Category Archives: finances

The Ups and Downs of Finding a Job


In response to my last post, where I claimed I was finally feeling settled into my new home, the universe decided to take me down a notch.

Up until now, my job search has been pretty relaxed. I sift through the postings on all of the job boards I can find, trying to find something remotely related to what I want to do. When I see something, I apply. My boyfriend is very supportive, and our savings are healthy enough that we’re not financially desperate yet, so I feel like I have a little bit of time to put into finding the right job for me.

I spent six years working in the service industry, all through high school and college. I worked as a dishwasher for a nunnery, a caller for market research, a grocery store cashier, and more. I know better than to expect to land my dream job right away, but after all of the jobs I’ve had so far, I’d be happy now with a position that allows me to grow professionally and doesn’t make me dread going to work every day. I want a career, not just a job.

I’ve faced a few problems. First, there aren’t a lot of journalism jobs. The pool becomes even smaller with the fact that I’m not willing to move away from my partner for a job (insert cliché about love here). I’ve tried to get around this by looking for any position that wants someone with great communication skills or knowledge of public relations. But this leads to the second problem: nearly every job, even the “entry level” ones, wants someone with at least a year’s worth of experience.

After four weeks of looking and several rejections, I came across a job that was as close to perfect as I could hope. It was a reporting job with a weekly newspaper for a nearby community, and they encouraged everyone to apply. So I fixed up my resume, wrote one of my best cover letters to date, attached two writing samples and sent it all along.

Less than a week later, I got a call for an interview. It was for a reporting job at a different publication within the same media company. The office was further away than the original position I had applied for, but it didn’t matter. Reporting jobs are hard to come by, so I was elated that I had earned an interview at all, and I felt confident that by showing up well prepared I could sell myself as a great employee.

For 24 hours, I was a delightful wreck. I was nervous and excited and anxious and eager.

The night before the interview, I received a call saying that it had been cancelled. I tried not to let my disappointment show in my voice as the hiring manager explained that the company had decided not to fill the position at this time. He reassured me he would call me when the company changed its mind, and I thanked him sincerely.

After we hung up, my boyfriend asked me who had called. I felt stupid for starting to cry while answering him, but I couldn’t stop myself. It had been such a high getting that first call and it was heartbreaking to get the second.

Starting your career is hard. It means not only knowing what you want, but knowing where to look to find it. It means getting very comfortable writing cover letters. It means having a dozen different versions of your resume saved to your computer. It means being patient but not lazy. It means getting used to rejection. It means not getting your hopes too high while not losing hope all together.

Part Two: Autumn/Winter 2010


This article was written by guest writer, Miss. Stefie.

Our first week in Glens Falls, everything went according to plan. I was looking for a job, he was starting classes.

It was at this point that things went terribly, terribly wrong.

Less than a week into his graduate classes, he realizes we can’t afford them. The decision is made soon enough that he gets a full refund of what he’s already paid, but we still have a year-long lease. His family is disappointed; my family urges me to come back home. Everyone is confused. We had a plan, and now we are both looking for jobs.

I apply everywhere. Administrative work, retail work, manual labor, anything. I am overqualified. For everything. Even retail chains that would hire anything with a brain and a heartbeat won’t hire me. I stop bringing a resume to apply for retail jobs. I get the same answer every time: “We’re not actively looking for someone right now, but we’re always accepting applications.”

Luckily, we live close to a community college and there is another college half an hour away. I e-mail the art teachers and ask if they need any figure models this semester. I’d modeled off and on during college, but was really planning on getting a more respectable job, something I could tell conservative relatives about. Because, you see, being a figure model entails standing nude on a platform in the middle of a room full of art students. You know that dream you have where you’re up in front of the whole class and everyone is staring at you and all of a sudden you realize you aren’t wearing any clothes? That was my job. And it paid well, but the hours were sporadic.

