Hi, guys! I should probably introduce myself. My name is Gabriella Chalmers, but you can call me Gaby, I guess. I am one of you. And by ‘one of you’, I mean that I’m another member of the mentoring program. But I guess I’m in a weird position where I’m both a mentee and sort of a mentor? I’ve just been employed by Dave in another company he works for along with the RACI mentoring program.
So, what do you do at the start of (hopefully) a long-running writing series with everyone in the program? How do you normally introduce yourself? Summarise your life story? Talk about how you got here? Actually, that sounds like a good idea…
How did I get here?
And what can we learn from it?
I graduated with a Bachelor of Advanced Science (Honours)/ Bachelor of Arts at UNSW in 2018/2019. Finished my Honours project at the end of 2018, had the graduation ceremony in 2019, and I was free. Free from University to go straight out in the career world-
And immediately hit my face into a brick wall.
Like many 20-somethings doing a broad degree, I had no idea what I wanted to do for career plans. I knew what jobs I didn’t want, maybe, but even just narrowing things down to the science field, the options seemed endless and yet oddly specific at the same time. Sometimes, if I was feeling especially bitter that day, I would blame the university system for not giving clear avenues for the kinds of branches your degree could take you. I was hearing “academia or industry. It’s just one of those two, and I guess other fields accept people with science degrees but we’re not experts in those fields”. I felt like I never really had examples of things to try, just broad answers without practical steps.
So I had spent several months trying to find a starting job at a science research lab somewhere, hoping that’d be a good avenue for later careers in the future. The hours seemed rough, and their locations weren’t the best for me, but I thought it’d be a good place to work while I figured out where exactly to go. I had gotten a few interviews over months of applying, but not a single job offer.
What was the issue? Was I just not qualified enough? Were there too many applicants applying for the same positions? Or was I not applying for enough positions per week for it to be likely to find a job soon? Actually, I think all of those were true. But the last two especially are significant.
The job market is a competitive place, and if all you’re looking at are the most popular job websites, you’ll have to expect they’ll get many, many applicants for broad entry-level roles. It makes it all often a numbers game at the end of the day. Even if you do put in all the work and make all the right decisions, the chances there’ll be someone else doing the exact same thing are pretty high. You can even look at places like Seek, Indeed and LinkedIn, and they’ll often tell you just how many people have applied for the position already. You might sometimes see it’s in the dozens.
It’s why networking is so important. It can often be a way to jump over the competition. Even from the employer’s side, it makes more sense. Would you rather advertise to literally anyone in the country, hoping a qualified candidate will just happen to fit the criteria you want? Or would you employ someone you’ve met before, seemed to like, and who your connections were validating the competence of?
The second issue is just…the matter of putting yourself out there.
You’d think someone willing to write about their career opportunities to everyone in the mentoring program to hear wouldn’t be shy about applying for jobs, but it happens. Every application, I’d be scanning them, almost searching for a criteria I didn’t fit. Because it was embarrassing to me, thinking I had to sell myself as a commodity to strangers. Thinking I had my identity stripped away, having my life’s experience judged by a series of numbers and writing exercises.
But it was only once I resolved myself to take action that change happened.
For me, that moment was the RACI Mentoring program. I applied for it even though I knew I didn’t fit every single criteria. I applied for it because I said, “This is what I want, and this is what I think I can do for them,”. Through it, I met Dave, and through Dave, I’m now employed. In a field I didn’t even know existed until he told me about it.
I can’t speak for every person in the world. But for me, it was oddly coincidental that one of the first times I sent through an application for something with a firm feeling of “This is the kind of thing I want, and I won’t hold anything back”, was also the application that landed me a job.
Showing yourself can be terrifying. And if it doesn’t work out, you often feel like your reputation is ruined. But my advice about it is to remember two things:
- Only the employer is really going to look through that application. It won’t embarrass you for life, because it’s not being broadcast to everyone. Just some employers who might forget all about it they reject it.
- If you don’t take the first step, things will never change.
And that’s my Job Story.