Osius column: The power of one — and of perserverance
“Didn’t get that job either,” my son said.
September, October, then November were passing. I thought no one needed to panic yet, but Ted, a senior in college, told me that the jobs were all going. “You don’t understand, Mom. This is when they hire in the financial world.”
“All it takes is one, Ted,” I said.
At first he seemed to have many chances. He had the grades, the internship, a language, was working with his career-counseling office.
And interviews kept going well, or so it seemed, but when I’d ask, he’d say something like, “I did 12 interviews in the last two weeks and only got two calls back.” One return call was for a job that seemed uninteresting, asked for a four-year commitment, and was in a small, remote town.
“Go,” I said. “It might turn out to be good. You might like the people.” (Thinking: You’d feel better if you had anything.)
Interviews today require preparation: He studied accounting, financial valuation, the markets, current events; researched firms and read about their CEOs; downloaded PDFs to study on airplanes. He sent out emails and arranged networking phone calls. Even the interview for the job he didn’t want required a research project, travel to the office and 10 interviews in one day, after which he gave an hour-long PowerPoint presentation. Meanwhile he still had college coursework and was playing a sport, rugby.
He pinned his hopes on a bank based in Little Rock, Arkansas, with offices in many locations: was elated by positive correspondence, despondent when silence suggested he might not be asked to their Super Day (hiring marathon), ebullient to be invited after all. He arrived in Little Rock on Friday evening.
“Game on,” he texted us. The first event, right off the plane, was a cocktail hour with senior management, and the company had rented out a separate bar for a later meet-and-greet with younger analysts. Fifty-seven candidates arrived, with about 25 to be hired across seven locations. The next morning, the first of seven interviews started at 7 a.m. At 4 p.m., Ted texted from the airport that all the interviews “except for maybe one” had gone great. On the flight home he was too amped and stressed to sleep.
He’d liked the other guys (only two candidates were female), had helped one with the answers to some questions.
“I’m optimistic,” he texted. Days of waiting and speculation followed.
He didn’t get the job. (The other boy did.)
“Keep trying,” I said. “Something will go right.”
“You don’t understand. I have no legitimate Plan B.”
“Stick with it.”
“Mom, they hired nearly half of those people. If I can’t get a job in that situation, I’m screwed.” Deep sigh. “I’m destined to remain single and unemployed for the rest of my life. I’ll live on the streets eating hobo stew.”
“You did better than you think. They got over 1,000 applications. You went a long way.”
“I’ll never get married. You will never be afforded any grandchildren.”
Little Rock was a heavy hit. He despaired.
A few days later, he rallied. Went to the career office again, launched a new round of applications, followed up assiduously.
He went to Boston. He went to Greenwich, Connecticut, and Merrimac, New Hampshire. To New York three times. He interviewed at places with offices in L.A., Dallas, Chicago, London. Big banks, small banks. He would have gone anywhere. Most interviews seemed to go well (“Yeah, but they’re interviewing way over 100 kids for this job”); one ended early.
“How was it?” I asked.
I told him about how during journalism school I came home for the holidays, tapped out 10 or 11 query letters on a typewriter in hopes of publishing my master’s project, sent the letters and copies, and every venue was silent or said no except one — the best one, which printed it.
“Single,” he countered. “Broke. No grandchildren.”
Then … a recruiter for a midsize firm came to his campus. Ted went and listened, asked questions, stayed and gave the recruiter his resume. Two phone interviews followed, he was invited to New York, and days later received a job and mentorship offer.
By then he was behind in every class, had finals coming up and 50 pages worth of papers due. He had applied to over 30 jobs, interviewed with over 20. He still had a last interview scheduled, so he traveled once more, and unexpectedly received another offer.
But it only takes one.
“Femaelstrom” appears on the third Friday of each month. Alison Osius lives in Carbondale, where she is a climber, skier and magazine editor. Contact her at email@example.com.
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