Category Archives: blogging

Filling the Gap


For a lot of people struggling in this economy, there are gaps. Gaps between the monthly paycheck and the monthly rent. Gaps between what we’d like to spend and what we are able to spend. Gaps created by too few hours and too low salaries. Gaps between the lives we want and the lives we have.

Now some of these gaps can be lessened by the adjustment of expectations. Goodness knows I’ve done my fair share of wants vs. needs charts; downsizing in favor of a more reasonable lifestyle, but at a certain point I
can’t cut back on the needs column any more (i.e. bills, food, good books…).

In my continued searches through a frustrating job market, I have noted the presence of some interesting opportunities to ‘fill the gap.’ Ways to make that extra bit of money finish out the month; or if you’re like me,
ways to make some money instead of none.

The most obvious of these fillers has been employed (pun intended) by workers of all types for years—the part-time job.

Whether it’s bartending nights or selling shoes on Saturdays, a part-time job is a good way to fill the gap. Scheduling is flexible, And it can also be a nice way to do something different a few days a week, in case your real job (or non-job) drives you bananas. As previously mentioned, I have been searching for a few part-time gigs to fill out my weeks and amp up my bank account. A few days ago I applied to a bakery in my neighborhood, so fingers crossed on that one.

Another ‘filler’ that suits me in particular are sites like gather.com or skyword.com, where writers can contribute articles with limited time pressure and be paid based on how the contribution draws in readers—more readers, more cash. This is especially helpful because it lends even more freedom from scheduling constraints, so if my free time is at 3am then that’s the time I use to get paid for writing. There’s also a relatively uncapped earning potential depending on the number and popularity of articles written. If I have lots of time to write a bunch of really engaging articles, I can earn quite a bit.

For those who are slightly less journalistically inclined I have also recently discovered a site called taskrabbit.com, a nifty idea that allows people with extra time to run errands for those without it. Need your groceries picked up, or you house cleaned, hire a task rabbit; a whole range of tasks for people with varied skills and extra time looking to turn those assets into cash. I don’t know about anyone else but I love this
idea. I signed up to be a task rabbit yesterday and am waiting to be approved sI can choose my first assignment. Perhaps someone out there needs me to make hem tea and read them a book…

My final source for odd jobs is the ever trusty craigslist. They have a section labeled ‘gigs’ that ijust bursting with small, one-time/ temporary jobs waiting for people with the time, talent, and inclination to get them done. If I remember correctly, that is how I found out about and started writing for this blog. It’s at least
worth a look.

These are the opportunities I’ve happened upon so far in my search but I’m sure this isn’t the end of the list. Someone before me discovered that sometimes people end up with more free time than they know what to do with and is out there trying to help us make use of these idle hands. To help fill the gaps, as it were. At the moment all I have is gap so hopefully using these strategies will help me keep my head above water as the real search continues.

Deadline Oriented


By Katherine Shaye

In my last post I noted that it is difficult for me to set my own deadlines. A friend of mine read this and remarked teasingly that I shouldn’t tell this to any future employers. This confused me. Yes, it made sense that no employer would want a worker who couldn’t meet deadlines, but I had never had this problem at work.

In fact I’ve been rather good at meeting work or school deadlines. My track record has been clean, showing up on time, turning in assignments, getting things done. I never asked for extensions or ignored due dates. But this was all in my work persona. For some reason those traits and habits aren’t translating into my day-to-day life.

Continuing my self-examination, I started wondering why this is. What are the conditions of a deadline that make it concrete in my mind?  Andhow can I make the goals I set for myself better fit this criteria? As always I have spent some time sitting with these thoughts and come up with a few answers that might help me understand the issue.

Expectation of completion – the first criteria jumped out immediately, an authority figure. Someone I respect who holds the expectation that I will get done whatever job they’ve asked. It gives me a sense of accountability that I have been tasked with something and that someone will know how and when I get it done.

So when it’s just me how can I set up that same sense of expectation? One strategy I’ve devised is to share my goals with other people. To write them down, say them out loud, post them in a blog, whatever. Some way to let at least one other person know and increase that pressure of expectation.

