Tag Archives: post grad

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…

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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.

Unemployment.edu


By Katherine Shaye

Time and money.

Those are the two things I am able to trade for the goods and services I’ve come to depend on in my daily life. In some cases, those two forms of payment are interchangeable. Pay for a taxi or wait for the bus. Hire a handy man or fix it yourself. Buy it at the store or craft it at home. Most of us make these decisions everyday based on our current allotment of time vs. money. For me, with my net income dwindling in the negative I am investigating life based solely on time currency. If I have learned anything from unemployment so far, it’s that I have a lot of time on my hands, and I might as well put it to good use.

Something I seem to be running across more and more in my efforts to live my life with minimum expenses are businesses that take money out of the equation. They take direct manpower for their services, allowing people like me, who have a surplus of time, to trade work for all the other things I need/want. Back in Denver, I heard of a restaurant called Café 180 where you can “pay” for lunch by either giving what you can or trading an hour of volunteer work. Here in Boston there is a dance studio where you can trade an hour of
work for an hour of dance class. Then there’s WWOOF or World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, where people have travelled the world exchanging their labor for a place to stay and some food.

With all these options, I sometimes think I may never need another job. In a way, money is just a way to keep track of previous investments of time. Then again, the convenience and versatility of cash money is not something I could give up lightly.

Another helpful use of time that has benefitted me in the past is volunteering in general. I’ve gained a number of both obscure and sometimes useful skills from offering up my relatively unskilled labor. In high
school, I learned to use a cash register volunteering at the local resale store then later was able to apply to be a cashier in a grocery store. Not big on the scale of life skills but it certainly got me the job over several of my other unskilled colleagues.  Now I am hoping to volunteer some time with either my local library and/ or the nearby Planned Parenthood office with the hopes that my time investment will help me get paid to be in these industries at a later date.

The last and arguably most fun use I have found for my time in unemployment land is learning. In the past week, I have learned how to do laughter yoga, how to make tomato zucchini fritters and how to make chai tea
from scratch. I’ve learned to play telephone Pictionary and seen “The Wire” for the first time. I’ve discovered two new restaurants and a great bookstore in my neighborhood. And I’ve met four new people, two of whom offered to keep an eye out for a job for me.

Now while I can’t be sure that any of these things will lead to a job or help me develop a marketable skill, they do encourage me to continue working on myself while nor otherwise working. I could research skills to gain that would give my resume more of a competitive edge, or look for classes that could help me hone the talents I already have. Either way I’d like to start thinking of my unemployment as a workshop— a time dedicated to self-development, self-discovery, and who knows what else. Hopefully, this change in thinking will help brighten the next few unknown months ahead of me.

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!

One Month Anniversary


By Nicole Hosette

September 1st officially marked the end of my first month in Massachusetts. A few days before I left Iowa, I spent a night saying goodbye to one of my best friends. Having followed her fiancé across the country a few years earlier when he joined the Navy, she knew what I would expect. She told me I would probably be miserable for a while, but that after a few weeks, I could fake it. She warned me that it might take a few months for me to be completely comfortable in my new surroundings.

These are things that no one else came out and told me when we made our decision to move. I just assumed that there would be things that I miss about my old home, and that it would take time to adjust. But she was the first and only person who plainly said, “Yeah, it’s going to suck for a while.”

And for the most part, she was right. My parents helped us move out here and spent a day helping us to get settled. The first few days after they left were the worst. I was constantly on the verge of tears and couldn’t force myself to help my boyfriend unpack. I felt that the boxes were like a safety net – all of my things were still packed up, so in theory I could still change my mind. I found myself looking at flight schedules constantly.

During the first week or two, I cried out most of my fears. Peter sat patiently with me and listened to all of my doubts, countering each one as they came up until I had calmed down again. We repeated this cycle over and over, and the space between my panics grew longer. We found ways to keep busy – unpacking, making plans for our new space, exploring the area.

What helped me the most was a visit from Peter’s parents. His dad was given the chance to take his boss’s place at a conference in Boston, so both he and Peter’s mom came for a 6-day visit. It helped me immensely to spend time with someone besides Peter at a place that wasn’t our apartment. They wanted to make the most of their visit, so we ate at some great restaurants all over the city and took in some interesting attractions. They gave us a reason to see parts of our new home that we hadn’t seen before, and my affection for this new place grew with the more that I saw.

The past seven days since their departure have been busy. Our weekend was wasted preparing for a hurricane that barely showed up (here, at least, as I know other places got hit pretty hard). Following that was the anticipation and culmination of my birthday on Tuesday, which was immediately followed by Peter’s first day of grad school on Wednesday.

At this point, I’d like to say I’m past faking it. I really do like it here, and every day it seems more and more like home. My friend’s advice was helpful, and I’m glad that someone told me honestly what to expect.

So this is me, honestly telling you what to expect. Hopefully you’re a more stable person than I am and get through it quicker. Hopefully you have someone to help you through it. Because as awesome as it can be to start your post-grad life, it’s not always instantly comfortable. But a month makes all of the difference.

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

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.

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