[OFB note: Jess Mikula, stats guru and game summary writer for the Hershey Bears, first chimed in on a file for us a few months back, and maintains her own blog, Thoughts on Goal. She’s a great friend of OFB and a gifted young communicator, and when she shared with us last week word of her first potential big break in securing full-time employment in pro hockey, interviewing for a media job with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the American Hockey League, we wished her great luck and asked her to compose a diary of sorts about the exciting development. We hope you’ll join us in wishing Jess best of luck at this important time in her young career and delighting in the news that a young woman like Jess is as dogged as she is in her pursuit of a career in hockey.]
This is a first-hand account of the plight of a college graduate seeking gainful employment. Last Friday marked exactly 11 months since my graduation from Penn State University (with two degrees earned in three years). In those 11 months, I have applied for more than than 60 jobs nationwide — both in and out of the hockey world — without so much as a single interview in return. The most common response from prospective employers is none at all. I’ve received a handful of “Thanks but no thanks” emails, one printed letter informing me that the position had been filled, and even several messages stating that the employer had decided not to fill the position. Yes, on more than one occasion the job for which I had applied was revoked. But more often than not, I never hear a word. Referring to my situation as disheartening would be a gross understatement. The experience has been an assault on the ego.
In addition to my two degrees from Penn State, I have spent four seasons with the Hershey Bears. I am not without experience, yet I am without a full-time job. Hockey is like most other industries in these tough times: jobs are at a premium. I know that I am intelligent, conscientious, qualified, [insert descriptor here]. I am utterly baffled. My initial reaction is not to question the market or the judgment of the employers, but to doubt myself. Does my resume have some kind of repellent quality? What’s wrong with me?
My one qualm with the collegiate experience is the lack of preparation for the “real world.” The ability to write a 10-page paper on Beowulf in its original Middle English text has yet to benefit me professionally. I feel misguided. Professors — perhaps out of touch with the true state of the job market — implied that employers would be knocking down my door with job offers because I have a Penn State education. I’m still waiting on that one.
I was never so naïve as to believe that I would be pursued for jobs in that manner, but the communications department desperately needs a new approach. The past year remains a rude awakening. I would have liked to have known long ago that oft times I would not be interviewed or even contacted when I applied for openings. I was never prepared for the monumental struggle I have faced.
Despite the hardship, I have persevered. I continue to apply for jobs, with the hope that any organization — even, dare I say it, the Pittsburgh Penguins — will see my potential and give me a chance. This attitude has led me to apply for a vacant media relations position with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders. Conveniently, the Bears are facing Bridgeport in the first round of the Calder Cup playoffs; the timing is almost too good to be true.
With the endorsement of Bears’ President and General Manager Doug Yingst and the voice of the Bears, John Walton, I find myself in unfamiliar territory. In a respite from what I have deemed the “year of failure,” I have reason to be hopeful again. This postseason series has afforded me the opportunity to make myself known to the Sound Tigers and Islanders staff members, both at Giant Center and the Arena at Harbor Yard, and to prove that I deserve the job. Thus I trekked to southern Connecticut last Saturday, intent on campaigning on my own behalf.
The commute was uneventful: I departed Chocolatetown at 11:00 a.m. and arrived in Connecticut by 3:00 p.m. Truth be told, I was just happy to be able to make the trip at all. Car trouble late in the week did not help my cause. If I am not offered this position I want it to be because there is a better, more qualified candidate, not due to a temperamental car. Determined to get to Bridgeport by any means possible, I borrowed a car from my grandfather.
A four-hour drive sans passengers allows plenty of time for reflection. I was excited at the prospect of talking to Sound Tigers management and offering them a face to attach to my name. I was focused.
At Saturday night’s tilt, Mr. Yingst introduced me to Bridgeport President Howard Staffan. (Fortunately I met him prior to Hershey’s six-goal second period!) The meeting was brief, but Staffan guaranteed me an interview. I was nothing short of ecstatic. I excitedly accepted this news and resumed my duties as in-game statistician and game story author. The Bears prevailed in a 7-2 decision to improve to 3-0 in the series. I shook hands with the team’s president. I was promised an interview — my first one. [Insert squeals of delight here.] I couldn’t have scripted a better night.
On Sunday afternoon, I sat down with Islanders’ Communications Manager Kimber Auerbach. He asked me about my history with the Bears, informed me of what the Bridgeport job entails, and explained how it compares to my current responsibilities. However, the discussion took an unexpected turn: to the “boys club” of hockey teams’ front office personnel. As a female trying to break into a male-dominated industry, I am well aware of the challenge at hand (a story for another time). Nonetheless, I appreciated the sentiment from Auerbach, who assured me that a female can be equally successful in this position. The conversation was promising.
This weekend’s excursion proved to be a fruitful one, with perhaps the lone exception being Hershey’s Game 4 loss on Sunday. My encounters with members of the Bridgeport staff were encouraging, though I will not become overconfident as a result. Given the harrowing journey I have endured since graduation, I remain cautious. Hopefully my commitment to the sport and this league will secure me, at long last, a job. Working in hockey, communicating what makes it so special, is my calling.