Why Working for a Small Non-Profit Out of College Was My Best Decision Yet

When I first graduated college, I spent a month or two non-stop searching for jobs, interviewing and feeling just plain distraught over the fact that (in my mind) I was never going to find a job.

As I sit down to write this, it’s hard to believe that my college graduation was one year ago. And while it took two months for me to finally get that “you’ve got the job” phone call, it eventually did happen.

And the funny thing is, I didn’t really want that job. It was for a mediocre size company, in the middle of No-Wheres-Ville, PA. It was far from my home, my friends, my family. I didn’t know anyone in the area. It didn’t pay great. I was excited, and then not really all that excited at the same time. I told them I needed some time to think about it.

A few days later, I decided I couldn’t wait around for something else to fall into my lap, and that this job might very well be the only one I was going to get at the time in as a young professional in a wildly-competetive job market, and I accepted the position. I was ready to give up my Netflix addiction and start my career.

I moved to the new, minuscule area a few weeks later and started my first “big-girl” job in a tiny health care non-profit where I would stay for the next nine months before landing a job that was more ‘up my alley’; closer to my friends/family, better pay and more opportunity for professional growth.

And although I wasn’t thrilled at first for my job with the non-profit, I couldn’t be more pleased that I chose the road (less traveled? Here’s to looking at you, Robert Frost) I did. Working for a small (in size and budget) company opened my eyes to the back-ends of everything that makes an organization tick. I gained more experience in those nine months than had I ever waited around to take some other, entry-level position.

And here’s why:

Because my department contained all of three employees. You heard me — THREE! Which meant a ton of responsibility fell on my shoulders. I was able to explore, voice my opinions and work closely with my team to make things happen. I was a part of every in and out of every move we made.

Because I got to know everyone. I knew every employee in every department; including each volunteer we had. When I had a problem and needed IT’s help, I would sit in their office and watch how they ran the back-ends of the company. I had the opportunity to work with nurses and doctors, learning what was done on their end — outside of the office — helping me to better understand my job. I worked closely with accounting and billing and watched how every number of every budget was broken down. I assisted human resources and witnessed what went on behind closed doors. I could sit down with the CEO, face-to-face, and discuss projects, events and employee relations. I was able to work with each and every manager, no matter the department, and learn how each of them played a role in operating the organization. These are things I might never have the chance to do in any job ever again; but at least I know, when I’m (now) one of 19,000 employees, the types of things that are going on elsewhere in other parts of the company — and that, in itself, is forever invaluable.

Because I was given more tasks than my job description noted. And while, at times, that felt unfair and frustrating, it was really a blessing in disguise. I ran around like a chicken with my head chopped off more times than not and thinking, “This isn’t my job,” or “I’m not getting paid enough to do this,” when — in reality — I was gaining more than I could see. Looking back, I’m grateful for those experiences. I wore a lot of hats and I’m happy that I was given those responsibilities for the sake of learning to accomplish something regardless of whether or not it was my job, and in doing so, gaining more knowledge than I would have if I was just given my assignments. Every day was something different, and it caused me to become adaptable to a lot of different work environments.

Because when faced with difficulties, I had to pick up the pieces. There weren’t a whole lot of people to count on. As I mentioned before, there were three of us in one department. When sh*t hit the fan, I had to think on my feet to relieve the problem. Because there weren’t other people to run to for help, I relied on myself to fix the problems. I couldn’t give up, because, sometimes, I was the only person I could count on.

Because it made me learn to work with people I didn’t like. With a small group of working (mostly) women, you could sometimes feel the tension floating around the office. There was gossip, and fights and a lot of secrecy; and though these are things you might come to find in any work place, when you’re working with a smaller group of people, it tends to make it harder to respect them or find an outlet. I learned to not involve myself in anything besides my work because of the small territory we all shared — later helping me to understand and respect those in a larger organization.

Because I learned how to budget. I knew people who were making more than I was, and I knew people who were making less. I was well-off in the sense that I could afford my rent, bills, food, dog and social life. But, after taxes, it wasn’t the world’s best paycheck. Yet, I made it work. I learned how to budget my life (for the first time ever, mind you) from the smaller paychecks I received, which made it that might easier to become a “saver” once the larger paychecks started to come around.

