As a first-generation, low income student going into college with little to no funds, I knew I would have to find a job while living on-campus. I had never really worked much in high school and the thought of searching for jobs and interviewing for positions stressed me out. However, I was determined to push past my fear of rejection and find something I could do and do well. 

I began by searching through my university’s work-study portal. After applying to a couple of interesting positions (one as a library worker, the other as a painter for the performing arts department) I landed an interview! I was so excited and following my interview really thought I would receive notification that I got the job. You can imagine my utter disappointment when I was told the position was given to someone else “better suited” and “more qualified” for the role. I felt useless and hopeless and that somehow this one rejection was proof that I wasn’t good enough. 

Of course, this is not true. One “no” is not the end of the world. Heck, 100 “no’s” are not the end of the world. But it sure felt like it at the time.

It also didn’t help that I had no money to go out with friends like every other freshman or to even afford to buy textbooks for my classes. 

It was during this time, however, that I realized the importance of networking. Not long after giving up slightly on the job search I attended a Questbridge social event. I was planning to just meet other Questbridge scholars like myself and grab some free snacks, but to my surprise there were administrators and faculty also in attendance. One person who worked in the career center began asking me about my interests and what I planned to study. Of course, this led to a conversation about my love of writing, and after seeing how passionate I was she promised to put me in contact with one of her colleagues in the admissions office that was looking for new and fresh voices for the school blog site. This would ultimately become my very first job at WashU.

And I loved every moment of it!

Due to the position being counted as a work-study position, the best part was that I could decide my own hours depending on my class schedule. I made it a point to write 2-3 days every week, and it became a part of my routine to find sunny spots on-campus when I needed to be put in the mood to write. I wrote mostly about life on-campus, STL weather, and what it was like, well, being me—Black, woman, first-gen, low-income at a PWI.

Looking back I realize that all it took to get me to the position—besides my love for writing—was putting myself out there and talking to people I wouldn’t normally come into contact with. Of course, interviews are crucial, but so is networking. I would have never gotten the position had I stayed inside my dorm the day of the networking event, or if I had simply went to grab food and then left immediately after. It took me stepping outside of my comfort zone and meeting new people. 

And of course, this way of getting a job is not the most conventional or reliable. But it’s definitely a start. It also happened to restore my faith in myself. I knew that with the right amount of confidence and passion I could make it anywhere. And so can you!

After blogging for a few months, I came across my university’s Writing Center portal and noticed that they were hiring undergrad tutors for their training course. As an English major (although my major was in no way a requirement) I knew that I had something I could offer to other students working on writing assignments. So, I applied. I figured the worse that could happen was I was told “no”.

Unlike my blogger position, I did not network my way into the Writing Center. However, I was so clearly passionate about writing and working with other writers that it showed to the interviewer—who would later become my boss. Since the peer tutor position was also a work-study one, I was still able to manage my class load by choosing hours that worked best for me.

Now, with all of this said, there are a few things that I want you to walk away with as you are conducting your own job searches: 1.) don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and meet new people who may possibly be the connections you need to new opportunities, 2.) be confident and sure of yourself and your capabilities—one big issue I had going into the first few interviews I had was that I was nervous and unsure of myself and what I could bring to the table, and 3.) just be you! I promise you just being yourself will take you far.

And now that I’m graduating and heading into the job market these are all tips I have to remind myself of daily. 

But don’t worry, as stressful as it may sound, you got this! We got this!