Dependence on completion- this was an especially important motivation for me at my last job, where ten people depended on me to keep my deadlines , so that their housing, food, and work schedules stayed in order. If not turning in my report meant someone in the office couldn’t get their work done on time that motivated me. If not grocery shopping meant putting strain on the food availability for my team that motivated me. Now, if I don’t apply for that job today, I’m the only one affected. I am more likely to make exceptions, procrastinate.

A possible solution to this might be to envision the longer chain of effects meeting or not meeting my deadlines might have. Sure if I don’t apply for a job today the sun will probably still rise tomorrow but if I don’t apply for jobs then I won’t get a job and without a paycheck I can’t make
rent. That would certainly affect my eleven housemates. And not in a good way.

Commitment to completion – Often times I find that when I set personal goals I either set the bar super low so that if I ignore it I can make up for it later or crazy high so that if I don’t reach it I won’t feel bad because it was a stretch in the first place. I can’t say that this is a healthy way to approach goal setting. I’m already making room for myself to blow it off or fail. I haven’t committed to my own success.

Now that sounds like a self-help-book line if I’ve ever heard one but unfortunately I think it’s the truth. Getting over this particular hurdle in goal making will require more than just a casual reassessment of my goal setting tendencies. In essence it will require me to start putting stock in myself and taking my own deadlines quite a bit more seriously.

Though these tactics may not be bulletproof and I still may spend some days wrapped up reading a good book rather than writing my own, I think that they will help me change my thinking around setting goals for myself.

So in the spirit of honoring my own deadlines I will now return to working on the book manuscript I aim to have finished by the end of this year, Imaginary Me. And anyone reading this can feel free to help hold me to it.

Clearing a Workspace to Fit My Head Space


To empathize with my last work environment I would ask you to close your eyes. Imagine yourself sitting in a
small apartment at a tiny table in front of a malfunctioning laptop, with deadlines on the horizon. You’re body is dead from the day’s manual labor and tomorrow promises more of the same. Dinner still isn’t made. And to top off all these calming factors, dump in ten children running, screaming, asking questions, and breaking shit. The perfect recipe for getting work done.

Now, was I actually working with young children? No, but some days I was hard pressed to see the difference between my 18-24 year olds and a kindergarten class. The questions ‘What time is lunch?’ and ‘What should I do if I forgot my pants?’ were not uncommon. The most valuable skill I attained last year was the zen-like ability to quiet everything outside and empty a spot in my mind to focus. A good pair of head phones and the occasional eye-twitching glare at passersby helped immensely.

I learned through necessity to accomplish my goals even when stress abounded and everything in my immediate environment served to distract and annoy. Some things just needed to get done.

In stark contrast to that is the situation is the one I have now—oodles of time, peace and quiet, and most importantly no overwhelming deadlines. In theory I should be more productive than ever before.

Instead I have found it almost impossible to accomplish anything. Removed from the obligations of deadlines and dependents, my motivation level is stuck on empty.

Conundrum.

I’ve considered this issue of my unproductivity at home for quite some time and discovered some interesting things about myself.

The first is that I have trouble setting my own deadlines. Even when I wake up in the morning and say okay this is what I’m going to get done today and these are the healthy lifestyle choices I’m going to make, there’s about an 86% chance that I’ll ignore that directive and waste my day with a pint of ice cream and a good book.

The second, which I believe ties heavily into the first, is that I cannot work from home. Everything is just a little too easy, too immediate. My chair is too comfy. Snacks, television, and internet are too readily available. And the biggest issue of all, everything is too familiar. There’s nothing around me to challenge, or inspire me, both of which are necessary elements for me to do work. Or at least get inspired enough to search for it.

Now all this might speak more of an inability to decorate on my part, but not having the energy to master the art of feng shui, I’ve found that a big piece of my success lies in just getting out of the house. To leave the comfort and security of home and just explore. It amazes me the difference this little act has made on my mood alone.

My recent explorations have led me to a café called Diesel in Davis Square, and for me it is a perfect mix of eclectic atmosphere and quirky vibes. It’s also a great place to satisfy my people watching urges.

