Category Archives: General

Job Search Update: More appointments, more paperwork

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Just a quick update today. I had to go in to my doctor’s office to pick up some of my paperwork and to get a TB test done. I’ll have to go back in two-three days to get it read and get the rest of my paperwork. The fun part (and by that I mean really, really not fun) wasn’t the actual office visit, it was having to scan and upload my paperwork to the online portal. I swear, I scanned about 30 pieces of paper into 6 or 7 different PDF files, then had to upload each into the portal. It took forever.

Anyway, my paperwork is still not done. In addition to my third visit to the doctor later this week, I have to wait for my gynecologist visit late in march to complete a section on the physical exam paperwork and to fill out another section of the paperwork. I’ve decided I’ll need to see the eye doctor just to get my glasses information paperwork completed, hopefully that won’t take an actual appointment and I can just walk in and get it filled out…

So no real point to this post other than to keep everyone updated on what I’m doing for my acceptance into the Peace Corps. Most jobs will have significantly more relaxed requirements, but if you’re at all interested in the Peace Corps, this is a good place to learn about everything that goes into accepting an invitation.

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Job Search Update: Load on the paperwork!

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I thought getting a job would be the hardest part. But I was very, very wrong. After accepting my invitation with the Peace Corps, I was suddenly flooded with emails sending me PDFs to read, links to portals I had to access, and files upon files of paperwork to complete. So far I’ve had to print out about 20 pages from my Medical Portal, spent hours doing virtual paperwork on my New Volunteer Portal, and several documents I’ve had to complete and send in.

Thanks to A Day in Our Shoes for the image.

The Peace Corps is… very thorough. To complete the medical forms that are mandatory for departure rely on you seeing a dentist, a primary care doctor, a gynecologist (for women) and possibly an eye doctor (I’m still trying to figure out if I actually need to do that). I was lucky with the dentist; while it usually takes months to get an appointment with the dentist, I already had a dentist appointment scheduled since the summer and was able to keep that. I was also able to schedule a physical with a new doctor (since before I’d used my university doctor) for the week after I called. The biggest problem was getting a gynecologist appointment. When I called and asked for a specific doctor, the receptionist told me October was her earliest opening and “would that work?”… no. No that won’t work because I’ll be in Belize. I was finally able to get an appointment with another doctor in the same office, but her earliest was in March. Guess I get to wait until last minute, yay.

Anyway, I went to my dentist appointment on Monday, and of course the paperwork required new x-rays. The machine wasn’t working right, and finally after 2 different attempts, they told me that they’d get the print to work later. The dentist also didn’t have time to fill out all my paperwork (understandable– it was like 10 pages long), and they told me they’d give me a call when they had everything put together. Kind of an ordeal.

Then yesterday I went to my new doctor for the physical. I felt a bit guilty when I walked into the room and told the nurse about all the paperwork; she looked a bit overwhelmed with the 15+ pages I handed her. It took a while to go through the paperwork with the nurse, and then with the doctor. But finally we figured out everything that had to get done; one immunization shot (and a TB shot next week), and a LOT of blood work. I have to say, the blood draw was probably the most entertaining part of the visit. The technician doing it kept looking at me as she went through the paperwork, saying “I hope you have good veins”… well I hope so too! She very carefully selected the vein she wanted, and then twice asked if I needed to lay down while she did it. I didn’t understand why she was so cautious until she pulled out all the collection vials– I had to fill 7 tubes! After sticking me with the needle she starting drawing blood, and at least 3 or 4 times asked if I was feeling ok and if my arm hurt. Finally she filled the last vial and removed the needle, telling me that I broke the record for most vials filled. I was amazed myself that I didn’t feel dizzy or anything. I had to make an appointment for next week to get my paperwork done, get the results of my blood work, and get my TB test done. Then I’ll have to go back to get the TB test read. A lot of work to be done…

Luckily the medical paperwork seems to be the most detailed and complicated. I already completed everything I had to do for my passport/ visa obligations, I submitted two documents to my Application Portal that reworked my resume and detailed my thoughts and plans for work in Belize, and I submitted an official transcript. I’ve *finally* accessed my New Volunteer Portal (after days of trying, using two computers and three we browsers, and not being able to load the portal) and done all the activities and forms (I had to switch browsers to submit the form– if you’re doing this, don’t use Chrome). I’m still working on reading through all the PDFs and figuring out what else I have to get done.  It’s a lot of work, but it will be worth it later!

