How the Job Hunt Imitates Chess

The job hunt is on. Earlier this week I officially joined the influx of recent college graduates looking for work in an effort to reach the next chapter of my legacy. After sending out my resume to at least thirty different organizations, it’s become clear that the hype about joblessness isn’t just hyperbole after all, but it’s for real! It’s harsh. It’s cold out there. And it reminds me of chess.

In chess, when my game starts heading into a direction that I dislike, a wave of regret washes over me. I look back, and I want to think about what I could have done better. Similarly, as the job hunt bares its fangs, I consider my days as an undergraduate student and think about how I could have done more; I think to myself: maybe rather than spending so much of my time chasing great conversations, girls and poetry, I could have spent that time looking for certain work to fall back on after graduating, like at a diner or some office. Or, if not that, I think I could have focused more on my assignments in order to have greater accolades to walk into the game with, and thus a safer, smarter position. Then I think that maybe I could have just chosen another major, or gone to a technical school instead of a community college.

A tough chess game inspires the same kind of regret, where after I find myself in a rut of anger over the mistakes I made which placed me in the tough spot to begin with, I not only just want to quit the game right then and there, but I consider the very act of taking the moment to play as the biggest mistake of them all.

For a moment I want to believe that I never should have played the game to begin with, and that considering my terrible track record, which could only worsen with another terrible game, I should just avoid approaching a chessboard ever again.

Of course, a moment later, I can only smile at this line of thought, as giving into the idea that I simply had too much fun during college could only be as crazy as believing that I’d be better off in my life if I’d never learned how to play chess. Both of these things aren’t just bad ideas, but they also forget about the bigger picture.

The truth is –my favorite truth, at least– is that even as I spent so many of my days and nights throughout college as an avid socialite looking for a good time, I was also simultaneously growing my network, writing, and taking advantage of ever more opportunities to further my potential; since the moment I joined the Model UN club during my first year at Pasadena, in addition to being a student, I was also a writer, an activist, a leader, and a world’s worth of other things that made the college experience ten times more memorable. More than anything, though, I was adventurous!

Not only did I trust that going after great ideas, great conversations, and other kinds of pleasure would simply make me happier than the students who focused solely on their work, but I also trusted that my happiness was the most crucial part of being a great student, writer and all that other stuff in the first place! In hindsight, I think it’s fair to say that those decisions paid off, as I’m still as filled with a love for adventure today as I was six years ago when I first stepped into the unfamiliar territory that was a college education.

With this in mind, not only does it hit me that I was right on track during college, but I also realize that even if there was a better way to do things, it’s all over now anyhow! And that just like a bad relationship, bad spaghetti, or a poorly calculated chess move, what’s done is done, but it’s also done for good reason. So that I can learn from it.

In turn, being hard on myself for the way I’ve chosen to lead my life isn’t just akin to a blunder of a chess move, it’s also counter-productive! After all, I’m looking for work, aren’t I?! In order to deliver the best on my resumes and cover letters, I have to feel my best.

Once again, then, the job hunt is just like chess; if I’m going to play, not only do I want to play with deep focus and resolve, but I want to play with the confidence that I CAN WIN.

And how do I do that? Well, I can consider how over the span of thousands of games that I’ve played, it’s true that I’ve lost many, many times. However, it is equally true that I’ve also won many times.

The same is true with my track record during school, along with my track record applying for a job: whether it was a lazy cover letter, a grade I felt I didn’t deserve, an interview that could have gone better, a poetry slam I could have done more preparation for, or any other test of my character which didn’t turn out the way I wanted, the simple truth is that I’ve won some, and I’ve lost some. But the thing is, I am ultimately determined to win more than I lose.

Which leads to the last point. In the time after college, until further notice, the job hunt itself is my job at the moment! Or the ultimate chess game. While this might seem obvious at first, what might not be so clear is how I’ve got to approach the job like I treat the game;  with chess, each game is a little different, and possibly even harder than the last. But in keeping my head up and working through the losses with the same resolve that leads to the victories, I am confident that I will see a better day. A day in which I’ve got more wins than losses, and then some.

As such, I’ve got to get back to work! As always, the game awaits me yet again, and I live to play. It’s just what I do.

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