Blog Career & Leadership Development

Landing the dream job

By MaKayla Emahiser '17, UNW Psychology alumna on Wednesday, July 7, 2021

portrait of MaKayla Emahiser

I graduated from Northwestern five years ago. As a Psychology major, I knew towards the end of my junior year pursuing a career in the traditional psychology route wasn’t for me. With that, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I was passionate about people, I wanted to make good money, and work for a cool company (classic millennial!).

As I marched my way across the stage and shook President Cureton’s hand to receive my highly anticipated diploma, I felt the welling feeling of terror as I was officially done with university and jobless. I was fortunate to have had an internship that wanted to keep me on through the summer while I sought out full-time work, but aside from that my prospects were grim.

I spent most of my days after graduation on my laptop looking for jobs and watching The Office to “prepare” me for the workforce.

Finally, I found something exciting. A recruiting job with a staffing company. If you would have asked me what that really meant or how it would have propelled my career at the time, I wouldn’t have had a clue!

Fast forward a few years after recruiting and finding a great deal of success, I knew I was ready to expand my horizons and find something new. A huge passion for me personally is technology. I am all about the latest and greatest in technology, and knew I wanted to get into that industry. So, I set my sights on the goal. However, my barrier to enter this new industry was more challenging than I thought. I was trying to get in via recruiting but found a deficit in my three years of recruiting experience and what many were looking for (generally 5-10 years in a similar space). But, I was determined. I would spend every weekend researching companies that I found value in. Whether it be their product offering, culture, or highly sought-after reviews on Glassdoor. I would send them curated messages introducing myself accompanied by my resume.

In doing this, I landed an interview with a company called GitLab. A highly innovative, unique company that is 100% remote and is a leader in the Software Development space. This was it. The dream company. I made it to the final round for a recruiting role, and they ended up giving the role to someone internally. They told me to apply again in the future as I’d be a great fit for their culture.

So, now what?

I knew this was it. The dream company. But how could I get in?

First, why GitLab? What were the driving factors, and could I find that somewhere else? GitLab is a 100% remote company that works in an asynchronous style —the typical 9–5 cadence isn’t essential to someone successful here. For me, a mother of an almost two-year-old daughter, I wanted something that offered more flexibility. My husband works for Zoom, and he has an incredibly flexible work cadence. I wanted something that matched that. Whether that was to be able to head out of work early to go to the park and pick up later in the day or, if our nanny needed a day off, not having to sweat about childcare options. Second, the trajectory of the company. This company is Pre-IPO with a strong trajectory in the future. While still having a core ethos of a startup with the financial backing of a soon to be a public company, I felt confident in their future.

I changed my career goals altogether: recruiting to sales development, which felt starkly different at the time but had so many parallels. So, I joined an early-stage tech start-up just a month before the COVID-19 pandemic as a business development rep. After being there for about eight months, I was able to set my sights on a bigger opportunity: Datadog—an incredibly successful cloud monitoring company. I knew this would be the stepping stone to get me back to my ultimate goal of landing a role at GitLab (who wasn’t hiring at the time I was looking for a new role). After only being there for a short time, an opening finally became available at GitLab to join their Enterprise Sales Development team —jackpot! After a few fantastic interviews, I knew this would be it. The offer came and, without hesitation, I put in my notice and joined the team.

A few takeaways I have learned from my career journey in my five years post-graduation:

1. Seize the moment —if an opportunity is knocking on your door, meet with mentors and advisors to ensure you aren’t being naïve, and take it.

2. Try new things—I have no idea what my career journey will look like in five years, but the experiences I have had thus far have been integral to my successes so far.

3. Prioritize your personal life into your work life—I have a young daughter and husband at home that I wanted to ensure I had more time for; it wasn’t worth it for me to sacrifice late nights and a miserable job to be away from them.

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