Meanwhile, John is still unemployed. He is getting depressed. We apply for food stamps, the social services office jerks us around for two months, and finally we are accepted. It is a huge burden lifted. John does some contracting work that is just barely cost-effective. We continue this way until December. Finally, a job offer for him at a local bank. And just in time—my modeling work has dried up in the end of the fall semester. It takes him less than a week to figure out that he hates his new job. It is menial, repetitive, mind-numbing. He is depressed again, and so am I. I am home all the time, the best part of my day is walking to the library five blocks away. I love this library. It is by far the best part of the city. I could loiter there for hours.

It is after Christmas that things finally start looking up. Early in January, John gets a call from a company he had applied for months earlier. They want him to come in for an interview. The only problem is it’s three hours away. He goes anyway. There are two weeks of waiting, and then a phone call. They want to offer him the job, and they want him to start in less than a month. It pays more than double what he makes at the bank, and it comes with benefits. It seems he has no choice, he takes it.

We break our lease, earning the eternal spite of our landlord. We hire a couple of friends to help load the boxes, the furniture, everything into the U-Haul, and we are headed back from whence we came.

CHECK BACK SOON FOR PART THREE!

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.

Introducing Mr. Lawver


By Bryan Lawver

I may have learned a lot of things in my undergraduate career, but there is only one thing that I learned after graduation: the world does not revolve around me.

I was always considered smart by my teachers, always earning what I wanted with a minimum amount of struggle, so I assumed that my good luck would continue into “the real world” after graduation.  Oh, what a fool I was.

I graduated with a B.A. in photojournalism in May of 2010, and though I knew that I was going into a notoriously difficult field, I expected an entry-level job by the end of the year, and then I would consider graduate school after a couple of years. The plan, as any post-grad can imagine, went awry quickly.

As soon as I graduated, I went to Iceland with a friend from school. We needed something to signify our accomplishment, and we could really, really use a vacation. In the weeks leading up to our trip, the Eyjafjallajökull volcano began to stir. The tremendous eruption stranded hundreds of travelers, us included. I being a writer and my friend a photographer, we considered this a turn of good luck – our first post-graduation assignment. I’ll save the details or another day, but things did not go as planned, and we were unable to sell anything that we shot or wrote on the trip. This, while being a relatively minor setback considering that the opportunity just fell into our laps, was my first sign that maybe things would not go as smoothly as I had hoped.

After returning home disappointed, I assumed that without school to worry about I could devote all of my time to finding a job. I was almost right; I devoted all of my time to trying to find a job. Over a hundred resumes later, I was still working in a coffee shop, scouring the Internet for jobs daily. I got a few offers. I did some freelance work, sometimes finishing the work and not getting paid. I was also offered a real, full-time job. I would transcribe news broadcasts for closed captioning television. The job was 40+ hours per week, the commute was an hour each way, and the pay was less than what I made at the coffee shop.

So I took a step back. I must be doing something wrong, I thought. I made lists of all the jobs I was offered. I crossed off jobs with no pay, or that required more experience than I possessed. Maybe one out of every ten jobs was left. And what were they offering? The chance to write product descriptions on eBay; to send out spam e-mails; to churn out content for scammy-looking blogs offering get-rich-quick schemes and vitamin pills for dogs.

This was not what I went to school for. I didn’t work for four years just to write about things that I neither cared about nor believed in. I didn’t spend all that time, only to get a job with a salary that I couldn’t live on, for work that I couldn’t live with.

So, then, what did I go to school for?

I wanted to expand our understanding of the world; I wanted to write something that would make a difference in someone’s life, to stand up for things I believed in and to – as the old saying goes – give a voice to the voiceless.

The standard says that you have to earn the right to do what you want to do for a living. You have to fight your way up the ladder to get to the moment where you are the one calling the shots. But that standard is badly in need of revision. Why keep trying to climb the ladder when even the undesirable bottom rung is out of reach?

If I wanted to succeed, instead of clawing my way to the top, I would have to find a side door.

I decided to skip ahead a few years on my plan to attend grad school. Cue the long and grueling application process, several sleep-killing months of waiting for admissions decisions, and finally getting into the school of my choice.

