Category Archives: job hunting

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.

Part Four: Summer 2011


PART ONE
PART TWO
PART THREE

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

I started at the library in the middle of March. For the rest of the month and for all of April, I am holding down five jobs (to recap: library, zoo, retail, modeling, work for dad), working at least 60 hours per week with no days off. I often work 12-14 hour days, bouncing between two or three jobs a day. I live with my boyfriend, but I never see him. Wake up, go to work, go to sleep, repeat. Then all of a sudden, the semester is winding down, the art classes have no more need for models. Around the same time, my dad actually hires someone to work with him, and I am free of that job as well. As April ends and I am filling out my day planner with May work schedules, I see it: a blank day. I triple-check my schedules, but it’s not a mistake, it’s really there. It’s a Thursday, and it is a day off for the first time in almost two months.

My day off is glorious. I wake up at 7, as I do every day, but I don’t get out of bed. I check my e-mail (unanswered for the past week), check facebook (untouched for the past month), wander through neglected messages and unvisited sites. It’s barely 10:00AM before I decide I need more days off. Even a few hours off. I still hardly ever see my boyfriend. I need to quit Bargaintopia.

My next Bargaintopia shift, I begin planting the seeds of my departure. I’m lamenting my return to work, raving about my day off. My co-workers know I have not had one in quite a while, and are excited for me. They’re all trying to find different jobs, and are mostly baffled as to why I continue to work there when I already have two jobs. I find the manager that likes me most and tell him I think it’s a bit too stressful holding down three jobs at once, and I realized that yesterday when I had a whole day to myself. He says, “Oh, that’s understandable. I wouldn’t want to work that much. But you’re not leaving us before inventory, right? We need you.” I agree to stay on for inventory, but could he please give me fewer hours? I’m sure other people would appreciate some extra shifts.

I am busy, but not unbearably busy, through June. I’m only working 40-50 hors per week, trading away many of my Bargaintopia shifts, waiting for my last day, July 7, inventory day. Finally, it arrives. The shift is from 6PM-2AM, I have to be at work at 8AM the next day. I manage to not fall asleep in the store or at the zoo or library the next day.

For the rest of the summer, I work 15 hours at the library and 15-30 hours at the zoo, depending on how busy the schedule is. I have Sundays off every week. Sometimes I have other days off as well. I adore the library. It has lived up to my expectations, and I can’t believe I didn’t realize earlier that this is what I want to do for the rest of forever. The only snag is, to be a full librarian, I need a Masters in library science. Until then, I can’t work more than 15 hour per week. Some sort of labor law. So now I know what needs to happen. It’s fun working at the zoo, but next fall, I’ll be a student again, working toward librarianship.

I think back to this time last year, having just moved, John dropping out of school. I’ll need a scholarship, or loans, or some kind of help. But I’m prepared to do whatever it takes. I’ve been scouting schools with distance programs lately. I am determined not to move again. I keep thinking that it’s about time for something to go terribly, terribly wrong. It’s strange, I feel the exact opposite of what I felt a year ago: happy, and hopeful, like I have a future waiting for me.

Asking Questions


I’ve always been the quiet one—the one who stands on the sidelines, the one who goes with the flow, and most importantly the one who doesn’t ask questions.  For a long time this stance on life has treated me well, and kept me out of trouble.

But ever since I spent two months travelling around the backwoods of Arizona with a group of people – unafraid to ask for anything and everything – I’ve considered altering my quiet persona.

From mid-March to mid-May of this past year I was on assignment working for Arizona State Parks. I was traveling in a fifteen-passenger van packed with everything from trail tools to camping supplies; plus enough clothing and personal gear to keep eleven people functioning and happy no matter what the trip threw at us. Our weather conditions varied from hundred degree work days to twenty degree frost-covered mornings as we travelled through ten different state parks in the Arizona park system. The work, the travel, and the stress were a rollercoaster worthy of even the most dedicated thrill seeker.

But the ten people riding along with me were of an indomitable spirit. They took what could have been a very rough experience for all of us and made the two month project an amazing and unforgettable journey, all through the cunning use of questions.

“Can I have that?”

“Can we have some?”

Unabashedly, my co-workers used these phrases and other like them to get us an overwhelming collection of free stuff. From t-shirts to food, to walking sticks, to hats; if our travelling van hadn’t seemed laden down when we started, it certainly was bulging at the seams when we returned. Every new location provided new opportunities to my ambitious team. And it didn’t stop at the stuff.

The questions branched into “Are we allowed to…?” and “Can you show us?” which opened the door to tours and plane rides and undisclosed hiking trails, all of which we happily explored to our hearts content. Once they got people talking, the folks we encountered were always happy to point us in the direction of fun and exploration. It seemed like we were trading our service time for insider secrets on the best places to see and visit in the small towns surrounding the parks we worked in.