In my hours spent here, I have felt the inspiration of a writing muse that’s been eluding me for quite some time. She, the muse, and I have done some great work recently. There is something about being in that crowded space, about the energy of people around me living and breathing and moving. It reminds me that I’m alive and must continue to move around too.

I never thought I’d miss the hectic over-crowdedness of my last job, but alas here I am seeking it out to find my inspiration. It is increasingly apparent to me that my physical environment has a profound effect on my mental workspace and hopefully this realization puts me one step closer towards figuring it all out.

READ KATHERINE SHAYE OFTEN? CHECK OUT THESE MONEYLESS ENTERPRISES, REFERENCED IN HER LAST POST, Unemployment.edu

Samara – a yoga studio with a work study program similar to the one from the dance complex that I mentioned last week.
Time Trade Circle  – a community group trying to connect people with varied skills to trade labor for labor based on hours in a ‘time’ bank.

A Situation Only a Journalist Could Dream Of Part 1


By Bryan Lawver

I have my first graduate class this week, but before I start talking about grad school, I would like to talk about what I did after finishing my undergraduate classes. Not the relentless job hunt, or the angst, but what I did right after graduating; the not-necessarily-productive part. The “this is just for me” part.

There are a lot of opinions floating around about what to do between undergraduate and graduate school. Some people say that you should get a job, or an internship, or spend time honing your craft – whatever it may be.

I went to Iceland.

The plan felt more like it formed around me, rather than I had an authorial hand in it. It started with a tax return, an unexpected call from a sibling, and a fondness for Icelandic rock music, and in the beginning of May 2010, as my classmates were walking across an auditorium in caps and gowns, I was – along with a friend – boarding a jet owned by Icelandair.

Our timing was fortuitous. A volcano beneath Eyjafjallajokull, a glacier seemingly named by a cat walking across a keyboard, erupted that spring. It covering acres of Iceland in ash, and stranded hundred of international travelers; generally making life even more difficult for a lot of people already living in a particularly forbidding landscape.

Okay, fortuitous might not be the right word. In the end it may have been a bit sociopathic. But that’s how it felt to us. I was a writer, and my companion was a photographer. This would be a great chance for us to cover something momentous, something unique; something that might get noticed. We ran the idea by a professor from our school – who was also a contributor for a local newspaper – who said that he would pass it along to his editor.

And then off we went. If this all sounds rushed and ill-planned, that is simply because it was. We went, despite the myriad of ways that we expressed and explained and excused ourselves to friends and family. We had the idea in our heads and we were determined to have fun.

The first thing I noticed about Iceland was that we were about to crash into it.

At least that’s how it looked. We descended slowly, painfully slowly, through what I assumed to be a layer of clouds. I was looking straight down out the window, waiting to break through so that I could see the island from above and watch our approach. What I saw instead, the instant that we broke through, was the ground just feet below us.

I jumped, not even having enough time to register my own fear, and then realized that what we had been passing through was a thick blanket of fog.

The same sheet of gray cotton lay over the countryside in the cab that we took from the airport to Reykjavik, trying to make small talk with our cab driver. He spoke English, but not well. I was disappointed to realize that I could not use him as a source for my article.

Upon arriving in Reykjavik, I was relieved to find that the man’s unfamiliarity with English was not the norm. Nearly everyone under 50, I was later told, spoke English fluently; and I saw evidence of this everywhere. Signs and menus in English, clerks effortlessly switching languages when they realized that my companion and I suffered the mono-lingual handicap. I thought about the imperialism of English, and what this meant for the culture of Iceland – usually isolated from the world by its physical solitude and the inscrutable mindset that seems to pervade island nations. I asked a lot of Icelanders about this, and no one seemed to care much. There has always been Icelandic music and literature and film, and there always will be, I was told.  Some things are expressed better in Icelandic, and they will continue to be.

Damn, I thought, another dead-end topic.

We trudged on, moving from a hostel to the house of a group of students whom we had agreed to stay with. We bounced along, visiting cafes by day and bars by night, having a good time, but always on the lookout for a good subject, a photo opportunity, a striking detail to open my article.

I probably would have gone on this way, perpetually disappointed, if we hadn’t rented a car and driven into the country.

