I finally landed my dream job, but it’s been a journey that that includes a college career cut short, a pandemic-related furlough, continued commitment to personal and professional growth, patient persistence — and a helpful recruiter and staffing firm.

Last year, I had a corporate job working as an executive assistant for a hotel in New York City. I had a decent salary, great benefits, an easy commute and many wonderful learning opportunities. But then Covid hit the city, the hospitality industry suffered huge losses, and many hotels had to shut down. The unemployment rate was increasing at an alarming speed, the job market was frozen, and the city was shut down. I was furloughed for almost a year and officially lost my job in December. I was very afraid of the uncertainty, the unknown for my future. Would I be able to land a sustainable job during this pandemic?

Reskilling à la carte

Nevertheless, I took this opportunity to work on my myself, bolster my skillset, learn new hobbies and educate myself about the job-searching world. Personal growth became an essential theme for the year as I strived to understand and overcome some insecurities.

You see, I never completed college. Coming from Belgium, I had not been aware how expensive pursuing a higher education in the US would be. As a result, I was unable to fund my studies past sophomore year. As years went by, though, I realized I did not necessarily need a college degree to perform the tasks listed under most administrative job postings, so returning to school lost its appeal. And I do love admin work; I see it as a gateway to many industries. It’s your way in. Once hired, I would apply myself and take as many workshops as I could, training myself while being exposed to and learning about new paths.

Back to 2020. I knew that due to the pandemic, the job market was slow, so I took my time riffling through job applications and only applied to positions that mirrored my values and aligned with my skillsets. I expected rejection letters and did not let them deter me from persistently applying and attending job fairs. I’m aware that employers use artificial intelligence in résumé screening. While I understand it, given the sheer number of applications they must receive, in my opinion, AI is far from perfect — it can only see your professional voice; it cannot not hear it. And if your résumé lacks the right keywords, you will never get noticed.

Agency Fan

Which is why I prefer staffing agencies and their personal touch. The agency that helped me land my current job was very helpful. My recruiter provided guidance and helpful tips to enhance my résumé and increase my professional network. He walked me through the entire interview and hiring process. I directly spoke to the hiring manager and direct supervisor. The job, though a contract one, was exactly what I was looking for and I was hired within a week. The whole experience was awesome. I now have a job that is not only meaningful to me, but is also impactful and allows for personal and professional growth.

I also understand that there are some misapprehensions about staffing firms, such as ghosting or even scams. But in the end, you have so little to lose and so much to gain. Staffing professionals know the process; they know what their clients are looking for in an employee and they can help you every step of the way.

I know contract work is not everyone’s cup of tea. Personally, though, I like the freedom of contract work. You can pick a three-month contract and switch to another industry after that for a five-month contract. You gain experience that makes your résumé atypical. It leads to so many possibilities including a permanent job. Remember, staffing pros want you to get the job; it is as beneficial for them as it is for you.