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Marathon Training and Job Searching… Both Are Mentally Exhausting and Awful

By Erin Hemlin, Organizing Fellow

There comes a time in many runners’ lives when you visualize prepping for a marathon, doing long training runs every Saturday at dawn in old grey sweats just like Rocky, while “Gonna Fly Now” plays on constant repeat in your head. Then, two months into your training, you pull your hamstring and are sidelined for two weeks. You go out of town for a few days and miss all of your mid-week runs. Your shoes need replacement, and you miss the first deadline for the sign-up fee and have to pay twice as much. Suddenly, the marathon is one week away, you’ve missed some key long runs, and it’s chaos.

After I finished my master’s degree and began searching for a job, I saw some serious parallels between a runner’s life and that of an unemployed graduate. Just as I had those dreams of a perfect marathon on day one of training, I thought I’d graduate, go on one or two interviews, and in a month I’d be set up in a cozy office, saving the world with my brilliant ideas while generously feeding my brand new 401K plan. Things don’t always work out so perfectly, and in many ways the job search turned into a marathon of sorts.

So here are some running tips that I’ve gleaned out of the marathon-induced chaos that helped me survive the grueling job-search process:

  • Networking: Running with friends helps to get you to the finish line. Take advantage of every resource available to you. If you’re still in college, ask your professors for recommendations of where to look for a job, they probably have connections in the community in your field of study. If you are interning somewhere while finishing your degree, make an effort to sit down and discuss your goals with someone in every department of the company/organization. It will surprise you how willing people are to help out.
  • Be Thorough: Stick to your training plan, even if you stayed out too late the night before. Don’t send the exact same cover letter to every job you apply for. Tailor your cover letters, resume, and writing sample to the needs of the job to which you are applying. Yes, it is time-consuming, but if you want to get noticed in someone’s email box amongst the hundreds of applicants, you need to prove you’re worth it.
  • Market Yourself: If you’re running to raise money for a cause, make sure you’re getting out there online– start a page through the marathon’s website, use social media to promote your run. The same skillset can be used for your job search. You know how before you go on a first date with someone you Google their name to get the scoop? Well, your potential employers are doing that too. Make sure your online profile reflects your skills and that you’re using all available online resources to get your resume out there.

A few months ago I was lucky enough to land a great fellowship at an organization working on issues I care about. Two weeks ago, I finally completed the Marine Corps Marathon. Both took the help from friends and a plan. Both were a long time coming.

USMC Marathon runners
U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 1st Class Monica Darby