CHECK BACK NEXT TUESDAY FOR PART TWO!

Decisions, Decisions


By Nicole Hosette

Many post-grads make plans to move somewhere new after college. They move back in with their parents, take a job in a new place, or simply decide to take up residence somewhere fresh. In my case, the decision to move from Iowa to the Boston area took months to make, and I didn’t make it alone.

I mentioned in a previous post that I recently moved to Massachusetts with my boyfriend, Peter. We both graduated in May. He knew he wanted to get his PhD in physics, while I knew I didn’t want to go to grad school (at least right away). And after being together for four years, we knew we wanted to be somewhere new together. So it made sense that I would follow him wherever he went to school.

In December of last year, he started applying for grad school. It was a crazy, stressful time for him, as it meant filling out forms, writing essays, and securing letters of recommendation on top of his heavy course load. He applied to nearly ten schools, both Ivy League and state universities.

He got into his safety schools, and to his relief, most of his top picks as well.

In the end, the decision came down to two schools, University of Chicago, or Harvard. So we made a massive pro/con list and took everything we could think of into account – locations, cost of living, family factors, crime, job opportunities for me, and each school’s respective physics program.

For a month, he changed his mind at least every other day. I was pulling for Chicago from the beginning – I had spent a lot of time there, both visiting and inhabiting, so I knew the city’s offerings and limitations. I knew that my job prospects would be decent, and that I already loved living there. I knew it would be cheaper to live there and that I would be able to easily make the three hour drive back to Iowa to see my family and friends. But I also knew that Chicago would be my ideal place to “settle,” and I didn’t want to settle yet.

Eventually Peter made his decision, and he wanted to go to Harvard. The physics program would give him more opportunities. And, as he admits, he is a kind of nomad at heart, so he was getting restless in the Midwest. He already knew what Chicago had to offer and wanted a place with completely new opportunities.

In time, he convinced me that Massachusetts was right for us. We made budgets to make sure we could live off of his grad-student stipend in case my job search went badly. We took note of all of the cultural offerings of Boston (which excited the historian in me). I knew I wouldn’t be unhappy there, and I knew he would regret it if we didn’t go. So we went.

Our relocation wasn’t easy, but so far I don’t regret it. I hate that most of our friends are still together in Iowa City while I’m here basically alone. But I know that time will fix that. I miss having my car, but I like that I can walk practically anywhere I need to go. I absolutely love all of the things to do in my new place, and all of the new things I can try.

Be warned: even if you’re ready for it, making a move this huge will probably be hard. And, if you’re anywhere near as indecisive as I am, the decision will be just as difficult. But you’re a post-grad now – in theory, you have tons of opportunities ahead of you, even if the job market seems to disagree.

Maybe that’s me being the optimist, but for now, I’m going to take advantage of the fact that I haven’t had that beaten out of me yet.

Stuck on Repeat


By Katherine Shaye

I’ve been here before, this section of my life. I’ve been this girl, I’ve played this part, and I know these lines. So for something that know so well, why does it still freak me out so badly?

More than two years ago, I graduated from college with the same sense of panic. That knot of worry so deep that every casual question from friends and family became a probing stab into the very purpose of my life.

“What are you doing?”
“What’s your next step?”
“Where do you see yourself headed?”

Finding a way to pay the rent felt way too serious.

In the months when I found myself counting down to my graduation, these questions looped through my own mind, getting louder each day. While my friends prepared for internships, graduate school, and the various entry-level jobs they’d acquired, I still sat in front of my laptop wondering where to start. I had treated my undergrad years as a means to an end. College wasn’t career prep; it was a check mark on my resume. It wasn’t until I had graduation staring me in the face that it even occurred to me that I’d wasted much of my very important “figure myself out” time.

Enter AmeriCorps.

Scanning through the internet, looking for a job, a sign, or even a clue, I found one site in particular that caught my eye: AmeriCorps.gov. It took me all of twelve seconds to fall in love with the idea of AmeriCorps NCCC; a mobile, team-based national service program that would allow me to travel the country, do volunteer work, and meet amazing people. I was so in. After an application longer than most of my college apps, and three nail-biting months of waiting to hear back that is.

