Thursday, July 11, 2013

5 Things I Learned in Mexico that Improved my Job-Searching Attitude

Last week, I returned from a 17-day trip to Southern California and Tijuana, Mexico. I had just graduated with my Master's degree in New Media Studies from DePaul University on Father's Day, and hopped on a plane the very next day to begin my post-grad adventures, visiting family and doing some soul-searching. Seeing as I wouldn't be able to take this amount of time off of work after landing a job, I embraced the opportunity during the transition from graduation to starting my career.

Now that I'm back home and have filled out about 30+ job applications, I've had enough time to reflect upon my experiences and found a way to apply them to my attitude towards the ever-so-tedious yet necessary task of job-hunting. After all, making the most out of any experience means taking the lessons with you wherever you go, right?

Keep in mind that I compiled a far more extensive list on my own, but here are the most important for me when searching for a career:

1) El Pasado es Pasado

My grandfather made some choices that he eventually regretted, as we all do at some point in our lives. The thing that impressed me most about the situation was that my aunts, uncles, and cousins had such a positive attitude about moving forward, now that we have all gotten the chance to spend quality time with each other. We can't always control the decisions our parents make, but we can control how we deal with the consequences. 

The past is the past. Whatever mistakes I made during my previous positions as an employee or as a student are done and over with. I'm doing my best to not dwell over the mistakes or let them negatively affect my attitude towards my professional endeavors. Instead, I'm trying to learn from them and make sure to avoid making the same mistakes in the future. I've found that I'm happier this way and have a more positive outlook on life in general.

2) Persistence Triumphs Over Rejection

While browsing through the shops, driving through the streets, and waiting to cross the border in Tijuana, it's not hard to notice the locals selling various products to anyone who will express interest (even if they don't). I've been to Mexico before, so this was no shock to me. What I did realize was that these vendors were not afraid to throw themselves out there, despite the fact that rejection is more common than not. 

When it comes to job hunting, there will be times where I'm simply not a potential candidate for the position. Whether it's because I don't have enough experience, or am not the most suitable candidate, I have to be prepared for the email that says "we're pursuing other candidates." But does this mean I wont keep trying to find my dream job and becoming a part of a great company? No! Persistence can be the difference between unemployment and landing the perfect career.

3) Sticking Out Like a Sore Thumb Isn't a Bad Thing

Even though I'm half-Mexican, my Irish side took over my hair and skin color. Needless to say, my long blonde hair and light-colored skin rendered me an anomaly in Tijuana and surrounding areas. Add some of my dark-haired and dark-skinned family members walking beside me, and I had no choice but to welcome the glances and stares. 

When searching for jobs, I actually want to stand out. Often times, my application is in a pool of 50+ other potential candidates - getting lost in the crowd is often inevitable. It is for this reason that standing out, anyway I can, is the first step to being pulled for an interview or phone screening. Once I get that chance, the next step is confidence, a positive attitude, and aligning myself with the position at hand.

4) Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone is an Invaluable Learning Experience

I did go out one night during my stay in Tijuana. Nothing too crazy, but definitely a good time with my cousin and tio. And of course, we had some late-night snacks at one of the taco stands in town - which is where I had the best tacos I've ever eaten in my entire life. Now don't get me wrong - my family's recipes and some authentic restaurants in Chicago can definitely hold their own. But the tacos I had in TJ blew my mind and my taste buds.

After having some carne tacos, my tio asked me "Okay so which do you want to try next: brains, tongue, or intestines?" At first I thought, "Uh-oh." But then I realized something: I didn't come here to spend 17 days away from home and do the same things I can do in the United States. I came here to try new things and to be open-minded about everything I see and do. With that thought, I replied, "Surprise me." Can you guess which part of the animal he ordered for me?

That's right, folks. I ate cow intestines on a taco. And guess what? It was delicious, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. The point I'm trying to make is that I took a leap of faith and did something that I wasn't necessarily comfortable with, yet was pleasantly surprised with no regrets. It is with this mentality that I aim to be open-minded to all industries, instead of applying only to positions within higher education, my preferred career path.

5) People Appreciate Being Appreciated

My family opened their hearts and homes to me and my mother (she was there for about a week), without hesitation, saying "this is your home," multiple times. They took care of us with whatever we needed, and we really did feel at home. On top of that, my aunt made sure that we did something fun each day I spent at her house. When I stayed at another family member's house, she kept in contact with me asking what we were doing and to make sure I was having fun. This may not seem like that big of a deal, but it felt good knowing that I had a group of people who were truly looking out for me and my mom, no matter any inconvenience it might have been. 

It feels good to be appreciated. It also feels good to express the appreciation. My family appreciated having us in their homes, and we appreciated their hospitality. In regards to the job hunt, I make sure to let the hiring manager or main contact person know that I appreciate him or her taking the time to speak with me and for considering me for the position. They could have called any one of the 50+ other applicants, but they chose me. For that, I am very grateful, and I make sure the person knows that. 

The moral of the story? You're never too old to adopt a new outlook on life. We have our whole lives to learn, and to embrace the chaos along with the structure. The important thing is to keep improving, no matter what it is you're working towards. And when I land the career I've always dreamed of, it will be because I kept all of these things in mind, from starting that first application to accepting the right offer. 

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