Overall, working for the small, non-profit right out of college was the best decision I could have made. I learned a lot about myself in those nine months; professionally and personally. I gained experience, I gained professionalism and I gained a sense of self. It was like being thrown into a pool for the first time ever and learning how to swim and, though it was a tough nine months, I’m thrilled that it landed me where I am today: a place I don’t think I’d be had I not chosen to work for that small non-profit.

It’s hard to believe that, at one time, it didn’t sound so great.

– C

You Didn’t Get The Job: What To Do Next

As a young professional and/or recent college grad, you may find yourself in a slew of interview after interview, with little to no results. It can be unsatisfying, frustrating, and mostly, discouraging.

BUT, says the recent college grad, don’t fret. There are steps you can take after you don’t land the job that can better serve you and your interview experiences in the future — and eventually, land you that dream job.

When you don’t get the job, take time to follow the steps below, and then take yourself out for a margarita, because, well damn, you deserve it!

The College Grad’s Guide (to not FREAKING OUT) When You Don’t Get The Job:

  1. Thank them for their time and consideration.
    Landing an interview alone is a pretty big deal, especially if you’re a recent college grad or young professional. Be considerate of the time the interviewer(s) took to spend with you, asking you questions and learning about who you are, even if it didn’t work out for you in the end. An employer will appreciate a quick thank you.
  2. Let them know that you enjoyed meeting them and to please keep you in mind.
    While you’re writing your thank you, be sure to include that it was a pleasure meeting them, and that if they have any openings in the near future, to please keep your name and resume in mind. It happens all the time – You don’t get the job you wanted but in three months you’re getting a call for another position within the same company. You’re not always denied because you weren’t capable, you just might not have been capable for THAT specific job. Remind the employer to keep you in mind – you never know what might come out of it.
  3. Take what they said about why you didn’t get the job into consideration.
    And if they didn’t tell you, it’s OK to ask (in addition to that ‘thank you’ you’re sending). You might not always get a response, but most of the time you will. After thanking them, ask them if they could send you a quick list of some of the reasons they felt that you were not applicable for the position – or things you could work on for next time. Take everything they say into consideration, even if you do not agree. You might not have realized you were doing something in the interview that they did; and that’s something you’ll want to know for the future.
  4. After taking what they said into consideration, make note of what you can do better next time.
    Sit down and say, OK, this is what they didn’t like, and this is what I can do to make sure that doesn’t happen again. Whether it was being late or being unprepared for certain questions, there’s always going to be ways to improve — and it’s better to know them ahead of time.
  5. Review/Write down and review the questions you were asked.
    Try to make a mental note during the interview of the questions they’re asking – especially if you’ve never heard them before. Come home, and write them down. Try to remember what your answers were, and think about how you can elaborate on them more next time around. Chances are, you’re going to hear them again in another interview or two, so once you’ve prepared, you’ll ace it every time! This is truly a benefit of going on interviews and not landing the job: experience!
  6. Talk about the interview with a mentor/professor/parent.
    Sit down with someone you respect professionally and describe the interview to them; the setting, the questions/answers, the atmosphere, the vibe. They may be able to pick up on something that you didn’t. It’s easier to be an outsider looking in to identify the rough spots. Sometimes an interviewer is a ‘dud’ – making it hard for you to answer questions or feel that you are able to answer appropriately, or maybe you were in a bright-lit room and it was hard for you to concentrate on the interview. Ask them their opinions and what they think could be done if you’re ever in a similar situation again.
  7. Don’t yell about the company (or interview/er) online/social media.
    Recently a soon-to-be-college-grad blasted a company’s name all over social media when she didn’t get the job; claiming that it was because of the way she was dressed. Under no circumstances should you ever post about a company online, whether you include their name or not. Everything you post is public, even if you don’t think anyone but your friends can see it. Even if the company you’re talking about doesn’t see the post, that doesn’t mean another company considering you for a position won’t either. They won’t see you as a loyal or respectable candidate, and you could blow your chances even before you land another interview.
  8. Take it as an experience and move on.
    Be grateful for all of the interviews you go on. Each one will help you to realize what kinds of jobs you do and do not want to take, how many various questions can be asked and what you can work on for next time. They also have the ability to make you realize that an interview can go on for five minutes, or two hours, and ways to interact with different types of employers. Every interview you go on is beneficial to your career in the long run. So even if you didn’t get the job, nothing about an interview should ever be considered a failure.
  9. Don’t dwell.
    It’s easy to become distraught, especially when it seems like you may never find that perfect job. Don’t dwell on interviews and think about all that went wrong – think about all that could come from it. You’re becoming better and better and more and more prepared with each and every interview, so never overthink or regret something you said in one interview for too long. Pick yourself up and move on to the next one.
  10. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
    Here’s the important thing to remember: You’re still learning. And any interviewer who reads over your resume and invites you in for a meeting knows that. They don’t expect you to blow it out of the water – and even when you do rock it, that doesn’t mean you got the job; and that can be frustrating. Don’t forget that you’re not any less of a person or professional because you didn’t get this one job.