Then I was off. Off to build trails in national parks and houses in New Orleans. Off to figure out how to feed ten people on $45 a day.  And most importantly, off to meet a uniquely unforgettable cast of people who would slowly but continually change my life. I will detail several of my adventures in later posts.

But here I am again. After completing yet another graduation ceremony, I am back in panic mode answering the same round of firing squad questions that came at me two years ago. It seems like things haven’t changed at all.

But somehow they have.

For one thing, I’m two years older. That doesn’t seem like much at first glance, but with careful review I’ve realized that at the very least I learned a few things in those years:

  1. Every experience is worth the experience – Even the things that sucked when I was going through them were worth it for the knowledge I gained about myself.
  2. I must accept that I can’t please everyone, or die trying – I’ve been a people pleaser my whole life and it has never come to bite me in the ass more than these past two years. Living and working with the same ten people while keeping them all happy is absolutely, hands down, 100 percent not possible. I accept that now.
  3. I’ll never stop trying to find my purpose–There will always be a part of me that yearns for definition, that interprets questions like “what’s your next step?” as “what is your life’s passion?” Hopefully, as time goes on I can tone down the anxiety associated with that question and learn to see it as encouragement to explore my options.

Now as you may notice, these are not the end all be all of life lessons, but for me parsing out what the last two years has meant to me and what I have learned from it will be an important part of figuring out that crucial next step. Perhaps it will even help me figure out how to improve my resume.

Future posts from me will most likely feature flashbacks from my time in AmeriCorps, my time in college, and
maybe even a little bit of that good old high school drama, all for the purpose of figuring out who I am now and what I want (and am qualified) to do.

Post-grad on the Move


By Nicole Hosette

I cried at my graduation. The ceremony was horrible – last year the school sprung for Tom Brokaw as a speaker, but this year we were stuck with an English professor who seemed to have simply adjusted one of his class lectures for his speech. There was a brief moment of excitement when a student, with a flower in his hair, ran through the seated graduates and threw rolls of toilet paper before eventually being tackled by security, tased, and arrested. Besides that, the ceremony consisted of two hours of 2,000 students hearing their names called, walking across the stage, and shaking the hand of some University official. I texted my mom throughout most of it.

I felt silly for crying when I hugged my parents after the ceremony was over. But in retrospect, I would have felt worse for not crying. My four years at the University of Iowa were exactly what I wanted them to be.

Knowing that my years of formal education are over, and that for the first time in 18 years I won’t be going back to school this August, is breaking my heart.

But I’m sure most post-grads in my situation feel the same way.

Back in March, when I started making my first major post-graduation plans, I didn’t quite expect I’d feel like this – instead I was excited about all of the possibilities that came with graduation. At that time, my boyfriend and I were sitting down and discussing where he wanted to go to grad school, which equated to where we wanted to live for the next 4+ years while he worked towards his PhD. I had no plans of going to grad school – I graduated with a BA in Journalism and American Studies, and I didn’t think the general career path I was aiming for required that extra bit of schooling. I was already looking at a good bit of student debt and didn’t see the point in adding more if I didn’t have to. And so I decided I would just go with him.

The decision to move to Massachusetts didn’t come easy (more on that in a later post). But he had gotten into Harvard and really liked the work they were doing there in his field. He was also very interested in the idea of moving to a new place while we had the chance, and at the time, I agreed with him. You have to admit, there is something romantically appealing about picking up and moving halfway across the country just because you can.

So this past month has been full of packing, making preparations, and spending as much time with friends as possible. Finally, last week, we made the move. It was a mess – so many things went wrong, and I found myself wishing I was still in Iowa. But now we are set up in Massachusetts, in a great community 20 minutes from downtown Boston, and I have done my best to forget my horrible first impression of this city.

I miss my friends, my family, the Midwest landscape, my favorite Iowa City bar, and having my own vehicle. But this is what life after college is supposed to be – new experiences.

So this is my situation as a post-grad; trying to adjust to a new place, setting up an apartment, looking for a job, and making new friends. It’s exciting and terrifying. But I really am looking forward to figuring it all out.

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