The last set of questions I heard with regularity surprised me every time. “What’s your story?” and “Will you teach us?” No matter how many new characters we met during our travels, my team never seemed to lose interest in the stories. We’d sit and listen or explain what we were doing in the parks, ever content so long as the exchange of information continued, the questions flowing. They laughed, they learned, and they weren’t afraid to reap the rewards gained through their never ending litany of questions.

At the time my appreciation for their questions was limited, my predominant reaction being annoyance. The stream was really never-ending. But with the proper distance and reflection, I’ve come around. Present-day-job-searching-me is now reconsidering the potential of this seemingly inconsequential communication device.

The question, in all its shapes and forms, is a very important and somewhat underrated networking tool. Its many uses can include promoting conversation, opening doors, projecting interest and curiosity, making connections. I have been trying to employ it more and more in my daily life.

Even if a store doesn’t have a ‘now hiring’ sign up it can’t hurt to ask, right? Maybe they haven’t had the chance to put an ad out. Maybe they know someone else who is hiring.

From what I’ve gathered about networking (though I’ve never really gotten the hang of it), the idea is to put out feelers. To ask questions that can help me identify connections I was previously unaware of and use those
connections to find the hiring manager in charge of my dream job.  Asking questions helps me to put my foot in the door and let people know that I have arrived. Or at least that I’d like to arrive sometime in the near future.

Now if only there was a guidebook to help me find the right questions…

Finding the Right Job Opening


By Nicole Hosette

Becoming employed is a multi-step process. First you have to locate open positions; then comes the tasks of writing a cover letter, updating your resume, and hopefully preparing for the interview. Everyone puts a lot of emphasis on the application and interview steps – as they should. Your resume shows employers what you can do, and the interview proves what an awesome addition you would be to their organization. These steps are super important, so there are a ton of websites all over the Internet dedicated to helping you excel with them.

But before you can write that cover letter, you need an open position. Online job boards make it easy to search for that perfect job from home. Do a quick Google search for “jobs” and you get over 2 billion hits of job boards and more. Narrow that search down to include your location and you’ll still get a couple hundred million sites.

While Google is awesome for finding openings, it doesn’t mean you won’t have to sort through some pretty awful websites to find anything decent. When it comes to job postings, there are so many variables – industry, experience, location, application deadline, etc. And not all job boards are created equal.

I’ve become pretty well acquainted with a number of job boards recently, and I spend a lot of time on them. I figured I’d be helpful this post instead of just whining about being unemployed. So here’s a quick list of a few of my favorite places to look for jobs online:

1. Indeed.com
You might be familiar with this one. When you do that Google search I mentioned earlier, this will be one of the first hits. The great thing about Indeed is that it aggregates listings from all over the web, so the selection is great. Plus, it has an option to look at the average salaries and trends for whatever position you’re checking out.

2. Idealist.org
This website is actually a platform for non-profit organizations to post events, volunteer opportunities, and jobs, among other things. If you’re interested in working for a non-profit, the job board on Idealist.org is great place to look. Depending on your preferences, you can search by either job title or by cause. So if you really want to work for a group that works for LGBT rights, animal welfare, or education, you can find the groups that are hiring in your area. If you’re not picky about the cause, you can search for the position you’re looking for instead.

3. Craigslist.com
This one is really hit or miss. I like it because it has options for writing “gigs” as well as writing “jobs”. Here you’re much more likely to find something like a small start-up or blog that isn’t able to pay you, but if you’re looking for clips or experience, it’s a good place to start. This is also a good place to find part-time or service jobs to help pay the bills. You do have to be careful – watch out for the sketchy looking ones, and remember that listings with credible links are always a good thing.

4. Journalismjobs.com

Unless you’re looking for a job in journalism/PR/marketing, this one probably won’t do you any good. But the problem with journalism jobs is that they often don’t fit into “major” job boards, like Monster or Indeed. So boards like Journalism Jobs, Media Bistro, and Mediagigs.net are great resources for a job seekers who have a specific skill set and don’t want to search through the many, many listings on general boards that want employees with “great communication skills.”

These sites are my favorites, and they have what I’m looking for, but every job search is different and I get that they might not work for you. If you have a favorite place to look for jobs, please feel free to mention it in the comments!

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.

Recounting Yestermorrow


By Christine Bahrens

In my senior year of high school, Kyle, his then-girlfriend Laura, Z, and I all went to see Tristan and Isolde. Following the movie, Z and I started a popcorn fight in the lobby of the movie theater, one that carried out into the snow-draped parking lot. Our greasy, buttered popcorn would join the rest of the theater litter in snow mounds by the end of the night. It was dark, just about nine, with the pale snowfall catching in the amber lights of the parking lot.