Cheers to you 🙂

 

-C

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Contact The College Grad:
Email – cswetsky@gmail.com
Twitter – @caraswetsky

Why Our Generation Will Change the World (If Only We Realize We Can)

Stop Instagram-ing your dinner. Stop pinning pins on Pinterest of mindless DIY crafts that you’ll never actually do yourself. Stop watching Netflix for hours on end. Stop acting like your exercise schedule and food prep matters. Stop sub-tweeting at your ex’s new girlfriend.

Just stop.

Look around. Do you see what’s happening? This “free nation”, this “under one God”, this “one for all” is falling apart before us. Everything you’re used to; the solid ground you grew up on, your freedom of speech, your kids and your kid’s kids and their kids lives are changing.

Wake up.

Stop thinking it doesn’t exist. It does. It’s happening and just because it isn’t happening to you doesn’t mean it’s not real. It doesn’t mean that your Instagram and Pinterest and Facebook and Netflix can distract you forever.

I’m guilty of all of the above. The social media. The ignorance. The that will never effect me and my privileged throne I sit on. I’ve used the hashtags and fought with the opposing sides on Facebook statuses and listened to people talk politics while groaning and rolling my eyes and thinking, who cares. I get it. I’ve been there. It’s fun to pretend like we know what we’re talking about and why we’re talking about it because we heard people we admire say it or read it on our favorite celebrities’ tweet. But do we really know what’s going on? Do we really, truly get it?

WHY don’t we care? Why are we ignoring what’s happening to our people? Because, yes, in fact, they are OUR people. Our American brothers. Our fellow human beings and our respectable individuals. We’re supposed to be one. And yet, divided we stand.

Why?

Because we’re uneducated. We’re blinded. We were raised in an era where we just. don’t care.

Or maybe we just don’t know how to change it. Maybe the power to change our world, our lives, is right at our fingertips.

Maybe?

Definitely.

Our generation is so advanced that we could make the difference. We’re so lucky because we have the instant connection to the news, as misleading and confusing as it can sometimes be. We have a direct outlet to share our opinions, to speak up and stand up and say something.

We have something that our parents, our grandparents, their parents and so forth could have never even dreamt about when they faced times like this. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. It doesn’t have to be distracting. It doesn’t have to be meaningless. It’s the way we’re going to change the world.

But how?

Because when something happens, a riot breaks out, someone dies, a court decision is made, we know about it instantly. We can talk and connect and communicate and listen to each other.

But that’s just it. We have to listen.

No matter your side, your political views, your religion, your race. It doesn’t matter. But you, as an individual with the freedom of speech and advancement of technology, you have the most to give. You are not Mike Brown and you are not Darren Wilson. You are not a Democrat or Republican. You are not Christian or Muslim or Jewish or Buddhist. You are not black or white. You are a person in a sea of others who are just. like. you.