So here’s the lesson I’ve learned from this experience and I hope to pass along to you: don’t relax once you get the offer. The interviews are hard, but you’ve got to be on your game to get through all the technicalities of getting all the legal stuff done. It’s not fun, it’s not easy, and it might be expensive to get all the medical stuff completed. But in the end, it’s always worth it.

The Cover Letter

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I’m no expert on writing a perfect cover letter. Sometimes I don’t know if I’m doing it right at all, when other times I’m amazed at the brilliance that is my cover letter (probably not that brilliant). I’ve done my research, I’ve gotten advice from my university’s career center, and I’ve had my dad read over my cover letter. As far as I can tell, it’s been effective. While I won’t claim to be an expert or have a brilliant cover letter, I can at least pass on what I’ve learned about writing a cover letter.

(Rule #1) KEEP A ‘STANDARD COVER LETTER’ DOCUMENT. In your computer’s document files (hopefully organized into work files, then a separate cover letter folder), save a standardized cover letter document. This should be a skeleton document with the basic points/paragraphs you want to have in all your cover letters, as well as all formatting done. This way, when you’re writing a cover letter for a new job, you can save a ton of time and mental anguish by having an pre-made document that you can modify for the specifics of the job, the company, and the type of employment. Of course you need to change things up; at the very least you have to change the date, the company name, and the job title. At the most, you’ll want to add in things you want to emphasize and take out things that might be unimportant.

(Rule #2) DO YOUR RESEARCH. Not just for the job to fill in the job title, but also for the industry you’re looking at. You don’t want to emphasize something that isn’t important. That space is important, use it well! Look through the job description for what the specific job entails and what the company values. Your cover letter should be like a cheat-sheet for your resume, pulling out what the employer wants to know and giving some additional details. Do a Google search for the industry and see what is valued, that way you can emphasize those qualities. Just like with the resume, make yourself stand out!

For some good help with formatting and ideas of what should go into your cover letter, check out About.com’s cover letter help pages.

(Rule #3) SAVING IS AS IMPORTANT AS CREATING. It’s happened to us all; we type up something mind-blowingly awesome, only to accidentally close out of Word and be left with nothing. Luckily, once you have your standard cover letter saved, you shouldn’t need to change a significant amount with each job, maybe a paragraph or set of skills here and there. Once you’ve typed up your modified cover letter, remember to SAVE AS, not save or you’ll lose your awesome standard document. The advice I always got on saving is to always save it with your name, the type of document, and the company/job. So if I applied to Georgia Tech, I’d save it as “FIRST AND LAST NAME Cover Letter Georgia Tech”. This helps employers to identify who the document pertains to and what it is (the company name is mostly for you to be able to find it in your ever-expanding cover letter document folder). This rule is the same for resumes as well. Unless the company you’re applying to has a specific way they want you to name your files, putting them in this format will make you look organized and professional, and help you know what’s what in your files.

Another aspect of saving the document is file format. Microsoft Word (for us PC users) automatically saves as a word document (.doc, .docx, etc). I’m not sure how Macs operate but I know it’s a standard document file. If you do have a Mac, consider that a lot of business use PC, so you might want to save your documents as a Word document if possible. Another alternative, which I prefer, is saving as a PDF in addition to your .doc. Not only does this help with formatting and viewing on the employer’s side, when the computer creates the PDF it pulls it up for a final viewing, which can help you correct mistakes.

As I’ve been told by many sources, many places don’t ask for a cover letter specifically. This doesn’t mean that you submitting just a resume can get you a job. Cover letters are a cheat-sheet for your resume, so you want to include it whenever possible. The best way to do this is to merge your cover letter and resume into one document and submit them together. It makes you look organized and professional to have both in the same document, and then you can ‘force’ the employer to read your cover letter.  The easiest way I’ve found to do this merge is to open up both the resume and the cover letter documents in Word, then copy/paste your cover letter to the top of your resume (you want the cover letter to be the first thing the employer views!). It may take some work to get the formatting to match right, but once you do make sure you save your standard cover letter and resume documents accordingly. Make sure your cover letter stays on one page, your resume starts on page to and is only a page long as well. Then save this as a PDF (or Word document if that’s all the employer accepts, make sure to check on file formats when applying). This keeps your resume and cover letter together, looking clean and organized to the employer. Make sure to name the new document accordingly (“Name Cover Letter and Resume Job/Company”)

Good luck creating your cover letter. Make yourself undeniable!

