Doing nothing will definitely get you nothing. What are you doing to improve your career mileage?

Someone I know well followed what I now believe is a more typical journey than many may think. They were a talented student, and while in college excelled at their studies, were active in academic as well as volunteer activities, and they showed leadership traits by being elected as president of a social / academic club they were part of. They were excellent at public speaking & presenting and were always seen as someone to look up to and emulate, both as a student and as a person in general. To summarize: top grades, great skills, highly respected by all that knew them.

Because they were graduating at a difficult time for the economy, within 6 months this highly competent, highly coveted talent was still unemployed and living with their grandmother. There is no shame in this, but it definitely wasn’t the post-graduation plan. After ~6 months, another group of students had now graduated and created an even more competitive environment for landing a job. Temp work was an option, and so was working in a position well beneath their capabilities. Oh, and by the way, student loans were also now requiring payment, so what were they to do?  They loved their grandma, that wasn’t the issue (in fact, they were very fortunate to have someone that was able to help). The issue was they were ready to contribute and make a life for themself, but sometimes the world is cruel and unfair (that’s life, get used to it).

Eventually they went the temp route, gained some experience and continued to look for more permanent opportunities. It wasn’t ideal, but a good job became available out of state, in a small town that was void of family and friends, and would require a leap of faith. They took that leap, and in a few years leveraged what they learned in that position and applied for and landed a much more inspired role with a large, but still growing company. It required another relocation, but that was no problem since they just did that a few years earlier and now had some confidence in their ability to acclimate and live in a new city.

There’s much more in-between the lines here, like they still had to work hard, had to study and learn new skills, and had to leave new friends, but they were willing to take a risk on something new and different (and relocate) to gain the skills necessary to eventually land an awesome job. It was humbling for them to have to move back in with grandma, and it was hard moving to a town where they didn’t know anyone, but they knew they had to create opportunity for themselves, so they expanded their search to find something, and it ultimately prepared them for an even better opportunity. I’m not suggesting everyone should relocate, or that it’s the only option, just that you may need to get creative and be willing to show some flexibility if opportunities aren’t abundant in your preferred “neighborhood”.

This story is about a real person, and could have been written 25 years ago, or 25 days ago. Many people go through challenging times trying to start their career, and many are also humbled along the way. This person by all measures should have been highly recruited and sought after, but due to some challenges in the economy, they were simply overlooked. Life isn’t fair, and timing can sometimes be poor – but you need to be willing to think creatively to solve problems. In this example, they were willing to move to a small town to gain experience. That move gave them experience, but also confidence to relocate again, and instilled a willingness to take more calculated risks.  It’s easy to do nothing, and it can be demoralizing to do something and continue to be rejected, but you have to keep trying. What I know for sure is that doing something may get you nothing, but it may also get you something… but doing nothing will definitely get you nothing (try saying that 5 times fast).