It is now about 16 months since I finished my undergraduate studies, and my first graduate classes start in 3 weeks. Check back often and I will do what I can to enlighten you in the process of going back to school, getting into the school of your choice, and surviving once you get there.

Post-grad Bugaboos


This article was written by guest writer, KB.

As I approach a new semester, I’m usually bedeviled by the consternation regarding the difficulty of new classes and the imminent cessation of sentience outside work and school (if you’re confused by the precocious, albeit ridiculous, utilization of advanced “lexicon,” I’m studying for my GRE). At this point, however, senior year seems tantamount to child’s play. It’s no longer a question of finding my academic niche or proving myself competent in the mathematics department. With a proclivity for worrying about the future, the most pressing trepidations are related to what’s going to happen subsequent to my receiving a bachelor’s degree.

I know what would ideally happen. I’d get into the graduate school of my choice, get my PhD in mathematics, and someday start my career as a professor at a reputable university.

Since I’m not ignorant to the less-than-ideal workings of the real world, I can’t ignore my post-grad bugaboos.

Bugaboo: (noun) an object of fear.

Bugaboo #1: Failing the GRE

Yes, I know technically, you can’t fail the GRE. That won’t stop me from feeling like a failure if my score is insufficient for getting me to where I want to go. There are three sections of the GRE, much like the SAT: Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Analytical Writing. Since GRE scores are required by the majority of graduate schools, if you’re considering a master’s or doctoral program, GRE test prep is probably in your future. My advice is to take it slow, and start studying what seems like way too early.

Besides going through life as my normal information-sponge self, I’ve focused on two areas to prepare for the exam. A major portion of the Verbal section requires having a “college-level vocabulary” so, for the past month, I’ve been studying about 500 words a week from the reputable Barron’s GRE word list. From what I hear from other test takers, brute force memorization is the easiest and most effective strategy. You’ll need to recall definitions for the test, but likely never need to use these words again.

The most important targeted study area is the math subject test, which is separate from the general GRE. Four years of college math in one test;
pretty exciting, I know. Coming from a state school where a high GPA doesn’t hold the same weight as a high GPA from an Ivy League school, I’m feeling a lot of pressure to perform well on this exam and prove I know my stuff.

Bugaboo #2: Rejection letters

Feeling like I’ve worked very hard during my four years of college and being told that it wasn’t good enough: I imagine that would be a depressing experience. No one likes rejection, which is why I’m trying not to set my heart on one specific graduate school. Sometimes the key to happiness is
low expectations.

Bugaboo #3: Financial qualms

No matter what your post graduate plans are, we’re all living in the same economy with the same worries about our financial futures. With plans
to go straight to graduate school, I had my concerns about not entering the job market soon enough. It turns out the only expensive part of graduate school will be the application fees. As is true for most graduate programs in academia, mathematics PhD students are guaranteed financial support for at least five years as long as they remain in good academic standing and teach one or two undergraduate classes. These teaching assistantships provide on average a full waiver of tuition and a very generous living stipend, in most cases anywhere from $15,000 to $30,000. Therefore, putting myself through graduate school won’t be the kind of financial burden I imagined.

Bugaboo #4: It’s never going to end

With qualifying exams, graduate classes, dissertations, and oral exams, the pursuit of my PhD seems daunting to say the least. After 17 long
years in the American education system, it is none too comforting to know at least another five lie ahead of me. I know I’ll leave graduate school with some kind of PhD: Permanent Head Damage.

What are your postgrad bugaboos?

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.

Wednesday Update


If you didn’t notice, Sauce Off had our first guest writer post this week. Bowski477 wowed with her article about post grad life. If you haven’t already read it, check it out. “Post Grad by Day, Gamer by Night.”

Also this week we will begin posting articles from our new permanent bloggers (hoorah! You’ll finally be hearing from someone other than me!). We
will also feature a series of guest posts by a friend of mine from high school. I’m anxious to share all the steamy deets of their stories, but I’ll leave that up to them. You can expect at least two posts by this weekend.