We were chilly, anxious – it was a Friday night – and hungry. Across the parking lot were three restaurants, but Uno’s Chicago Grill was the closest. Z and I skipped ahead of Laura and Kyle – we always joked that they were Mom and Dad, and we were the kids. This particular night Z and I were absolutely hyper, and even ‘Mom and Dad’ were giggling.

We were seated in a booth across from the bar, and we were so caught up in our conversation that we barely noticed the white square napkin nestled precariously between our glasses of root beer. There four letters were scrawled in plain black ink, and they form one word that Z and I continue to joke about to this day.

Todd.

Or, More specifically, The Todd Cult, which was a running joke we had after that night at Uno’s when we passed the napkin around the table and each of us wrote a silly little note to Todd, like “We love Todd, he is our God.” I had only been to Uno’s once before then, so needless to say I left that night with a positive opinion of the restaurant planted firmly in my memories. For the rest of the year the four of us would snack at Uno’s. We created “The Todd Cult” under the “Order of the Napkin” because it was something that only the four of us participated in.

After I graduated from high school, I didn’t spend a lot of time at the restaurant. Mostly because I didn’t HAVE free time. But I always kept the fond memories of the restaurant and my friends in the front of my mind. I would even retell the story of The Todd Cult to anyone who would listen (and even some who I knew did not want to). I would even apply to Uno’s whenever I was job hunting – only dropping to second in my job picks to Barnes and Nobles, because I had always wanted to work in a bookstore.

It wouldn’t be until my senior year in college when Uno’s would once again play a role in my life. A friend of mine, KB, introduced me to the wonders of trivia nights at Uno’s (something that had always been a weekly ritual for her and her friends, and one that I quickly became a part of).

When I moved back home, I had to give up my weekly visits to Uno’s for a few reasons. The first being there are no trivia nights at our local Uno’s. The second being that my family is not big on eating in restaurants. Well, they’re not too big on going anywhere, any day.

But when I decided that I was going to give up my search for a full-time job, and instead get a few part-timers in order to save up enough money for moving to Seattle, Uno’s was my first choice.

And, long story short, this little ‘love affair’ between us is finally moving to the next level. As of today I am officially an Uno’s waitress!

I recounted my previous adventures at Uno’s because I know people are thinking – so what, you’re a waitress? That’s not much of an accomplishment. But to me it is. It is something that will pay the bills, and it’s a second home.

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!

Part One: Summer 2010


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

From the day I declared my major, every conversation about it has gone something like this:

“So, what’s your field of study?”
“Communications.”
“Oh, like TV and radio?”
“No, that’s Media Communication.
I’m in Interpersonal/Organizational Communication.”
“Ohhhh.” (Accompanied by a politely confused countenance.) “What do you do with a degree in that?”
“…” (At this point, I look around nervously, as though I could spot another topic. Any other topic.) “It’s very broad.”

It was only three months after I graduated from Brockport with a B.S. in Communications, and two months into my very first retail job that I came to grips with reality: I have no idea what one can do with a degree in communications. To this day, I could not tell you what one might be able to do with a degree so ambiguous as Interpersonal/Organizational Communications.

During the fifteen months following my graduating, I have made my way through twenty-three audio books, eight part-time jobs, two apartments in two different cities, and one potentially life-changing career test. But let’s start at the beginning.

I didn’t attend my graduation. While the rest of my graduating class was waiting to hear their names called, I was already unpacking boxes at my parents’ house. I wasn’t worried about finding a job or what I should do next as a college graduate. Something would happen—some opportunity would present itself, just like always. I had loose plans for fall. John, my boyfriend of one year, was to begin his graduate work at a school in Glens Falls. I would move from Utica to be with him. It wasn’t a difficult decision for me; we had already been living together for five months in my college apartment.

I toyed with the idea of attending a graduate program. I was accepted at two schools, and would certainly have attended if a scholarship were in the cards for either. But I could not justify spending more money and accumulating debt to continue down a path that I was not sure I wanted to be on in the first place. To have no career goal in mind during undergrad is one thing; to attend grad school with no desires—or even vague notions—of a potential profession is quite another. So I scrapped the grad school plan, much to my family’s dismay. I would be moving to Glens Falls with a clean slate, a world of possibilities, a promise of new and exciting opportunities ahead.

But first I had to make it through the summer. After four weeks of bumming around the house, myparents insisted I get a job. So it was off to work at a bargain basement store. “Bargaintopia” was my very first retail job. It was fun for a couple of weeks, but the novelty quickly wore out. Soon, I was counting the hours until moving day. We packed up the U-Haul with all John’s furniture, my kitchen necessities and our combined collection of books. It was a Monday when we moved, one week before John was to start classes. The following five months were stressful, to put it gently.

CHECK BACK THIS WEDNESDAY 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.

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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