My trip to LA was only supposed to last just over a week… Get into my Moving Journal posts to read more about how my vacation turned into a permanent move, and to learn about the setbacks and successes I encounter during my transition from DC to LA.
A few days after I’d been in LA, Tamika came home from work bearing news. Raven, one of her two roommates, had been back home in Maryland for a few months due to health concerns, and her return to California was in the air --uncertain, up until that point. But that day, she told Tamika that it would probably be best for her health if she stay home and request to to be let out of the lease agreement.
This then opened the door for both Tamika and myself -- I could take Raven’s place in the apartment. Half of me sulked inside for her roommate; she wouldn’t even be able to continue the new life in LA that she had only just scratched the surface on. I couldn’t imagine having the joy of a new promising career in a new city -- the same destiny I also wanted to claim -- being halted and taken away because of circumstances I had no power to change.
At the same time, it was hard not to feel super relieved because that meant that I didn’t have to go back home yet. Boom -- just like that, I had a place to live with the option of moving immediately. I could stay in California longer, take over her share of the rent, and not have to deal with the extremely daunting challenge of looking for an apartment in LA (and when you don’t have a job to base your search around, multiply that level of difficulty by about 500).
This also meant that Tamika and Mo, her other roommate, wouldn’t have to increase their split of the rent from having one less roommate. It was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders, and really, a win-win situation. This is where flying Southwest came in handy, big time. Southwest is one of the only airlines that allows you to change your scheduled flight as many times as you want without any fees to rebook. If the new flight you want is more expensive than the one you were scheduled on, you only have to pay the difference. Since I was soon becoming the official replacement roommate, I pushed back my original return flight and extended my stay to continue with my job search.
In the blink of an eye, it started to feel real, authentic. “I am really going to be living in LA!” I thought. My dreams were just beginning to unfold in my mind, little by little. I had only one thing to worry about -- finding a job. What a huge worry it was, though. I barely did anything leisurely around the city for my first several weeks here. I took a visit to the beautiful Santa Monica Place and pier, saw a few free movie screenings with the roomies, and spent a day as an extra for Iggy Azalea’s latest music video, but I couldn’t focus on much of anything except trying to score interviews.
It was a weighty task. I was looking to begin a fulfilling career, so I had to really commit and spend hours a day finding companies to apply for. I treated it as a job in itself. I spent time sprucing up my resume and constantly went back over it to see if there were things I could update. I highlighted different areas of responsibilities in my previous job, depending on what position I was applying for. To the best of my ability, I thoroughly but concisely conveyed the experience I did have and used powerful action words when describing my various job functions. I used a few different standard versions of both my resume and cover letter, but I made sure to tailor my cover letter a little bit for each job I applied for. I didn’t want to forget to make each one somewhat unique to the employer I was sending it to.
I wasn’t looking for just any old job. If my search had taken a longer, I would have eventually picked up a part-time gig -- Banana Republic, J. Crew, or Nordstrom perhaps -- since I’ve worked retail before, just to get some cash flow to keep me afloat. I didn’t want to do that right away, because I wanted to spend as much time as possible during the day looking for actual careers that matched my interests and goals. I also wanted to keep my schedule as flexible as possible for any interviews that would materialize.
I used sites such as LinkedIn, Monster, Indeed, etc., and even ventured on Craigslist. I also reached out to a lot of companies directly and emailed them a short & sweet personal message with my cover letter and resume attached. I would quickly explain my academic and work background, my career goals, and what I loved about their company (something specific like their values, creative processes, projects etc.). Even if the firm wasn’t currently hiring, I wanted them to see that I was passionate about working for their company and to keep me on file in case anything became available in the near future.
Additionally, I didn’t want to waste time applying to jobs I knew I wasn’t qualified for. Many job applications yield thousands of respondents, and employers WILL immediately eliminate any candidates that don’t match their required qualifications. It’s best not to even waste your or their time.
I had done some research about using temping and staffing agencies, and learned how great of a resource they could be, especially for those who are just beginning their careers, or for those who might want a better idea of what type of company they would want to work for. This ended up being my most responsive channel. I signed up for several staffing companies in the downtown LA area.
Many of them work the same way -- you first access their websites and create an online profile to upload your resume, detail your skills, provide references, and explain what job opportunities you’re looking for. Then, you get in touch with them via phone over the following 24 hours to confirm that you are in their system. They will usually schedule you in for an interview to speak with you in person and assess your Microsoft Office proficiency. And then, you wait.
Many staffing agencies don’t have enough clients to match up with all of their job candidates. As a result, you’re not promised an opportunity. This is why it’s key to sign up with as many staffing agencies as possible. There are plenty! I registered with at least 6, and made sure to check in with them weekly afterwards to let them know that I was still available.
In the first few weeks, I was only made aware of a few opportunities ranging from short term to long term. One agency placed me on a job that was only for one day, another had an opportunity to work for three days plus overtime in preparation of the Los Angeles Marathon, and a few others arranged phone interviews for more appealing, permanent jobs. It was reassuring to know that I had at least passed the first requirement of being qualified and considered for these different positions.
I set small daily goals and achieved them. I focused on my task at hand while remaining positive and optimistic, even when I never heard back from some employers, or when interviews didn’t produce job offers. I felt a sense of achievement just in keeping things moving. I was hearing positive remarks from the staffing executives and I felt confident that I would land one of the positions they had available. I knew that as long as I didn’t let up, something promising would come through for me.