For some additional advice on your cover letter, I’ve found some great articles from TechCareers.com. I got one of these via an email I get from the website (a great reason to sign up with several career finders– they send emails with not only job posting updates, but also advice on job hunting!). Like I said before, take all advice with a grain of salt, but make sure you actually let yourself hear (read, observe, etc) the advice and think it through. Here’s a list of the articles I found:

Four Strategies for Writing a Powerful Cover Letter

Your First Cover Letter: What to Say.

How to Write a Super Cover Letter

How to Overcome Obstacles in a Cover Letter

7 Cover Letter No-Nos

Network, Network, Network

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One thing that I didn’t wrap my head around as being very valuable is networking. You hear it all the time: THIS meeting is great for networking, THAT organization provides great connections to the business world! I just never took it seriously that I would need something other than my amazing resume and charming smile to get a job. Now that I’m out looking for things, I’ve realized that you may do great with just your resume, cover letter, and a great personality. But how you’ll do even better, and get that job faster, is by knowing people.

(Rule #1) MAKE FRIENDS AND KEEP THEM. This doesn’t mean to brown-nose your 200 person lecture professor. It means that once you get into more advanced classes, with smaller group sizes and more intimate discussion-based courses, make sure to make a good impression on your professors. Especially if you’re interested in their work, keep tabs with them, maybe volunteer to do some research help, and they can not only give you amazing recommendations for jobs, but they can hand off your resume to someone who can get you an interview. It’s the very same with previous employers; even if you don’t want to pursue a career in the field (think, summer swim coaching), having a glowing recommendation from a previous employer or having them pass your resume on to an acquaintance in the field you ARE looking into is a big step up.

Recommendations are so important, I can’t stress that enough. So keep your professional relationships close, you can use them later!

(Rule #2) TALK TO YOUR PARENTS. Seriously, they know what they’re doing. They’ve been in this position before. Even if you’re not at all interested in what they do for a living, they were recent graduates looking for jobs once too, and they can give you advice. Have them look over your resume and cover letter, have them help you with your LinkedIn profile, have them give you pointers on career paths and salaries and all that big scary grown up stuff that none of us have any idea about.

In addition to the knowledge that your parents can impart to you, they can also be a great source of connections. Face it, your parents are always going to be biased in your favor. They know a lot of people, have met and kept up with a lot of successful businessmen and start-ups, and they can pass your resume along to them. Case-in-point, my dad is fairly high up in his company, and he knows a lot of people in the nuclear industry. While there are no positions available in his company, he knows that nuclear plants are desperate to hire engineers. So I got my boyfriends resume to him, and he was able to pass it along. And that might just get my boyfriend an interview.

(Rule#3) BRANCH OUT. Don’t be afraid to mention to friends, friends-of-friends, distant relations, and acquaintances that you’re looking for a job. Who knows who they all know, and what opportunities they can make available to you. For example, one of my previous interviews was a job that wasn’t posted online. The only way my resume even got into the right hands was because my boyfriend mentioned to a family friend that I was looking for jobs. They talked about my qualifications, I sent her my resume, I had a phone interview with her, and then I was booked for an in-person interview with her employer. I didn’t get the job, but I had a great interview and got to know about an awesome non-profit that I’ll be applying to when I get back from the Peace Corps (if I still live in the same city), and got great interview experience and confidence. And all of that was because my boyfriend mentioned I was looking for a job to someone at a party.

Another example: My boyfriend’s mom works for a HUGE international company. He applied to them and then had his mom send his resume to their engineering department. Within a few days he got a phone call from a recruiter, and after a short phone interview, set him up with an in-person interview with a daughter company in Texas. While he didn’t get that job, it was amazing to see how quickly things moved all because of his one connection. The recruiter is still working to find him a spot at the company, and the longer he keeps in communication with her, the better.

Thanks to http://www.ece.cmu.edu/~sld/ for the image.

Everybody knows somebody. And the more you advertise yourself, the more likely you’re going to get connections to those who can help you out.

