The following blog post was authored by Esther Kang, of the Durfee Foundation and EPIP-LA.
Before The Durfee Foundation and EPIP LA, I was a fresh college graduate who had just moved to San Francisco with two suitcases and the kindness of friends who let me stay with them. Finding a job? Pfft, easy. I did have THREE internships and TWO jobs while I was in college. Like a typical millennial, I googled, idealist-ed, monster-ed, and sometimes even bing-ed nonprofit jobs. Based on the job descriptions and insiders’ tips, I quickly realized that I had to build a stronger foundation since I was competing with those holding graduate degrees or years of experience for entry-level positions.
This led me to two retail jobs, one on-call position, and two more internships at nonprofit organizations. At one point, these were simultaneous. On slim paychecks, I reveled in a few key farmer’s market purchases and adopted the minimalist lifestyle of 90’s cartoon characters’ with multiples of the same outfit. Aside from two interview outfits, I had five black turtlenecks, five dark wash jeans, one dark brown riding boots, and two white Converse sneakers. Before interviews, I’d always listen to two songs from the movie Rocky to ease my nerves: The Final Countdown and Eye of the Tiger. Every week, I scheduled a coffee or phone call with professionals across the country to learn more about the social sector. These weekly and daily rituals built a launching pad that led me back to Los Angeles where I landed a full-time job and a part-time fellowship on the same day.
The success within this anecdote isn’t that a millennial finally found a full-time job. It is that she found one of her choosing and endured the process that took her there.
Slogans like Never give up. There’s always a silver lining. weren’t the beacons of light that pushed me through my most frustrating times. It was a combination of my rituals and a few key figures whom I still call mentors. They shared their thoughts and more importantly also acted as mirrors. Despite receiving 200+ rejections over a 10 month span in San Francisco, our conversations would keep me from detracting from my dreams by reminding me why I dropped everything and moved to a new city. These would shoot a volt of energy back into my system motivating me to continue assertively pursuing goals I’ve had since day one. I learned that it is essential for an emerging professional to subscribe to her beliefs early on, because a linear path regardless of sector does not exist. Once I realized a typical trajectory was a myth, I was able to be proactive about personalized hopes, dreams, and aspirations instead of trying to succumb to a status quo.
As I’m still in pursuit of my own big and small successes, I believe Steve Martin when he says that the process of how you get to your pinnacle is the most interesting part of your own trajectory. The fun just doesn’t stop.
Esther Y. Kang is passionate about design-thinking and innovation. Currently, she is the Programs and Operations Manager at The Durfee Foundation where she oversees program development, event production, relationship progress, and investment sales. Esther instills design-thinking into her volunteer leadership positions as well. Through Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy, Esther and her team conceptualized and developed a citywide mentorship program for the Los Angeles Chapter. She also serves as an Advisor to Art Center College of Design’s Photography Department and Youth Speak Collective. Though her wardrobe has diversified since San Francisco, she continues to wear her white Converse sneakers whenever she can. Follow her on Twitter @miss_eykang