I’ve been job searching on and off ever since I graduated six years ago with a degree in studio art and a minor in Spanish.
I’ve had a lot of different jobs; at the moment, I’m working as a cashier at a greenhouse.
This embarrasses me: I have a college degree, but the only position I can land is as a seasonal worker for ten dollars an hour. I feel like a complete failure.
I have some thoughts of what I want to do, and am extremely self-motivated, but I have no idea how that translates into a job. I can't seem to convince any potential employers of my own potential.
What can I do to find my direction?
Thanks for writing in. It’s hard grappling with feelings of embarrassment, especially when it feels like everyone around you is crushing it. At least once a week, I get anxious thinking of how young Mark Zuckerberg was when he founded Facebook. What have I been doing the past 10+ years!
First, I recommend buoying your spirits by reading about people who weren’t “successful” until later in life. For example: Did you know Ina Garten didn’t become Ina Garten until she was 51? Or, have you ever read this list of people who failed before they made it big?
Don’t look at the past six years as a waste. You’ve gained perspective along with valuable work experience that’ll help you secure your next position.
As a job seeker with a diverse background, you should focus on two things. First, explore what you’ve learned from your previous roles. This includes skills, but also insights into yourself and what roles and environments you thrive in. This will inform what positions you should pursue moving forward. I suggest getting started by reading these two articles:
With so many experiences under your belt you’ll likely see themes start to emerge—dive into those until you fully understand how they inform your next step.
TIME FOR YOU TO FIGURE OUT YOUR GAME PLAN
Because you want to land an awesome job, right?
The second thing to focus on after you’ve identified what kind of career you’re best suited for, is getting hired. For that, there’s a two-pronged attack plan—polish that resume and network your butt off.
Polishing your resume involves more than just dusting it off and adding your most recent position; your goal is to create a clear career narrative. Career expert Erica Foss explains exactly how do that in this article. Write a resume that highlights those themes you identified in your work experience and how they directly relate to the position you’re applying for.
I’ve also seen candidates in your position find success via networking. I won’t sugarcoat it though: Some hiring managers won’t see your diverse background as an asset. Networking is a way to jump past that “gate-keeping” resume round by having someone who can vouch for you on the inside. I plug informational interviewing often because it works, especially for people with non-traditional backgrounds or those looking to break into a new industry.
To sum it up, you’ve had six years of diverse and unique experiences to draw from to help you figure out what is next and that will help you land your next opportunity. With a little bit of leg work I anticipate you’ll be well on your way to your next career soon.
This article is part of our Ask an Expert series—a column dedicated to helping you tackle your biggest career concerns. Our experts are excited to answer all of your burning questions, and you can submit one by emailing us at editor(at)themuse(dot)com and using Ask a Real Recruiter in the subject line.
Your letter may be published in an article on The Muse. All letters to Ask an Expert become the property of Daily Muse, Inc and will be edited for length, clarity, and grammatical correctness.
Photo of person on computer courtesy of JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty Images.
Lydia D. Bowers is the founder of Dear People Ops, a contributing author at The Muse, and a Human Resources master's student at Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations. She believes improving the world of work improves the world at large. She develops customized people operations strategies for companies to make them a place where people want to work, not have to work and coach individuals on the tools they need to advocate for themselves and their career goals. Learn more on her personal website: lydiabowers.com.More from this Author