Technology: Know it, Use it, Love it

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Technology is a growing industry. Almost every person in the US owns a cell phone and a computer, we’ve all watched TV if not own one (or several) ourselves. I’ve seen toddlers know how to use a tablet better than me, my parents use Facebook more often than I do, and my boyfriends grandparents use Skype regularly. Knowing how to use technology in your daily life is an ongoing education. Knowing how to use it for job search, and for job activities, is imperative.

Thanks to AnntheGran.com for the image

(Rule #1) Use your resources. Technology has significantly improved the job search process. As my dad tells it, when he was fresh out of college and searching for a job, he had to search through newspaper want ads, etc. and then physically type (as in with a typewriter) and mail his resume and cover letter to the company. Lots of work, lots of wasted resources. Now, the wonderful Google machine makes things so much easier! With the help of job search websites like LinkedIn, Glassdoor, CareerBuilder, Indeed, and many more, you can create a profile, search, and apply for jobs all in one place. You can get email updates about specific companies, job descriptions that match your profile, and see who has taken an interest in you based on profile visits. You can save jobs for later applications, you can search by job type, salary, location, or employer. If you haven’t tried these websites, do it. It’s definitely worth your time.

(Rule #2) Keep up to date on new technology. If you’re looking into a technology field, this is probably second nature to you. But for people like me who can’t even remember which if a GB or a MG is bigger… then you may need to spend some time learning and playing with things. For example: I had a phone interview a few weeks back with a software company. The job would have been with customer service, full training, so it didn’t matter that my software knowledge is extremely lacking. However, during the interview, I was asked on question that surprised me: “tell me about the newest technology you’ve used”. Luckily for me, I had just gotten a Chromebook for graduation (thanks Mom and Dad!), so I talked about how I’d been learning to use that and the differences between it and a PC, and all the benefits, etc. I may not be able to answer my boyfriend when he asks what the storage capacity is… but I know how to use it and the pros and cons of a Chromebook vs. a PC laptop.

(Rule #3) Use social media, but be careful! Facebook is great for talking to your friends, but there is always a chance that your Facebook activity, especially in college, can reflect negatively against you if an employer or perspective employer looks you up. According to gradspot.com’s “Guide to Life After College” do a self-Google to check and see what is out there on you. If there is anything questionable, while you may not be able to delete it, you can be prepared to explain it. That being said, check out your Facebook security settings as well. If you don’t mind being found, like me, great. If you want to keep certain things private, it’s easy enough to do so.

In addition to your social profiles, look into career-focused profiles. Like I said before, having a well-made profile on LinkedIn or Glassdoor can really help with finding jobs.

(Rule #4) Develop your social media skills. Especially if you’re interested in sales, marketing, business, communications, and advertising, social media knowledge is in demand. If you can create a half-decent blog or website, you’ll be a commodity. My suggestion is to look at free blog sites (shout out to WordPress!, but also Blogspot, etc. There are thousands) and maybe play around with a blog. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or anything meaningful, just get yourself used to how you use it. It does look really good to have an established blog on your resume (I use my travel blog, mytinytravels, but will soon add this blog as well). Also, website builders can make websites as easy as blogs– I have used Weebly for school projects (see my website for a Psychology project and for a seminar paper), and it’s both easy and fun to create your own full website!

Visit my LinkedIn profile and create your own!

**Citation: Schonberger, Chris, Stuart Schultz, Tory Hoen, and David J. Klein. Gradspot.com’s Guide to Life after College. New York: MG Prep, 2010. Print.**

Job Search Update: Job Acquired… kind of.

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You may have noticed that it has been a few days since I’ve posted anything here. Remember that Peace Corps phone call I was getting on Thursday? Well, I got it. And then a few hours later, I got an email with an invitation to be a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV). Exciting! But also terrifying.

I took a long weekend (Friday-Sunday) to figure out if I was going to accept the invitation. It’s a huge decision, made even more complicated because of the place I am in my relationship with my boyfriend. If I do this, it’s 27 months away; I’ll be in a strange country, with no guaranteed phone or internet service, and only have roughly 6.5 weeks of time off. It’s a lot to think about. But after looking through all the documents and spending the weekend discussing everything with my SO, we decided that there was no reason for me not to go (other than it’ll suck to be apart for so long). I submitted my acceptance of the invitation this morning.

This doesn’t mean that I’m going to stop posting on this blog. I’m still planning on continuing my projects and doing job searches up until I leave (I won’t do any applications probably, but can at least look and see what’s available. Additionally, I still have several planned blogs still to write.

