The second generation of Chinese Canadians seem to face fewer challenges in finding a corporate job than that of their parents. But Kevin Jia’s personal recount of his job hunt sheds light on his journey to finding employment that was filled with setbacks and shortcomings.
I recently graduated from the Ivey Business School at Western University and before I even graduated, I had a guaranteed full-time job lined up. Like most Chinese Canadian kids, finding a fulltime job is a major milestone for the entire family, and marks the completion of a parent’s responsibilities. My grandmother was thrilled, going so far as to brag to distant relatives and cousins that I haven’t heard or seen in well over a decade.
People often say to me, ‘you are so fortunate to already have a job out of university’. While it’s easy to see the fruits of my labor, the two years of searching for a job and countless rejections are what people don’t see. And I had to do all of this while balancing my academics.
I started searching for a fulltime job in my third year of university. The dream path for a business student is to find a paying summer internship, work hard, and then have that same company hire you fulltime. No fuss, no muss. Sounded perfectly achievable to me. As part of my degree, we were required to enroll in job searching classes—yes, I have a university education on how to BS my way through a resume. We were also appointed career guidance advisors who would preach the importance of networking with employers, saying it was equally as important to strong academics.
Having come from a Chinese family, I was always told academics were the “be all and end all”. I thought to myself, how could disingenuous meet and greets and coffee chats with strangers, possibly trump academic performance? I ignored my councilor’s advice, choosing instead to dedicate my time to keeping my academics up. That year, I finished within the top 20% of my graduating class and was even approached by one of my professors to work as a TA. Following my own way was working out swell. I thought that I was a somebody.
When it finally came time to job recruiting, I applied to 23 firms in hopes of landing a summer internship. I received 23 rejection letters. At first, opening each letter was a heart attack—I could feel my heart thumping. This is it! This’ll be the one! One by one, each started with the words “We regret to inform you…”. And at that point, I stopped reading. It’s ironic how each of these firms all used the exact same wording for their rejection letters, but each brag about how unique and creatively diverse they are. But I digress.
For most of us high-achievers, we’re used to doing things the way we want and getting what we want with just an extra bit of elbow grease. Sure there’s the minor setback here and there, but I had never been dealt with such a huge blow all at once. It was a major ego check—I realized I was a nobody.
Since I could not find a paying internship, I settled for an unpaid internship that summer. Having completely whiffed on finding a summer job, I was determined to have a different outcome with fulltime recruiting. I met with several firm executives and brushed up on my interviewing skills. In the fall of 2015, I managed to land my first interview with a large corporation. I didn’t make it past the first round. In fact, I went on to interview with ten more companies, all of which rejected me. It wasn’t until I finally received an offer on my twelfth interview from a major Canadian corporation did I finally land a job. Exactly why did I get rejected another eleven times? That’s a story for another time.
If you count all of the hours I spent applying for a job, interviewing, and building my resume, I spent well over 800 hours to land just one offer. Some would call it perseverance. Looking back, I would call it stupid. Had I followed the advice of my councilors in the first place, I most likely would have seen success far sooner. But I learned a great lesson: conventional wisdom beats brash inexperience. Exactly how many failures did it take for me to learn this lesson? 34. But who’s counting.
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