20something profile: Hannah
This post was written by Hannah, who works at an international PR agency:
When I embarked on a four-year Modern Languages degree in 2006, I had little idea of what I wanted to do as a career. The obvious options were to become a teacher or a translator — but while I knew instinctively that neither of these was right for me, I didn’t make much effort to find out what was.
During those first two years at university, not a day went by when the world’s most prestigious companies weren’t lavishing us with free smoothies or rickshaw rides, begging us to choose them. In those carefree, pre-recession days, being proactive about my career just didn’t seem to matter. As an Oxbridge student I just expected to be snapped up for some high-flying business consultancy role, and that was that.
Fast-forward two years, and the companies that had previously been chasing me were no longer interested. I applied for hundreds of graduate jobs and rarely got a response, let alone an invite to interview. On the few occasions that I was invited to interview, the feedback was that I appeared far more interested in my hobbies than the job in hand.
So what were the hobbies that I appeared to be far more interested in? Well, one of them was blogging. In 2008 I set up a blog, documenting my experiences as an exchange student in Germany. Writing about my everyday life and the places I visited soon became a real passion of mine. Indeed, it was a skill I never knew I had!
Rejection after rejection, it seemed I had already found my ideal career path; I just hadn’t realised it. Now convinced I was destined to work in Communications, I set about finding a junior role at a London Public Relations agency. However, with no official work experience under my belt, none of the top agencies were willing to give me a shot.
So I took a low-paid admin job at a local manufacturing firm, and within a month I had created a role for myself. I was able to complete my daily admin tasks in a matter of hours and spent the rest of my time finding ways to promote the company. I presented my ideas to the Managing Director, who was able to come up with a budget, and so off I went! I redesigned the company website, set up social media accounts and wrote story after story which I managed to get into local, national and international press.
Working entirely off my own bat, I gained an incredible amount of experience and was able to secure a new job at an international PR agency within a week of applying. Moreover, I was offered a more senior role than the one I had applied for before I had even got home from the interview! Four weeks in I’m thoroughly enjoying it, and I’m even using my languages.
Some of my best friends are still looking for work after university, and what I say to them is what I will say to you now. No matter how enthusiastic you try to be, interviewers can always tell if your heart is not in it. Make sure you do something that you are passionate about, and if you’re not sure what that is, have a deep think about what you enjoy in life. Your hobby can become your job!
Plus, don’t be afraid to re-define a minor role. If you spot an opportunity, discuss it with your boss, and if your ideas are good enough, they’ll be sure to give you a chance. An entrepreneurial mindset can take you to where you want to be in the company or, if you want to move elsewhere, provide you with the experience needed to get a foot in the door.
But most importantly, hang in there! Your time will come soon.