While accepting my invitation is a huge step in the process to becoming a PCV, it doesn’t mean that I am definitely for-sure-100% going. I have a LOT of documentation and assignments to complete before I go, so most of my “Updates” will be about that. Also, I will concentrate future blogs on what I will be doing while waiting for my departure to Belize. This will include preparations, what I learn about the country and what I’ll be doing, and (hopefully) a trip to Europe in May with my SO.

If you haven’t seen my travel blog, mytinytravels, I originally created it to document my study abroad trip to England in 2011. Take a look at it, and keep it in your tabs; I will be updating it and using it for a blog of my PC service!

Job Search Update: Aptitude Tests

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Never before my job search did I think I would get a test as part of the application and interview process for jobs. But as of today, I have had to take two aptitude tests in the interview process (for different companies). This is one thing that I had never expected, but I’ve been able to adapt to it through a combination of research and the luck of already having studied for the GRE, since the questions tend to be similar.

So here’s what goes on during the aptitude test, for anyone who hasn’t had one. Basically it’s a multi-part test made up of timed knowledge (aptitude) questions, and untimed personality questions. According to Wikijob (don’t judge my sources, I’m not writing a paper!) employers use aptitude tests as “means of testing a job candidates’ aptitudes to perform specific tasks and react to a range of different situations given” (Wikijob, “Aptitude Tests“).

Another good source for job seekers to look at is MindTools site on Aptitude Tests. This site seems to cater to explaining aptitude tests to employers, which is good for those in our position to understand. If we know why we’re being tested and what the employer is looking for, we can perform better on the test. Find this article here.

In addition, a simple google search will help you find practice questions for aptitude tests. Honestly, though, if you were able to pass high school math and can think through word problems and identify patterns, you should be fine. The most recent test I took this afternoon also consisted of vocabulary questions, which were the exact same format as GRE vocabulary questions. If you happen to have already studied for the GRE, you’re fine. If not, here is a good website for practice questions.

Depending on the job you’re applying for, the questions may be more difficult or more specific to the position, so my best advice is to know your field and know what you’re applying for. The test isn’t like your freshman chemistry exams where they try to fail almost everyone, it’s just for the interviewer to get a better idea of your abilities. So don’t worry, stay calm, and stay Vulcan (…I mean logical. My geek is showing!).

**Citations:

  1. “Aptitude Testing.” – Team Management Training from MindTools.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Jan. 2014.
  2. “Free Practice Aptitude Tests | Free Aptitude Test Examples.” Free Practice Aptitude Tests | Free Aptitude Test Examples. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Jan. 2014.'”
  3. “Aptitude Tests.” WikiJob. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Jan. 2014.

Scheduling your Life

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As I’ve already said, it’s easy to fall into a slump. But lying around in your PJs all day watching reruns of Star Trek: Next Generation and eating Doritos by the bag is NOT acceptable. You don’t want to be that lazy life-suck that your parents become embarrassed to discuss.

(Rule #1) STICK TO A SCHEDULE: Like I said yesterday, you don’t need to plan out every second of every day. But you do need to figure out a vague daily schedule. Wake up around 8 or 9 (that’s AM, not PM), make your bed, do daily exercise and/or shower, get dressed in your big boy/girl clothes (no PJs after 10am and before 9pm!) and then start your day. Have an idea of one or two things you want to get done during the day. In general for me, that includes checking my email and replying to any questions or interview inquiries from places I’ve applied, doing a solid hour or two of job search and research including applications and tweaking my cover letters and resume. Having a goal for the day is what will get you going, and it may be what gets you a job too, because…

(Rule #2) GET INTO PROJECTS AND HOBBIES: From gradspot.com’s Guide to Life After College, “The worst thing that you can do while job hunting is to do nothing but look for employment” (Klein, Schonberger, Schultz, and Hoen, page 41). I am so glad that I read this before going to some of my interviews recently, I can’t tell you how many times an interviewer has asked “What have you been doing since you graduated” or “What do you like to do in your spare time?”. As the book says, “…if you spend your time enhancing your story by keeping active and learning new skills, you’ve now presented yourself as someone who is motivated and multi-faceted…” (Klein, Schonberger, Schultz, and Hoen, page 41).

