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Dear Future I am ready: Leigh

Leigh - A new chapter, a new adventure

Education: Undergraduate Degree from University from Pittsburgh in Germany & Linguistics and Graduate Degree from University of South Carolina in German
Nationality: American
Age: 26
Previous international experience: Study abroad in Germany and lots of travel in Central and Eastern Europe. Favorite place to visit Lithuania
Hobbies: Running, writing and crochet
Challenge: Finding my first full time job in a larger city in the US or Germany in order to start a new and exciting chapter in my life!
Result: I found a job after 2 months of ups and downs in a job that reflects my personality better than I could have possibly imagined!

My passion and the ability to find a job with my skillset
            I was always the type of person who loved school; I loved learning and I loved sharing information with others. It was no surprise to those who knew me when I made the decision to enroll in a graduate program for German. My original plan was to go on to get my PHD in German literature and to spend the rest of my life teaching. To make a long story short: I never stopped loving school, but my experiences in graduate school made me realize that I had to see another side of life other than academia. With that thought in mind, I finished school with my Masters in German and decided to try the work force for a few years.
            Having been immersed in academia, all of my relevant work experience came from two teaching assistantships: one for teaching German in the United States, and the other for teaching English in Germany. My Masters degree, however, was not a teaching degree, so I knew that I would have to get creative while searching for a job. I wanted to work in publishing, but knew that I had to have extensive experience in smaller companies that provided publication services. With that in mind, I broadened my search to copy editing, professional writing, and even administrative services.

Let the job hunt start: Where to go?
            I grew up in a small country town outside of Pittsburgh, but have spent the last 3 years living in other places hundreds and thousands of miles away from Pittsburgh. My locational preferences were simple enough: I did not mind moving far away, as long as I lived in a bigger city with a relatively good standard of living and diverse cultural amenities. I had even hoped to move back to Europe, so I applied for jobs in Germany.

The first opportunity(ies) and the first frustration!
            The job hunt started out with high hopes. My first interview was for a style and design company in New York City. I went to Manhattan in my dress suit, interviewed for the job in German, and was turned down. I did not let that stop me and I applied for other jobs in Washington D.C., Boston, Baltimore, and Chicago. I discovered that the main problem with my job hunt was my current location. I was back in the Pittsburgh area, but the employers were skeptical that I would be willing to move so far away from Pittsburgh. I tried to add lines in my cover letter assuring potential employers that relocation was not an issue for me. No one seemed to believe it. I even landed a phone interview with a digital parts materialization company in Augsburg, Germany for an administrative assistant position. In spite of my willingness to move to Germany at my own expense, the Human Resources manager bluntly told me that out of the 7 candidates for the job, I was the only non-German applying, and that it would be difficult for them to justify hiring me and supporting a work visa. My advanced degree was another issue. After several weeks and no job, I applied for less-ambitious jobs that were closer to my residence. I was turned down for being overqualified.
            I was visibly frustrated at this point. I disliked the chore of looking through job postings, writing 4-6 cover letters per day, and readjusting my resume for readability. I finally started to apply for jobs through staffing agencies. Staffing agencies typically offer lower-level office jobs or call center positions. As an American with astronomical student loan payments to face, I knew I could not afford to be unemployed for much longer. My mother was worried and even urged me to go back to school to get a teaching degree. As much as I loved being a teacher, I wanted my chance to do something outside of academia, but feared failure.

Staffing agencies and "my travel agency"!
            I finally got my break two months after graduation from school. One of the staffing agencies called me the same day I submitted my resume to them. They arranged for me to interview with a specialized travel agency north of the city of Pittsburgh. I was skeptical about working at a travel agency since many jobs offered through them pay poorly and do not seem exciting. Still, I knew that a poor job was better than no job, so I put my dress suit back on and went to the travel agency.
            I came into the travel agency and found a bustling and warm environment. Everyone was friendly, well-spoken, and professional. I had done some research on the company before the interview so I would know what to expect, and was interested to find that this travel agency organizes trips around the world for sportsmen who like to hunt and fish in international locations. I had only fished a few times in my life, and was a bit nervous about my lack of expertise in hunting and fishing. This fact did not phase the Human Resources manager, and she had me speak with the co-owner of the company almost immediately since I was interviewing to be the co-owner’s assistant. The co-owner was very German in her attitude: direct, quick-thinking, organized, and clear about her expectations. I appreciated her demeanor and knew I would like working for her. I was told that they were hiring me to work on their account for fishing trips on the Ponoi River in Russia. Employees at the company are encouraged to travel to sites associated with their accounts and other accounts, take photos, and write articles on their travel experiences. I was excited about the photography and writing opportunities and realized that this was not going to be an average administrative assistant job. I walked out of the interview with greater enthusiasm about the position.

4 weeks of the new adventure! I love it!
            I was hired the following day. I have been at Frontiers International for four weeks at this point, and I love this job. I get to book clients’ trips to our fishing site, prepare their passports for visa processing, draw up reports on our hotel partners and charter flights, and even speak to our veteran clients on a personal level. The job is not linear, therefore it is never boring. The co-workers are friendly and helpful, and I still have not heard a single word of animosity or office gossip amongst the employees, something that is new and refreshing to me. I even found out last week that I will be going to Russia as soon as September of this year to visit the site associated with my account. I get to follow in the footsteps of a typical client and experience what they experience so I can do a better job at educating new clientele  about the site. I will even have the chance to learn fly-fishing.

I did it! Russia, here I come!
            My sudden departure from academia left me confused about what I wanted to do with my life. Looking back on my job hunt, I realize that the fact I was flexible and open-minded about what type of job would fit my qualifications helped me out. I also learned how to sell the skills that were not covered with my degrees: most of the jobs for which I interviewed were not German-speaking jobs, so I focused on my administrative experience and advanced writing skills. It was also good to be realistic; as much as I wanted to move to a very big city, the jobs can be scarce and there are always many more applicants for jobs in those places. Even though I currently work in an office in a rural area, I live in the city of Pittsburgh. I get the best of both worlds: exciting city lifestyle with access to gorgeous countryside. The most important thing I learned about finding satisfying work is the willingness to expand experiences in a way that can include my passion. I love foreign languages, but my job does not require me to use my foreign language skills. I do, however, get to participate in foreign travel, which is a lifestyle option that I had always hoped would be available to me. With the opportunity to work with long-term clients who make foreign travel a part of their lifestyle, I know that I have found work that supports my own desire to see the world and to learn of the experiences of other world-travelers.

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1 comment:

  1. Die Taty , was für eine besondere Person.......... ehrlich........... Gruß Rainer