True Stories: How I Got My Foot in the Door of a Competitive Industry

Foot in the Door The past few years have been tough for new grads, especially those looking to break into traditionally competitive industries, or industries that weren't widely hiring, like media, hospitality and marketing.

Despite the odds against them, though, these three recent grads managed to land jobs in their chosen fields, thought not without a little elbow grease. Here's how they did it, and their firsthand advice for other new graduates.

Denae Peters

Class of 2008, hospitality industry

Her story:

"I work in the hospitality industry and have always been drawn to event and citywide festival management. I graduated in 2008 (big mistake!). I had fast-tracked through a four-year bachelor of commerce program hoping to get a head start on other graduates. No such luck. After four successful interviews [with one company] I lost a management trainee-ship for a prestigious international hotel chain in Shanghai because they enacted a hiring freeze. The story was the same worldwide, and my dreams of well-paid international hospitality experience, right out of university, were crushed.

"I did not give up and instead chose to work for a small but widely known boutique hotel in my city (Toronto). I was willing to start at an entry-level position and was incredibly flexible when it came to moving around to various departments. Within six months I was in a supervisory role and in under a year, an event management role.

"I used this experience to obtain a position as an events executive in London a year later and finally got the international experience I had been longing for. Now I am back in Toronto happily working for the best film festival in the world!"

Her advice:

  • "You have to be flexible and open-minded."

  • "Be willing to prove yourself."

  • "If you have to move for a job, do it. The experience is almost always worth it."

  • "Seek refuge in smaller firms. The prestige may not be there (yet!),but the learning opportunities and possibilities for more responsibility are often greater than at Fortune 500s."

  • "Never stop pursuing your dream."

-- Find Hospitality Jobs


Class of 2008, communications industry

Flora had so many internships before she landed a job that she started a blog about it with two friends who were in the same boat. Since the blog -- aptly named The Eternal Intern -- launched, two of the three girls have found full-time jobs. Flora (her pen name, to allow her to be candid about her experience without putting her career at risk), is one of the two.

"Landing a job had a number of complications for me. [First, being] a Canadian in New York is not a walk in the park. Finding a job as a non-American, non-green-card holder in the U.S. is incredibly difficult and becoming more and more difficult. A great deal of persuasion is needed, a fabulous lawyer also helps ... but even with those two elements, most companies will turn you down even prior to an interview (or a call). [Second], I graduated in July 2008, right before the financial crisis -- with a master's degree in finance. You can only imagine how the job market was then. [Third,] I decided to pursue a career -- despite my degree in finance -- in communications, an uber-competitive, saturated field ... where, obviously internships are the new entry-level job.

"These three factors taken into consideration, I completed about four or five internships prior to finding my job. Communications is what I've always wanted to do. Though I completed a master's in finance, I always knew that communications was my calling. I have dabbled in a number of different fields (marketing, art, communications ...) but they have always been linked and ultimately I am now back working in communications full-time.

"I've always wanted to be passionate about what I pursue, so there was never any question of putting my dream career on hold, for a full-time position in another industry. I now love what I do. It was a long time coming, but I'm thrilled! I got it through hard work: pasting the city with CVs and cover letters, and finally getting lucky -- very lucky.

"I work for a fashion company, in communications, in an enviable position that is 100 percent suited to me. I am the prime (and proud) example that hard, hard work and dedication definitely do pay off. Fairness does exist at the end of the day for those who work."

Her advice:

  • "Never give up. Even in the toughest of times. Even when it looks like it will never get better. We -- the three Eternal Interns -- are each a testament that it can and will get better, but only with the suitable dedication, strong will and determination. My key is keep at it and never let go!"

-- Find Communications Jobs


Class of 2006, fashion industry

Ophelia is one of the other 'Eternal Interns.' After many internships, she too, landed a full-time job in her dream industry.

"[I've had too many internships] to count! I have interned in New York, Toronto and Paris and have done maybe a dozen internships in my lifetime and have only recently landed a job and I couldn't be happier.

"[Occasionally I thought of giving up], but when I considered the alternatives, I was miserable at the thought of giving up my life dreams and to think that all my hard work had amounted to failure. I love the fashion industry and feel that I was put on this earth to contribute in its advancement into a new age. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. That is exactly what I did and eventually it paid off. It is not as bleak as people make it out to be. Each internship led to another contact and a grander understanding of how the industry works.

"[I eventually found] my job through networking. Although it wasn't directly though my internship, it was through a contact of a contact who I met at one of my internships. That, in my opinion, is the best part of interning. Your portfolio grows exponentially with each one. And someone, somewhere will finally take a chance on you."

Her advice:

  • "Be sure that you know exactly what you are working toward, and keep focused and motivated. The journey should be fun and a positive one. Life is too short for it not to be."

-- Find Fashion Jobs

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