You don’t have to go pay for language classes or take up full-time volunteering. In my case, I have several projects and hobbies that I spend my (scheduled) time working on. They include writing and planning this blog, learning to bake and trying new recipes, making hand-made cards, and working on writing a novel (see my crafts and creativity blog for more on my cards, cooking, and writing. I’ll be updating successes especially of my novel here as well.)

Like I’ve said before, having a project or hobby that you spend a lot of time and effort doing is interview gold. When asked the question about what I’ve been doing and what my hobbies are, I know can proudly say that “As you can see on my resume, I participate in National Novel Writing Month in November, an online writing contest that challenges members to write 50,000 words of a novel during the month of November. Since graduating I’ve been working on the novel, which currently consists of one and a half books and a total of 200,000 words.” It’s damn impressive, and I know it. Sure, most of those words were done in the past 3 November’s and I’ve only gotten around 8,000 words written since I graduated. But it’s something I’ve been working on, and it’s something that will show the interviewer that I have a life outside of the job search and am someone who can bring more than the average bland skills of a new-graduate to the job. It is also something that makes me stand out, which is always a good thing during an interview. (Case in point: I recently received a rejection email. What surprised me was the interviewer remembered my novel, and in closing, told me he wanted to a copy of my book when I got it published. I may not have gotten the job, but I stood out enough to be remembered.)

So pick something you enjoy to do more of, find a new hobby or project that will challenge you and make you work hard. Keep yourself busy, and the time will pass.

If you’d like to know more about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), go here. There is more than just the contest in November, and if you’re interested but worried about being able to keep up the word count, there is a huge community of forums for members. You can also contact me, I’d love a writing buddy!

**Citation: Schonberger, Chris, Stuart Schultz, Tory Hoen, and David J. Klein. Gradspot.com’s Guide to Life after College. New York: MG Prep, 2010. Print.**

Life at Home

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Living at home may seem like a hard adjustment after being relatively independent while at school. Your hours may differ from your parents, you may feel limited by obligation (or house rules) in what you can do and when. But here’s the thing: your parents don’t have to let you stay at their house, so you need to suck up big time. To successfully live at home and keep your sanity you have to…

(Rule #1) THANK YOUR PARENTS. A LOT: If you’re like me, your parents are absolutely awesome. They wouldn’t dream of charging you rent (at least while you don’t have a job), they’re fun to hang out with, they take you out to dinner, buy you anything you need from Target (emphasis on need), and don’t set strict rules. Sure, it’s expected I don’t go out after dark without telling them, or spend every night out drinking with friends, or ask them to take me clothes shopping or pay for those cute heels I saw on Amazon. But within all reason, my parents let me make my own choices and do what I need to do.

That’s not to say that I don’t have responsibilities around the house. Just like before I left for college, I have chores I’m expected to do: keep my room from exploding, do my own laundry, clean my bathroom when it needs it, and generally help keep the house in order. Now that I’m older and know how to cook, I’m also expected to help my mom make meals– something that I enjoy and would do anyway.

So here’s a second part to rule #1: DON’T BE A S**T HEAD. Even if like me, you don’t have significant responsibilities around the house, don’t take advantage of your parents’ hospitality. They’re helping you out during a rut in the road, but if you expect them to do everything for you and you do nothing for them, they will remember. Case in point: I recently saw an episode of “Property Virgins” (a house-hunting show based in Atlanta) and was disgusted to see a girl my age moving out of her parents house. What offended me was her reason for leaving: her parents complained that she went out too late at night to drink and party, and that she kept her laundry lying around the hallway. It turned out she bought a place she couldn’t afford, but her parents were so eager to get her out of the house that they paid the remainder.

In addition to helping out around the house and keeping your stuff secluded to your room, a great way to show that you’re thankful for your parents’ hospitality is to just spend time with them. I make it a rule to only be out of the house for dinner a maximum of three nights a week– this includes the typical two nights of the weekend I stay over at my boyfriend’s place. I know a lot of people have a more active social life than I do, which is great, but remember whose home you come back to every night. Have dinner with your parents whenever you can, watch a movie or TV with them at night, play board games or scrabble like when you were younger. Even if your parents don’t have a lot of free time, a good meal or a nice beer/glass of wine/ cocktail after work with them is enough time to show them that you care what’s going on with them, and that you’re happy that you’re home.

