I spent a significant part of my senior year sitting in the upper level of the new Peet’s Coffee applying for jobs. I vividly remember walking down steep 35th Street, turning left on M, and rushing to my table overlooking the line outside Georgetown Cupcake.
Some days, I’d browse jobs by sector. Sometimes, I’d do it by geography. Often, I turned to LinkedIn: I’d search companies that seemed interesting, looking for a Georgetown University alum to whom I could reach out. I bookmarked the career pages of companies whose products I loved and whose missions I respected, like Clif Bar, Patagonia and Trek, as well as institutions in which I was already a participant.
By Christmas break I was bruised from the process; as a biology and classics major, I put too much pressure on myself too early and held myself to the standard of consulting or finance kids, even though science and related jobs hire on an entirely different cycle. When I returned for second semester, I approached the search with a fresh heart, taking it as an opportunity to learn and trying my best to enjoy it as an experience.
It was in that upper level of Peet’s where I scheduled a final-round interview for a job I knew I didn’t want, where I refreshed my email at least 10 times waiting to hear back from a startup that ultimately ghosted me, where I attempted my first “salary negotiation” after receiving an offer that I later turned down, and where I texted my mom at least a hundred crying emojis.
But in between working on my computer science projects and drinking at least two dozen hot chocolates, I grew up a lot up there. In particular, I learned to apply for jobs I would actually have been happy to work in, rather than limiting myself to work in a specific field.
In January, I finally found the job I have now — from the comfort of my beautiful yellow townhouse. I decided to be entirely myself in my application: I wrote parts of my resume in aquamarine font, told my personal statement like a story and submitted an essay about wolves in Yellowstone National Park as my writing sample. This personality mattered: People told me, “Your resume looked good, but when I saw you studied Egyptian hieroglyphs, I knew I had to meet you.”
By the time I arrived to interview for my current job, the interviewers had seen my transcript and knew I’d studied biology. Instead of focusing on these basics, I directed the conversation toward the science writing contest I’d helped establish in the Writing Center and the sponsorships I set up for our triathlon team. I was excited to talk about things I was passionate about and even happier that the interviewers were interested in discussing them with me. More than a year later, I’m still working at the IDA Science and Technology Policy Institute — continuing to use the skills I developed through my own projects.
The job search was difficult, and there are a number of ways to measure whether any aspect of it was successful. But I think the most important part of the process is to enjoy each step. I expanded my network and am still in touch with a few people at places I ended up not working. Asking for letters of recommendation gave me the opportunity to start new conversations with old professors, who I now keep updated on my job and life. Putting pieces of myself out on the internet and never hearing anything back was difficult; opening a rejection email six months after applying was worse. However, I am grateful to the people who helped me through the process, by forcing me to write out everything I enjoy, or spending hours with me in the Cawley Career Center, or taking me to Epicurean for sushi to celebrate when I finally got my job offer.
Searching for a job is an awesome opportunity to learn — about a topic, about working, about yourself. And it’s a chance to grow — professionally, personally and culturally. It doesn’t have to be defining, and it doesn’t have to be forever.
I learned firsthand the value of twice-removed connections and the LinkedIn cold message, and I’m always happy to talk — you can find me at [email protected]
Sara Carioscia graduated from the College in 2017. This article is the first installment of From Hoyas to Hired.