How to Not Die from Anxiety When You’re an Unemployed Graduate

 

In early December, I found myself seated at one of the hundreds of Pret-a-Manger locations in central London. I was getting on a plane back to America in two days time, and I needed to find a job fast. What no one tells you about postgrad life though is that finding a good entry level gig in your field of choice can take up to like six months. F**k that, I thought. It can’t be that hard. 

I had a meeting scheduled with one of my former bosses with whom I’d worked in September during London Fashion Week. Prior to moving to the U.K, she had lived in New York for several years, working across some of the top magazine titles at Condé Nast and Time Inc. “If you ever need a crash course in how New York works, let me know,” she emailed me one night. And so I graciously accepted her offer, and we set up a lunch date.

“Okay, I don’t have long, so we’re gonna have to make this quick,” she said as she joined me at the table. For the next half hour, I sat there with wide eyes and my sandwich untouched as she spilled out everything she knew from working in the New York media industry.

“Linkedin is your new best friend. Look up everyone you ever went to school with and email them asking if they know of any openings. Ask to meet for coffee even if it’s just for 10 minutes. Stalk your interviewers on social media and try to find out what you have in common with them. And I know you’re a good stalker Alice. Your resume is just as good as the next girl’s so you have to find a way to relate to the person doing the hiring.”

“Where should I be hanging out though to meet people?” was what I really wanted to know. I wasn’t about to waste my time and money getting wasted in dive bars. That was so college.

“You need to find a way to get access to Soho House and Boom Boom Room. They will be your new hangout spots if you want to meet relevant contacts in your field. And only live with people who also work in fashion. No one else will understand your psycho lifestyle. Oh yeah, and business cards…do you have them?”

“Not really…” I answered.

“Get them printed out ASAP. You’re going to have to network your ass off.”

After lunch, I walked in a daze over to Hanover Square to meet up with my friend Jake, who was busy working his dream job at British GQ. (Pick up the April issue to see him featured in it!!!!)

“Jakeyyyy, I’m about to have an anxiety attack,” I whined as I finally got the chance to eat my sandwich on a park bench. “I’m never going to get hired.” He calmed me down with a cigarette and anecdotes about how hot the mailroom guy was looking that day. I returned home somewhat more peaceful. It didn’t last for long though.


After finishing graduate school, my first week back in America was spent reading and laying around in the suburban Arizona sun. One evening, when I was feeling somewhat productive, I sent out an email for a paid editorial internship at ELLE.com. The next morning, I had a reply. They wanted me to come in to interview later that week in New York.

“Oh my god! This is it!! I’m gonna work at ELLE!” I told everyone who would listen. Alas, this wasn’t the case. Also, interviews for internships in New York are intense and I was not prepared to be grilled so thoroughly. I received an email a couple weeks later that they had “decided to go with another candidate.”

“I’m sorry, but what the f**ck candidate did they decide to go with?!” I wondered aloud. I was more than qualified for the job. Seriously though, it was probably some NYU journalism student. They get everything.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the first rejection or misleading job posting I would experience in the weeks to follow. But right when I started to seriously consider doing foot fetish gigs to be able to pay my rent, I landed a job at Vogue. Keep reading to find out how THAT became possible and how I stayed sane during two anxious months of unemployment.

 

1. Don’t drink

Literally, being hungover and unemployed is the worst combination ever. After a night of drinking, I would wake up and feel like I had absolutely no future whatsoever, and that my entire life was one big failure. You never want to have that kind of mindset. It’s not productive, so leave the shots of tequila for when you do get a job and have something to celebrate.

2. One “no” or even a hundred “no”s does not mean you should change career paths.

I was not about to let one magazine editor decide the rest of my life for me. Just because some people didn’t want me at their publication did not mean I was about to give up on working in fashion. Kind of like in dating, you’ll know when a place is the right fit for you. In my case finding a right fit job wise was a million times easier than finding a guy in New York worth a second of my time (more on that in a later post)

3. Stay busy

Make to-do lists a mile long. Write down every single person you could cold email who maybe went to your school seven years ago. Read up on your dream companies. Go on a run. However, don’t fall into the Netflix binge watching trap. Reruns of The Hills can be dangerous….

4. Check job listings every single day multiple times a day.

There’s always openings, but they go fast. Have your cover letter and resume already prepared and perfected so you can just hit the send button on emails. Be prepared to go in for an interview that week.

5. Don’t make decisions based on money at this stage in your career.

That’s some of the greatest advice I’ve ever been told by my grad school professor in London. Especially in an industry like fashion that gets away with paying employees the bare minimum, I’m not really in a place to expect a large paycheck. Accept the fact that you’ll be povo for a few years after college. Though I’ve given up buying $500 dresses once a month and going out for drinks every weekend for the time being, my job gives me more happiness and satisfaction than either of those things ever did. Sounds super cliché but so true. I work until 10:30 at night and come in on weekends, because I genuinely want to. Sometimes I walk home with tears in my eyes, so obsessed with my job and so amazed at how I got here. It’s a feeling I’ve yet to experience from any item of clothing, any man or any tequila based cocktail.

6. Don’t wait around. Just do it.

I felt like I couldn’t move to New York without the security of a job or an apartment. However, after talking to my therapist, she asked me why didn’t I just move? It didn’t have to be as complicated as I initially thought it would be. I could just go, ya know? And so I booked a one way flight, homeless and jobless. And once I was in New York it all started to happen, simply because I was physically there.

7. Prepare for your interviews as if you’re preparing to take the SAT again.

Except I didn’t study for the SAT and got yelled at by the classroom monitor for using a mechanical pencil. This was certainly not the case with my interview at Vogue. By surprise, I got called into their offices on my 24th birthday for a job I had applied to on a whim one afternoon two weeks prior. Walking into that interview, I was a nervous wreck. I had to look at myself in the reflective glass of my iPhone screen as I waited in the lobby and reassure myself. “Alice, you’re a badass bitch. You’ve got this on lock,” I repeated to myself over and over again until I was called into the interview. However, I had spent the last 12 years of my life preparing for this very moment. (As a preteen weekends were devoted to ripping out pages of Teen Vogue and compiling a notebook filled with pictures of Mischa Barton and Marc by Marc Jacobs clothing.) And once I started talking to my interviewers (there were 7 total!!!) over the course of two visits, it felt like I had been reunited with my long lost family. I’ve never had so much fun discussing the surrealist fashion photography of Tim Walker and the brilliant creations of Christopher Kane and the new crop of British fashion designers. Everything just felt so right, and that evening I got the offer.

8. But most importantly, stay positive

If you don’t land your dream job immediately, it doesn’t mean you won’t one day. I’ve learned if you want something badly enough, you will find a way to make it happen. Also, you never know what could happen within the span of a week. I had no idea a position was about to open up at Vogue.com, and within three days I had a job out of the blue. If you stay positive and open to all work experiences good things will come your way.

 

*Artwork by Christina M Garcia*

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