Location, location, location. The age-old cliché has come to hold significant meaning in my career journey. Coming from small town Minnesota, I’ve long known that my heart and life belonged in San Francisco. Throughout my young adulthood, I grew to realize that the location of my first job was of the utmost importance to me. While riding the rollercoaster of emotions that is a job search, it was the draw to the Bay Area that kept pushing me forward, even after what felt like endless rejections.
For some people, permanently moving before securing an interview or a job offer is realistic, but for me, this simply wasn’t an option so soon after my college graduation. Even though numerous people expressed to me that I needed to physically be in San Francisco to land a job, I didn’t feel like I had the means to take that chance. So, I stuck to what seemed to be the tough route—finding and landing a job across the country—which only inspired me to work even harder.
Staying persistent is ultimately how I came to accept my San Francisco dream job, all from my living room in the Midwest. But before I stepped on the plane, I had to put in the work. These were the three keys to my success in finding and landing my dream job across the country:
1. Start early
The process of finding and securing a job in another city (or state) takes an extraordinary amount of time, and honestly, I wish I had begun even earlier than I did. Starting early doesn’t mean a few months before graduation. To me, it meant working towards my goal throughout my entire time as an undergrad. A few of my tactics while still on campus were:
- Joining organizations of professional and personal interests
- Developing my individual story so that the passion was clearly identifiable in my voice
- Taking part in limitless informational interviews and video chats
- Devoting time each day to read relevant articles
- Identifying companies that matched my interests
- Persistently checking for job postings
For recent graduates, the job market is exceptionally competitive due to our lack of professional experience. Internships, part-time jobs, volunteering, etc. are all relevant and extremely important aspects of starting the process early. Taking early action only provides additional insight into the real world, while creating opportunities to meet people and enjoy exposure to the options that exist.
2. Build relationships
I utilized social media and courageously engaged with recruiters, companies, professionals, venture capitalists, and local organizations in the Bay Area.
But it isn’t about simply virtually connecting; it’s also about building rapport, identifying common ground, following up, and staying digitally present—especially given that I wasn’t able to meet many of my new contacts in person.
I fearlessly reached out to people I was interested in learning from, or who worked for a company I admired. I sent personalized messages, and crossed my fingers that they would be willing to talk with me further. I contacted VPs, directors, professionals that were featured on my beloved websites, and people who already held my dream role.
Ultimately, many of my messages were answered and several even offered to submit referrals on my behalf or connect me further. While I never expected the referrals, I was grateful for the advice, guidance, and support I received.
3. Enjoy the process
I can’t deny the emotional exhaustion that came with the ups and downs of the entire job search process. I learned an immense amount about myself, both professionally and personally. I realized what is sincerely important to me, what motivates me, who truly supports me, and how I can individually cope with failure.
For me, the rejections were numerous. I want you to know: the first “it isn’t the right fit for us” hurts for awhile, but it does get easier. I didn’t dwell on each denial. Instead, I remained optimistic and realized that it wasn’t meant to be. I found that most of the letdowns became lessons.
It would have been easy to take the comfortable way out and stay within the confines of home. I avoided giving up on my dream by never allowing myself to settle for anything else. I never allowed myself to apply to jobs in the Midwest, I confidently communicated what I wanted, and I spent time dreaming of the possibilities that were ahead of me.
Even in the midst of disappointment, I made sure to create new opportunities to be excited about.
Optimism and passion will outweigh the disappointment and emotional exhaustion if you refuse to let it get you down. Keeping myself engaged and positive let me learn along the way and ultimately come to enjoy the rollercoaster.
A version of this article was originally published on Career Contessa, an online platform facilitating honest conversations by real women about work and life—to help you achieve fulfillment and balance in both.