(Rule #2) THE WAY TO CONVINCE AN EMPLOYER YOU’RE MATURE AND RESPONSIBLE ENOUGH TO HIRE, IS TO FIRST BELIEVE IT YOURSELF: Honestly; just keep yourself neat, contained and organized mentally and physically. Act like the adult that you are and not the kid you were the last time you lived at home. And here’s one thing I’ve learned during the month and a half I’ve been at home: Getting bored, fat, and lazy is easier than you think!

Part 1: GET YOURSELF ORGANIZED. Mentally and physically, just take a breath and get yourself in focus. Organize your computer files, clean our your closet, give away anything from your pre-college and college life that you don’t need anymore. This is a transition time for a reason. Use it.

Part 2: MAKE A SCHEDULE. (I’ll talk more about this later) I’m not talking about a planner like your crazy type-A friends had back in high school with every second of every hour of every day booked with studying or extracurriculars or volunteer work. No one in our situation can do that with their life, things change too suddenly; job interviews pop up last-minute, you see an opportunity to get some volunteer experience, family errands take longer than planned. It’s just life. What I am saying is that it’s too easy to just be the lazy unemployed bum; last up and first to bed, eating cheese balls out of the container three meals a day in your bathrobe and pajamas while you lay on the couch watching TV all day (if you get the reference, I salute you). If nothing else, set an alarm that you’ll wake up to at a decent hour (Think: between 8 and 9 am) and change into real grown-up clothes and at least have a daily chore or goal to get done.

Subpart 1: GET IN SHAPE. For me, this is a great time to get in shape, so I try to get myself outside to run first thing in the morning 3 to 4 days a week. I have two fitness apps on my Kindle Fire that push me 4 days a week to achieve more crunches and push-ups. Whatever your fitness level, having no set work schedule is a great opportunity to force yourself into better shape.

Subpart 2: PROJECTS. The golden ticket to impressing any interviewer is to have some awesome thing that you do outside of your job search. Even if you don’t think it’s all that awesome, the interviewer will be impressed that you’re actually doing something with your life and that your interests aren’t limited to finding a way to secure a salary. Again, I’ll talk a lot more about this later, but just remember that having hobbies and projects don’t just kill time, but they make you a more interesting person , which makes you more likely to get remembered and then hired.

(Rule #3) MANAGE THE PURGATORY CONUNDRUM: If you’re like me, you have a lot of friends who have already graduated. They all have jobs and have moved on, and you don’t get to talk to them much, When you do, you feel like they are part of the real world, and you’re still stuck behind. Also, if you’re like me, you have a lot of friends who are still in school. Whether it’s undergrad or grad school, it’s still the same. You still hang out, but it’s like you’re completely different animals now. They’re always talking about their classes or the next frat party, while you’re worrying about your swiftly dwindling bank account and whether you’ll be able to afford the next round. This is the purgatory conundrum: you feel like you’ve grown out of the college lifestyle, but because you can’t be self-sufficient and independent yet, you don’t feel like you belong with others who have graduated. You hate making small-talk at check-outs because inevitably it leads to something about jobs or school, and you just don’t want to talk about it. I mean, it’s mortifying to admit to a complete stranger that, “Yes I graduated from X prestigious university. No I don’t have a job, I’m living with my parents.”

So here’s what I’ve decided: the purgatory conundrum is inevitable. But you don’t have to let it weigh you down. After an awful night in tears over this feeling of not belonging anywhere, I picked myself up and made a promise. Instead of focusing on feeling like I don’t belong, I have to focus on how I can make myself belong. That means doing what I can to make myself independent (lots of job applications, whether the job is something I want to do for a career or not) and keeping myself from sinking into feeling sorry for myself. I have to be in control, I have to help myself. (And who needs to hang out with a bunch of rowdy drunk college kids anyway? They can buy their own rounds, thanks. I’ll just have a glass of wine at home with my parents :).)

(Rule #4) TAKE ADVICE WITH A GRAIN OF SALT: No matter who it’s from, not all advice is right or right for you (including what’s in here, though I hope you’ll find it helpful). From Charles Wheelan’s 10 1/2 Things No Commencement Speaker Has Ever Said, “You’re parents don’t want what’s best for you.” I translate that to ‘You’re friends–family–self-help-book–random-person-at-the-checkout don’t want what’s best for you’. And by that Wheelan means this: those who give advice don’t want what’s best for you, they want what’s good for you. As he says, “No parent wants to watch a child flounder or fail. There is a natural instinct to protect children from risk and discomfort– and therefore to urge safe choices.” (Wheelan page 90).  No one knows you better than you. At this stage you are constantly barraged with advice from people who mean well. I’m not saying ignore it, I’m simply saying think it through and decided if that bit of advice will work for you.

