Category Archives: graduate

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.

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!

I Dreamed a Dream


By Katherine Shaye

It is hard for me to distinguish at what point in my life I went from the dreams of childhood to the career pursuits of an adult. If I’d stuck to my guns when I was eight, I’d now be a retired Olympic gymnast reliving my glory days on a talk show. Instead, I am now (among other things) an aspiring novelist, a dream that I’ve picked up only recently. So what’s the difference between my dream now and my dream then? Aside from an increased ability and drive to pursue an actual career, I would say not much.

It makes me ask myself – what really makes my dream worth chasing, and at what point do I put it on the back burner in favor of something more practical?

The reason for this sudden introspective rant is this:

Are Books Dead, and Can Authors Survive?

An article pointed out to me in a writing forum by an editing friend who thought the topic deserved some discussion. After reading it, I have to wonder, do I have skin thick enough to enter into a rapidly changing, somewhat shrinking industry, where only the truly great and quickly adapting survive? What will it really mean to be an author over the next 10 years as I try to build a career and get published? Am I gritty enough to stick it out?

I look back at where I started. Back in my early college days when writing was just a way to blow off steam and get silly daydreams out of my head. I wrote a lot, but rarely finished anything— ideas flitting too quickly through my head for me to sit with just one.  Writing was just a hobby; I was allowed to be flighty. I’d gotten a few comments from friends along the lines of “It’s pretty good,” and “I really liked it. Is there more?” Nothing I really took seriously. There was even one English paper that came back with the comment, “Very well written. Wish it were more on topic.” All praises, but nothing that said “This is it, you’ve got it. Go be a writer.”

My lackadaisical writing career continued like this until senior year when real life started looming and I decided to get adventurous. What if I really did become a writer? It was time to do some learning.

I joined a writing forum (or Accentuate Writers). Nothing fancy, just a place where I could upload my work and have it critiqued by other people in the same position as me—new and unpublished talents, testing the waters to see if we were
up to snuff. Reviews poured in and I shared my thoughts with others. I was getting positive feedback and gaining much needed confidence. Things were rolling along nicely.

Then I got my first negative review. I’d like to say that the critic didn’t know what he was talking about, that he was jealous of the profundity of my piece. But that would be a lie. This critic, while very curt and clearly not a fan of my work, gave me nothing but good advice—not that I could acknowledge that right away. It was the kind of feedback that cuts a little too close to honesty, usually echoing insecurities you already had about
a piece. They were comments I definitely needed but didn’t necessarily want.

Cue the week of mourning.

I didn’t even look at my computer screen for the next seven days, most of my time spent ignoring the fact that I’d ever picked up a pen at all.

Finally, I went back. I reread the punishing critique, picked out the relevant bits and reworked my story.  A week later, I entered it into a short story contest and a month after that I found out that the piece had won first place. It was getting published. My greatest sense of failure and success all wrapped up in that one little piece.

Fast forward to now.

Is this the story of a burgeoning artist’s epic struggle towards success? Not really, but it is the beginnings of a journey, my journey, and I suppose the point is that none of the rest of it matters. Writing is something I love to do and it’s worth a shot. Even in a potentially failing industry, even if I’m not any good. It’s still worth it to try.

CHECK OUT SOME OF THESE SITES FOR ADVICE!

Because I Said So
Vicki Winslow’s Blog
Tammyholloway
Stress Management for Writers

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.

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