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“How were you like growing up?”

I took a few moments to quickly reflect on the past 30 years of existence and piece together a somewhat cohesive reply. In the several days leading up to the interview, I had exhaustively prepared for the typical behavioral and technical questions, rehearsing my vignettes to a point where I knew them as well as my phone number. This more personal inquiry caught me a bit off guard, which made me scramble to craft an appropriate answer.

“I’ve always felt like an underdog throughout my life. I was never the smartest or the most talented, but I always worked the hardest for the things I really wanted.”

Looking for a job is a difficult and demoralizing process that requires an extreme amount of hard work. You meticulously revise your resume to show how you’re the perfect candidate, network with anybody to find a crack into the company, and anxiously wait for call back while your application floats around a black hole. If you’re fortunate enough to score an interview, you now have to ensure that your pitch portrays you as the best candidate the company has ever met. Job-hunting is a true test of focus, determination, and motivation. You’re never going to get the job you desire by making a half-ass effort because there are way too many people working harder than you to get that same role.

Hard work results from motivation; motivation derives from passion. Having passion in your career will only put you in a position to succeed, and that’s why that “Do What You Love” cliché is, for the most part, true. After spending 2 months aggressively looking for a new job, I ultimately realized what I want to accomplish in my lifetime, and that’s to innovate how entertainment/ media content is delivered and enjoyed. By leveraging this goal throughout the process, from the resumes, to the networking chats, to the actual interviews, I was able to convey a genuine sense of confidence and excitement, which helped differentiate me from other candidates. Figure out your true interests/ passions because they really will help in your job hunt.

“Rex, you have a really impressive experience, but we see hundreds of resumes like yours all the time. Why should we hire you?”

When job searching, 99% of the time you’re just another face in the crowd. There’s always someone better than you. Accept it. Going through the job search, I thought I would have a decent leg up because I have 6 years of professional experience and an MBA from a top 10 business school (shout out to NYU Stern), but I was wrong. It finally clicked that there’s a sea of people that share or have even better backgrounds than me. It’s one thing to be confident, but another thing to be oblivious to the competition. I eventually reverted to my familiar underdog mantra because the odds were against me.

If you’re actually serious about finding a new job, you can’t be timid. You need to do everything in your power to rise above the rat race. I cold emailed about 50 people that work in entertainment/ media for coffee chats and this was the most effective method in my search. LinkedIn and Rapportive are golden tools, and I highly suggest you use them to your advantage to build your industry. When it comes down to comparing 2 highly qualified, yet similar candidates for a role, most times the person that is well liked will win. That’s how you separate yourself.

“It was great meeting you today. We’ll be in touch soon.”

Looking for a new job is an extremely miserable process filled with frustration, setbacks, and rejection. But don’t knock yourself for not getting that job you thought was “perfect” for you. There’s a reason why you didn’t get it, so use those failures as a learning experience to enhance your candidacy. Early on, I interviewed for a digital marketing role at a financial services company. I didn’t get it, but I had no desire to work in financial services. I interviewed for another role at a startup, but the role was only focused on social media. I didn’t want to be boxed in a niche role. Every rejection helped me drill down my search to a point where I absolutely knew what’s best for me. Trust the process, it’s not going to happen overnight, but you’ll eventually find what’s ideal for you and you’ll be happy about it. Even the underdogs always have their day.

I actually enjoy giving career advice because I never received anything genuine during my career development. I’ve made efforts to offer young professional guidance and even lending my insights to great non-profits like Streetwise Partners. We tend to glorify the success that’s at the end of the road more than the actual work needed to get there, and hopefully I’m able to add some value to those who are going through the job search process. Ultimately it comes down to how bad you really want it and how much effort are you going to dedicate, because “when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it”.

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Rex Pham

Originally from the Bay Area, who then moved to Los Angeles, then out to New York City. NYU Stern MBA c/o 2014. Inspired by the grind of NYC to create something that has value. Lover of all things digital, culture, and brand strategy.