Case in point: many recent grad self-help books advise taking a month or several months or even a year to travel the world. While I would love to travel (see my travel blog here), I can’t justify putting my life on hold to travel. I’d be alone, and I’d be spending money that I would rather see stay safely in my saving’s account until I want to do something important, like buy a house or a car, get married or have kids. Some people can live day-to-day and spend their money like that. I can’t. So that goes in with the good advice that just isn’t quite right for me.

So when you unwrap the post graduation presents and find a self-help book, or go to a family gathering and have your ear talked off by your aunt who just knows that if you submit 4 applications a day you’ll have a job by next Tuesday here’s my (the irony) advice. Smile, say thank you and mean it– they mean what they say and do to be helpful and it just might be, then store the piece of advice in your brain for later consideration. Read the self-help books, and know that the author is meaning the best for you, but only take from it what will move you further toward whatever goal you want to achieve in your career and life

**Citation: Wheelan, Charles J. 10 1/2 Things No Commencement Speaker Has Ever Said. New York: Norton, 2012. Print.**

Graduation and Beyond

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Graduation. For me, it was the initiation from being a dependent college student to becoming an adult. While I was in school, it seemed like it was always just around the corner, something that was going to happen in the future, but not something I needed to really worry about. Until, with a sudden realization, I was in my last semester. My application to graduate was in, class add/drop day was passed, and I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. But even as I took my final classes, attended career fairs, and submitted applications to big-named companies in between classes and hanging out with friends, I didn’t grasp the reality of what graduation really meant.

Graduation crept up on me and soon I was taking final exams, buying my cap and gown, and complaining to my boyfriend about the long ceremony (I mean really, they expect you to sit for 3 hours in fold out chairs, only to get a handshake and a fake diploma from the university president who doesn’t even care you exist? Not my idea of a fun morning. I’d much rather be sleeping in.). Saturday morning came too soon. It was cold it was rainy. And something in my gut told me I wasn’t ready for this. I got up anyway and got dressed, then made my way over to the auditorium with the other graduates-to-be.

Once inside, I realized why I had felt like I wasn’t ready to graduate. In the lines upon lines of talking graduates, bedecked in black caps and gowns with medals, pins, or stoles for their appropriate majors and activities, I heard murmurs all around me about what the future held for my peers: “Where is your job?”, “How long do you have until your start”, “Your salary is how much?”. While I’m aware that not all the other graduates already had jobs, from my perspective, standing there listening to the congratulations, gloats, and moans that “I guess I have to be a grown-up now”, it seemed like I was the only one not moving on to bigger and better things. For those moving on to impressive, high-paying careers, graduation was a symbol of their successful education. For me, it was a gut-wrenching reminder that time was moving on, and I wasn’t ready.

While at the time I felt isolated – a lone failure in a sea of successful peers – I now know that many people, likely including many of those peers, were in the same position that I was. Talking to friends and family I discovered that it is the exception, not the rule, for new-graduates to have job offers before graduation.

Even still, there are things that I have had to learn as I have been at home looking for jobs. This is mainly what this blog is about – what I have learned, what advice I have taken and what I have decided isn’t for me, and (more or less) how to survive the harsh realities of being an unemployed adult. Here are some of the things I’ve learned:

1) Living at home? Thank your parents. A LOT.

2) Make a schedule. It’s too easy to laze around and do nothing.

3) Don’t rely on an interview to turn into anything. If it does, great. But most likely it won’t. So keep job searching.

4) Projects are good for more than just eating time not spent applying to jobs. Hint: they’re interview gold.

5) Use the time to learn to be an adult. This includes learning to cook, clean, and organize your house, as well as learning about bills, taxes, and scary grown-up things.

6) The resume and cover letter is never complete. Keep updating it, keep perfecting it.

7) RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH companies and jobs prior to applying.

8) Not all advice is good advice. People are different, and not everything works for everyone. Do what works for you, and you only.

I’ll be writing future posts about these topics and many others. By doing this I hope that my experiences will inform anyone else in my place, but I also hope that it will help me to learn and grow through my own experiences. So, in the famous words of Edward Murrow, “Good night, and good luck.”