In the meantime, post grads, what are your opinions on the current financial crisis? Do we have any post grads on Wall Street willing to shed light on the situation? Are we on the verge of our own riots? We love hearing your opinions!

P.S.

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Post Grad by Day, Gamer by Night


By bowski477
(Bowski477 is a guest writer, from aesthetically-pleezin.com)

You can’t always get what you want.

That seems to be the theme song to my post-grad life. I graduated with a degree in English from Salem State University in 2010, and I currently work for a hospice care facility in Massachusetts. It’s not the field I went to school for, but it’s a job. More importantly, it’s a paying job.

With the economy being as tough at it is, and jobs being scarce in most fields, I am lucky enough to have a stable job with benefits. I know that many of my former classmates cannot say the same thing. But just because I work in a different field doesn’t mean my degree is being wasted. When my work day is done, I’m a different person. I’m a gamer and a blogger; and while neither of them pays, they’re still classified as jobs.

Gaming is more than a hobby for me. It’s a passion. Two years ago I decided to spread the word about my passion for gaming. I started my very first blog, Aesthetically-Pleezin.com. It was somewhere that I could put all of my thoughts about the gaming world and show them to other gamers. I made new friends with similar gaming interests, and I got their take on the things I was writing. I wasn’t afraid to make my opinions known to the gaming community.

Soon I found myself in Los Angeles listening to the top men at Treyarch debut their then up and coming game Call of Duty: Black Ops. I thought, I am just a goldfish in the giant ocean that is the gaming community, yet there I was listening to actual developers show off their new game. It was one of the happiest moments of my life.

The trip went by so fast, and I had to return to the “real world” where no one called me by my Xbox Live gamer tag, and no one knew what the hell a “noob” was. But a new opportunity came knocking a few months later. A new gaming site was just getting off the ground, and the fact that I had a degree in English made me a good candidate for the position of Editor-in-Chief.

I joined the staff of IRBGamer.com. It doesn’t pay, but like my personal blog, I love working on it. It’s another place I can use the talent I learned in college and mix it with the passion I have for the gaming community.

What are my hopes for the future? Well, ideally I would hope to someday get paid to write about games, so that I could pour all of my potential into what I love to do. But until that time, I do have bills and plenty of student loans to pay. Being jobless is not an option for me. Not having a job in my chosen field is a small sacrifice I have to make at this point in my life. But that doesn’t mean things have to stay this way. I’m getting my name out in the gaming community and trying to get noticed. Life maybe short, but I’m not really in a big rush. My opportunity will come, and I’ll be ready to grab it when it does.

Have questions for bowski477?  Feel free to comment!

They’ll Get You, When You Least Expect It


By sendmeonmyway101

I can honestly look back on my college experience with fond memories; trivia nights at Uno’s, meetings for the school’s e-zine, ice skating, going downtown during the peak tourist season, all of my fun classes (and even the ones that were so boring the mold was sleeping).

But there is one thing I don’t miss: the start of the school year hassle to get a loan. The annoying emails and letters reminding me that my bill is due by a certain date or the school will not hold my classes for me (even though that certain date would come and go without procuring a student loan, and if I wanted I could go until signing up for the next semester’s classes before suffering real damage from being locked out).

This time last year I was spending every day reminding myself to fill out an application for a loan – because classes start in a month and the sooner it was taken care of, the sooner I would get my refund check (which almost always went to living expenses rather than anything fun).

Following my graduation ceremony, I knew I could hold my head high and be absolutely certain that the only PAY US FOR YOUR COLLEGE EXPERIENCE letters I would receive would be from my student loans.

I didn’t account for damage charges.

I suppose it seems silly to assume (when the only time I spent in my apartment on campus was in my bedroom, sitting on my bed or at my desk and rarely venturing to any other part of the six-person apartment) that I would not be stuck with a bill for damages to the common area/our apartment.

