In the Driver’s Seat

Used car shopping has consumed the past few weeks of my life. After days of research, phone calls and dealership visits I decided what make, color, price and mileage I wanted. After spending nearly every second of my free time looking at cars online and evaluating all the options in my price range, I finally found the one.

The red, four-door Mazda6 I found was the car of my dreams. It was beautiful and sleek and looked like exactly what I hoped would be my next car. Unfortunately, it was a little over 100 miles from my apartment, which was the only problem I could see from the profile online. My parents, who faithfully guided me down the path to purchasing my first “big girl” car drove up to visit the dealership with me.

We pulled into the lot and there it was, glittering in the sun. The car salesman handed me the keys and I hurriedly unlocked the door and sat in the driver’s seat. Before I even put the keys in the ignition I couldn’t help but realize the car reeked of cigarette smoke.

“I can get past that,” I thought as I decided to overlook the scuffs on the passenger seat as well. It drove well, but I wasn’t fond of the fact that it didn’t have automatic windows or locks, a complaint I had about my previous car. The last straw was the check engine light that came on, which the salesman couldn’t explain.

I drove it back to the dealership, a little saddened that we had come all this way to visit my dream car and it wasn’t much of a dream after all. Letting go of my “non-negotiables” allowed me to see the striking blue Toyota Corolla, which was parked right next to the Mazda that I hadn’t even noticed when I arrived.

Car shopping is a lot like job seeking. Buying a car is a lot of work and takes a lot of preparation. The experience was a little stressful, but totally worth it in the end. Here’s how I found that the process related to job seeking:

  1. It’s important to research your options: How can you know what you want if you don’t know what’s out there? As a job seeker, it’s a good idea to know what you want and to develop reasonable expectations. Besides, in PR research skills are essential.
  2. Communicate effectively: In public relations, communication skills are essential. When buying a car, it’s also important to be a good communicator and ask the right questions. How will you know your dream car is really what you’re looking for if you don’t know how to read between the lines and ask the right questions? It’s not just about verbal communication, though. Nonverbal cues say a lot about you as well. If you go to test drive a vehicle and you seem desperate, they will pick up on it. That is the same for interviews. No one wants to hire a desperate jobseeker. Relax and be confident. It’ll work out better for everyone that way.
  3. Know how to negotiate: Sometimes it’s okay to negotiate your salary just like it’s okay to negotiate the price of a car. Be reasonable and know when it’s a good time if you’re planning on negotiating your salary. It can be a slippery slope, but negotiating skills will take you far.
  4. Invest in your future: Car salesmen won’t sell you a car if you have bad credit. Similarly, you won’t get a job in PR if your portfolio is lacking. As a student it’s important to develop your skills and showcase them in your portfolio. It will pay off during interviews.
  5. Dream Big: It’s okay to dream! Just like I imagined myself driving down the highway in a shiny red Mazda it’s okay to imagine yourself as a VP in the corner suite. However, dreams without a plan are just dreams. If you really want something, you have to be willing to do the legwork or save the money to get there. It’s okay to start off as an intern after graduation and work your way up. Everyone has to start somewhere.
  6. When all else fails, remember this too shall pass: Just like any car will eventually be worn out and you’ll have to buy another one, most employees don’t stay at the same job for their entire career. In the beginning we build up the moment of that test drive, carefully observing the features and weighing the cost just like we view the job description, interviews, salary and benefits. From the outside everything may seem perfect, but it doesn’t matter how cool your car looks if the engine falls out. All in all, perspective is an important consideration. The point of a car is to get from A to B. Similarly, the point of a job is to pay the bills. It’s fun to add in challenges, a stimulating work environment and even a cushy salary, but let’s not elevate work (or a car) into something it shouldn’t be.

I could’ve driven off the lot with that sporty, red Mazda that day, and I probably would’ve been happy with my purchase for a while, but eventually I’d have to figure out what was wrong with the engine and maybe even try to scrub out the stains on the seats. This story has a happy ending though. After a few hours of negotiating and filling out paperwork I drove off the lot with my new-to-me Toyota Corolla. It’s not the car I’m planning on driving forever, but for now it’s absolutely perfect.


I named him Blue Steel.


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