Educate yourself. On stories and situations. On the legal system. On the government. Google, people, I know you know how to use it. Read, read and read some more. Read statistics, read opinion articles, if you’re a Democrat, read a Republican’s words and vice versa. Engage. Think. Speak. Ask questions.

We don’t have to fight. We don’t have to kill each other. We don’t have to disagree. What we do have to do is talk. Consider other sides. Imagine what your life would be if you lived in Ferguson or NYC right now.

Just because it isn’t you doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. You are everything that’s happening to every other person in this country. And everything that’s happening to them is happening to you. 

Just because you’re white or black doesn’t give you the right to blame people who don’t have the same skin color as you. You can’t group together people because they’re all black. You can’t group together people because they’re all white. Or because they’re all cops. Or because they speak a certain way or live in a certain place. That’s called generalization and the last person to think like that was Hitler.

You’re not Hitler… Are you? It’d be pretty crazy if Hitler was reading my blog. Hey, Hitler, if you’re reading this – We’re not you. No one wants to be you.

Right? Because Hitler was totally not cool. He was wrong. We grew up learning over and over, each year in history class, about how terrible people can be and we sat there and we wondered how could people treat other people like that? We can’t imagine living in a world like that, right? But we are. Right now. So stand up. Speak up. Tell the world you’re FED UP. Because you should be. And if you’re not, for the sake of this supposed wonderful country we stand for, wake up.

7 Changes as You Grow Up

While finalizing some plans out loud for a friend’s upcoming wedding to a co-worker this morning, discussing travel time, weather, etc., she mentioned that this was the second wedding I had mentioned within the last few months. I shrugged and said, “Guess I’m getting to that age.”

Ew. That age? Who am I? But it’s true, after college graduation and starting to become a real, functioning human being, I guess we really are starting to get to “that age.”

While that age might not be a set age, and can happen at different times for anyone, there are some things we start to notice as we grow up…

1. Weddings
Your friends start to get married. You soon realize you’re filling your calendar with more save-the-dates faster than you can roll your eyes. All of a sudden it’s like, wow, when did we get so old?

2. Careers
Suddenly, your friends who you thought only majored in Netflix and Tequila are starting to find their niche in the real world and landing jobs. And it’s exciting and scary and new, but at least you can relate to having similar schedules for once.

3. Happy Hours
Sure, you had them in college, but happy hours after a certain point seem to be filled with work colleagues and tend to be a lot classier than they were before you graduated. Age varies and… gulp, you actually kind of have fun without slamming down 16 tequila shots before that clock strikes 6 p.m.

4. Money
You start to realize that when you or your friends have plans, or want to take a trip, there’s no more “I can’t afford it” or “Maybe I’ll ask my parents to pay for me as a Christmas gift!” Everyone has their own income and making plans for a night or long weekend become easier than ever to say OK to.

5. Emails/Texting/Social Media
You email people more than you text. Or you call instead Facebook messaging. It’s a whole new world beyond emojis and “K.”

6. Clothes
You come to the realization that maybe, just maybe 54 crop tops and 26 booty-shorts is a little much, and that you don’t really have places to wear them to anymore anyway. You stop shopping for quantity and you start aiming for quality. “Dress for the job you want, not for the job you have.”

7. Friends
Like clothes, you’d rather have quality over quantity. You get rid of the ‘friends’ that you no longer see or feel a real connection with. You keep the ones who do. You make new ones – through work, organizations, etc. Some just plain drift away. You know you’re old when you can accept this – that some people will always be around and that some people just weren’t meant to, and that’s OK.

Overall, no matter what changes you start to notice and how old you get, you’re always you and you can still throw back seven margaritas before that happy hour ends and you can still do The Wop better than anyone on the dance floor at the next wedding you attend. Oh, and you still look good in those crop tops shoved in the back of your closet that you won’t admit you didn’t throw out with the rest. You’ll still have money issues and learn to balance it between friends and time. Emojis will always be fun, age 14 or 42, and a smilie face will just have to suffice for friendly work emails.

If you’ve reached that age, don’t worry, your dreams still have no barriers and your innocence remains.

“The best is yet to come.”