No, it’s not sarcasm (although would anyone blame me if it was?). I lived on campus for three years, and each year we were notified that, if someone did not step forward and admit to causing whatever damage that was
found following move-out, then everyone would be charged. It makes sense, sort of. Was I a little upset when I received the email? Who wouldn’t be?

This Better Not be the Damage

Was I responsible? Unless I’m a sleepwalker and all those times I thought I was fighting monsters in my dreams, I was really damaging things, then NO. But how is the school supposed to know all that? They had to do what they consider fair, since no one stepped forward. I was caught off guard, but I accept the twenty dollar charge.

Eh … I just have no idea what I’m paying for. Was there paint peeled off the wall? Surely I’m not receiving a twenty dollar fee over some paint chips. Did someone break a window? But I feel like I would have noticed that. Was the wall blown out? Someone could have built a spaceship and set it off in the living room, for all I know.

Not to sound paranoid, but without being told exactly what I’m paying for, how do I know the school isn’t just trying to suck a little more of my future finances from my pocket?

Have any other students/grads out there encountered this problem? I suppose my only solution is to call the school and ask for details, but really – shouldn’t a receipt tell me all that?

Businesses That Won’t Bounce Back


By sendmeonmyway101

I was unnerved when Borders went bankrupt.

Well, not as unnerved as a Borders employee should have been. Mostly because I would be graduating and leaving the store for greener post-grad pastures (seems my pastures are as green as Borders future).

Don’t misread – especially any of my fellow borders alum. Because I loved my job – it was by far one of the most pleasant work experiences I have ever had. Everyone got along with each other; the majority of the customers were sensible and fun people (same could be said for my fellow employees). If every Borders store operated the way our store operated, I don’t see how they could have declared bankruptcy.

Our store survived the initial batch of closings because we were small, and we were a staple in the community. The only other bookstore in town was a Half-Off-All-the-Time mess, in a closet of a store. Our Barnes and Nobles competitor was more than half a mile outside of town. We were it.

Now all of the Borders stores are closing, and a lot of good people are losing their jobs. And Borders isn’t the only one – following a merger with First Niagara, HSBC recently announced their intentions to lay off 30,000 people. And these 30,000 people are being laid off to make room for 15,000 people in the emerging markets. What does that mean?

Emerging market = Asia, Brazil, Argentina and … Mexico? No comment.

The point is that with chains such as Borders or Blockbuster downsizing or closing, we college grads are facing more competition from experienced members of previous generations than they themselves faced. Not to mention how little a Bachelor’s degree actually means anymore.

I’ve been out job hunting, and the majority of jobs are seeking candidates with more years of experience than most people will get just from sitting in a classroom. I consider myself very lucky, in that I had two professors urging me in all the right directions, so I received experience while I was in school. But hey – I’m still unemployed, and finding employment is by the far the most frustrating, exhilarating, and mind-numbing experience a grad can face.

I don’t know the science behind it, but I am aware that four out of six of my friends (or two out of three, if you want to simplify things) are either registered for grad school, or planning to attend after graduation. OK, so my friend pool is relatively small, but it doesn’t change the fact that the growing trend is to attend grad school. Which means more student loans – fueling an already loan-centered, debt stressed economy. And let’s not even go into how grad students will be paying more in their loans following the recent debt deal laid out by Washington.

To break things down – economy is bad. Companies close. Good people out of jobs – competing with inexperienced college grads. Grads return to school hoping to graduate again with a more stable economy and job market. Student loans and the high cost of education support a society’s poor decisions to buy first, and pay later.

Now, before you start firing your keyboards and accusing this blog of inaccurately depicting social events, American society, or even financial situations, I have to point out that I know nothing about finances (I prefer to leave that to the people who know what they’re doing … of course, the people who know what they’re doing have already failed in preventing all the things they were supposed to prevent, so maybe they’re as knowledgeable as I), and everything mentioned here is only my impression of what’s happening.

A sign of market end times for future students and graduates? Or a time for change? You be the judge.

(Check out Mustang Daily’s article, Graduate school: to go, or not to go?)

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