The story of how I found a job “In this economy” (guest post by Elliot Bell-Krasner)

25 Feb

Forward – The below is a guest post from Daniel’s good friend and Obama ’08 campaign office mate Elliot Bell-Krasner. In this piece, EBK details his experience searching for employment during the Great Recession. His story likely resonates with millions of young people across the country who, like Elliot, have struggled – despite impeccable credentials – to secure gainful employment in a depressed economic environment. Enjoy. Comments welcome.


Since around mid/late 2009, when the Great Recession was arguably at its worst point, I have noticed that many people have started quite a few sentences with the phrase “In this economy.” For a while, I was reluctant to use it, in part because I thought it was being used as an excuse, or that it was cliché. I refused to accept that my inability to find a job from January-August 2009 was due to “this economy.” Then, I became part of “this economy,” and everything changed.

In late-2009, I was a little more than a month into a four month temp assignment, while I studied for the GRE and prepared graduate school applications, when my boss came to me and told me that the company hadn’t had a very good last quarter, and that she had to let me out of my contract early. This was the polite and professional way for saying that I was being laid off due to cutbacks, caused by “this economy.” I was upset, but still confident that I would be able to find something else. I applied and applied, and applied some more, but nothing came to fruition. Even though “this economy,” was a reason for my predicament I still didn’t want to accept it. I was convinced that it was my resume, or my interview abilities, or my ability to market particular skills that kept me from finding a job. One night, when I was particularly frustrated at my situation, my father told me that finding your first real job often has quite a bit to do with timing, and luck, and he told me a story that went along with that, and has been with me ever since.

In 1980 there was a young man who had developed an operating system for a new kind of computer, and had already formed a fledgling computer company, and another more successful company wanted to develop a new operating system. Instead of going to the young man, the other company went to the person who had developed the very first operating system in the 1970’s. On the day they were supposed to meet with him, the other person evidently blew off the meeting to go skydiving. So, they went to the young man, who as it turned out was Bill Gates, and his company was one you might have heard of, called Microsoft. The company that contacted him was IBM. Microsoft and IBM formed a partnership that would define computing for the next 20 years and Bill Gates became one of the wealthiest, most successful entrepreneurs in history. The epilogue of the story is essentially that Bill Gates might not have become BILL GATES had it not been for the fact that he was in the right place, at the right time, with the right set of marketable skills and abilities for the company that contacted him.

Fast-forward to May 2012. I had just completed my Master of Public Policy, been President of the graduate student body at American University and had a policy internship with a prominent organization in my field under my belt. I had plenty of marketable skills, and had improved my resume and my interview abilities. Yet, when graduation came, I didn’t have a job waiting for me, and it was frustrating. Even at a celebratory dinner with my parents I remember being a little upset that with two degrees and several years’ worth of professional experience, I had not been offered a job during the six months that I had been seriously hunting. What I didn’t realize at the time of my graduate school graduation is that I had fallen victim to being “over advised.”  I had been listening too much to others, and not enough to myself, and my own instincts.

In August 2012 I joined Organizing for America-Florida (President Obama’s reelection campaign organization), as a Field Organizer, in large part because I have proudly stuck by President Obama since day one, and I felt his reelection effort was too important for me to be on the sidelines. After we won, I was determined to be even more proactive about finding a job than I had been in the six months before my graduation. So, I started talking to people, a lot of people, and I listened to just about everything they had to say. Some people told me that I should have a two page resume, with sections for skills/accomplishments and awards, while others told me that I should have a one-page resume with relevant positions. I was told that I should be applying to as many jobs from as many websites as possible, while also being told that online applications were fairly useless and that I had to use and expand my network to get my foot in the door. I must have changed my resume and tactics half a dozen times in the span of two months.

While most of the advice that I received was useful in one way or another,  I wasn’t really asking for much of anything beyond advice. So, I started to ask people to really critique my resume, which eventually led to a one page version that had the best of the other versions. I started asking people to connect me directly to people in organizations that I wanted to work for, so I could get a firsthand perspective about how they got their jobs, and what skills I would need to get something similar, because I might have already had some of the skills, and could acquire others. My father also told me something that related to the Gates story; that organizations had certain people, with certain skills in mind for the positions that I had been applying to, and because of “this economy,” they had the luxury of being able to hire exactly who they wanted.

When I accepted what my father had essentially been telling me all along, I also finally accepted the fact that it wasn’t just about me – it was about “this economy.” I simply needed to use what my father called “brute strength,” by applying to any job that looked interesting to me, that I thought I could do, and do well, while remembering that the job didn’t necessarily have to fit with exactly what I wanted to do long-term. I had already been doing this to a certain extent, but I redoubled my efforts, and less than a month later, after having had more interviews in 2 weeks than I had had in the four months prior, I received a full-time job offer from an NGO, which will give me the opportunity to apply my skills towards something that I really love doing, while learning new skills, making new connections, and building new bridges that will help lead me to new opportunities down the road.

During the course of my job hunt, I learned several lessons, which I think that those of you who are in the position I was, or might be in the next 6 months, could find useful. First, you have to “think outside the box.” Just because a job isn’t exactly what you want, or you don’t have all of the skills listed in a job description, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply. Second, the “one page” rule with respect to resumes does hold true unless you have 7-10 years of professional experience. Organizations may receive dozens, and in many cases, hundreds of resumes for one particular job opening, and if they get past your “top line,” which is your most relevant position and your resume has too many bullet points and too much information, they may simply discard it. Third, when you get an interview, try and pull out relevant examples from every job you have listed on your resume, because it shows both breadth and depth in terms of skills and experience. Lastly, when you get discouraged – and you might – remember that somewhere, at some organization, there is a job that is a good fit for you…even in THIS economy!


2 Responses to “The story of how I found a job “In this economy” (guest post by Elliot Bell-Krasner)”

  1. twitter account June 3, 2013 at 11:15 pm #

    Thanks for the good writeup. It actually used to be a enjoyment account it.

    Glance complicated to more added agreeable from you!
    By the way, how can we communicate?

  2. July 18, 2013 at 5:53 am #

    I like it when individuals come together and share opinions.
    Great blog, continue the good work!

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