowhere, I branched out to other job websites and searching for specific types of jobs. This taught me my first major lesson: no single website is reliable enough to use when searching for a job.
I applied for writing/editorial jobs, a security guard job, a couple call center jobs, an auto parts delivery driver job, and a variety of others, and was consistently frustrated with how few employers called me about my application, and how few called me back after an interview. It was somewhere around this time that I reached a level of humility and decided that I could settle for at least $10 an hour. It wasn’t until I had job searched for about four weeks with no results that I found myself angry and frustrated and, by necessity, humble. It seemed like, before, good jobs just came to me without much effort. Finding jobs during high school and between high school and college had been a cinch, so what was wrong now?
I remember a conversation I had with my father at this time, who gave me an interesting perspective (as a manager in charge of hiring for a large district for a Fortune 500 company). He said that, while applying to jobs online is good, things often go better if you have a chance to physically go to the location that you’d like to work at and ask for an application. Especially in the case of a retail establishment, it is likely that walking in and asking for an application is the best way to meet the manager, who will remember your face and your smile when it comes time to look at names on a page. Handing in the application in person has the same effect, sometimes more so.
After having that conversation, I decided to give it a shot. The following day, I drove around Centerville looking for places that had “now hiring” signs in their windows, and walked into the Big 5 Sporting Goods and asked for an application. I met the manager, had a good exchange, then took the application. I returned the following day to turn in the application, and was asked if I was available to interview on the spot. As it happened, I had a previous appointment, but we scheduled for the same time the following day. The one and only place I actually walked into and asked for an application, and I already had an interview that was full of promise. I thought I had learned a lot of lessons, and I was probably right. But what I had already learned was nothing compared to how much I was yet to learn.