Your job search may be starting to feel like my 10 mile race this weekend — too long, too arduous given my condition, and not worth the prize.
I run usually three times per week, three to five miles per run at most. But I really like to do races — not because I want to win (and not just because of the t-shirt), but because I like to be with the crowd, and I like to push myself–something I seldom do on daily runs. Last weekend I did my opening season race, the Monument Avenue 10K in Richmond. It was a blast — thirty thousand of my favorite people were there with me. I beat twenty-six thousand of them. My most embarrassing moment was when two girls dressed as reindeer passed me, followed ten feet later by Santa. But the race was great, and I clocked about 52 minutes, certainly better than my normal training times.
I got so excited about my results in Richmond that I entered the Charlottesville 10-Miler last Monday. I had been avoiding it because I knew it was hard (I did it the first time two years ago, when I was running more and actually trained by running eight miles a few times). The race is another really fun one, with many spectators, bands and encouraging sights along the way (my favorite is the banner above the road on mile 7, supposedly dividing the road into two lanes: “runners here, donut eaters here.” I took the donut line and actually ate a donut hole while running — probably not a good idea).
In order to prepare for the race I should have, at a minimum, taken my six-mile run last weekend and built on it early this week by running eight miles at least once, just to pretend I had a training regimen. But it was an incredibly busy week, so I ran a short three miles on Tuesday. Saturday came and I was barely ready, with a good night’s sleep under my belt as my only preparation.
The race started well enough, with incredibly beautiful weather and lots of cheerful runners. The first few miles were terrific, my mile splits were right where I wanted (pacing myself to my standard nine-minute miles), and I was feeling good. At mile six I wondered where the finish line was. I was running out of gas. At mile seven, running beside the cemetery, the guy next to me cheered me on: “at least we’re ahead of these guys (motioning to the grave markers).” At mile nine, all the youth started sprinting past me toward the finish line. I was seeing stars and the ache in my right calf was excruciating. With only two-hundred yards to go, I considered quitting and just walking in. I could see the finish line, yet I was losing heart fast. Beyond the finish line, I could see they were handing out plastic medals. Plastic medals. Not gold coins. Not fame and fortune. Not a guaranteed future of fitness for life. Just plastic medals. I finished using everything I had left in me, and hating the eight year old, sprinting freak passing me just at the finish line. But I finished.
Is your job search starting to feel like my 10-Miler? Have you been at this since September, or really since the beginning of your first year of business school? You started with such a great attitude and full of hope, knowing you would find the perfect next step. At your “mile six” have you begun to wonder if you’ll ever get a job? You’ve seen people far less qualified get jobs with your dream companies. At your mile seven, have recruiter’s begun to make jokes at your expense, sending you “reject” letters addressed to the wrong name? And have you begun to question your conditioning? Have you prepared enough? Have you done all the right things in this search? Have you networked enough? Is your story compelling? At mile eight, have you begun to question why you paid $100,000 for business school anyway? At mile nine, do you feel like you are the only one left in the job search? And have you begun to think that none of this is worth it anyway, that what began as a dream might just end in disappointment and disillusionment?
If you’ve read this far, my I offer some encouragement and some reality?
Today, three days later, I feel like the 10-Miler was worth it. I want to do it again. It’s not the end of something, it’s just the beginning. Heck, the half marathon is just two weeks away. All that second-guessing about preparation and desire — out the window, can’t even remember it. I only feel satisfied and wanting to move forward, to the next challenge.
I know many of you are still in the search: you have worked, and are working, hard on the search. You are prepared or working on improving your story and perfecting your interview skills. Now you have in your sights some opportunities that will start you on a new career, toward your ultimate destination.
The reality: the finish line, while getting really close, is still in front of you. It will require more effort than you may have exerted already. The pain and disappointment from the “turn downs” may get even more intense before the end. Your last remaining friend still in the search with you may just get a job before you. But the prize within your grasp, while looking more and more like a “plastic medal” because of your fatigue and current perspective, is actually worth it. It’s why you came to school. It’s a new start.
Nice inspiration, but just tell me how, right? As trite as it sounds, like a runner keep putting one foot in front of the other — seek assistance from faculty, ask your classmates for contacts, network with alumni. Attend Foxfield and mingle with alumni. Go to your target cities and set up informational meetings every single day you have off. Check and re-check your positioning — are you differentiating yourself in a way relevant to your target?
And, come see me for help.