–written by Megan Lucy, a current graduate wife
For many of our families, the graduate student is not the only one whose career is deeply affected by the decision to enter graduate school. Partners who choose to re-locate with their student often face a difficult job search of their own. This series brings together tips I have learned from my experiences studying public personnel management, working with hiring and promotion in the university setting, and my own job searches throughout our graduate school journey. The series is in five parts:
Part 1: Building a Career You Can Move With
Part 2: Preparing a Solid Resume
Part 3: Planning an Efficient Job Search
Part 4: Telling the Story of Your Career
Part 5: Maintaining Your Sanity During a Job Search
Part 1: Building a Career You Can Move With
Moving from between cities, states, even countries, is a common part of the graduate school life. The letter of acceptance that marks the end of an anxiety ridden search for a graduate program for one partner can mean the beginning of an equally stressful job search for the other. I’ve had to move twice, and switch jobs three times in the short three years my husband has been in graduate school. Each time was frustrating and scary, but it has gotten better along the way. In this part of the Two Careers, One Big Move series I cover ways to prepare for a job search long before it happens, so you aren’t overwhelmed when it is time for the search to begin.
Tip 1: Document your career as it happens.
Pulling together a career history right before a job search is much more difficult than cultivating one throughout your day-to-day life. I recommend starting a file folder (either hard copy or on your computer, your choice) each time you begin a new job. In that folder, place your job description, any evaluations you receive, and examples of projects you worked on. Additionally, anytime you receive a complementary note, add it to the folder. Later, when you are searching for a new job, you can refer to these documents for evidence and inspiration.
Tip 2: Cultivate skills during periods of unemployment or underemployment
At different times in your life, you may find yourself out of work either by consequence or by choice. Likewise, a difficult move or other circumstances may find you in a job that doesn’t realize your full potential. It is important to still consider these periods as part of your long term career and be building skills throughout. Taking classes and volunteering are two excellent ways to learn new skills and keep old skills sharp. Likewise, try to stay up to date on current trends in your field by reading websites, professional journals and magazines related to your line of work.
Tip 3: Maintain a good relationship with potential references
If you are considered a finalist for a position, the organization looking to hire you will call your former employers to ask their opinion on your work. You want these people a) to remember you and b) to give you a glowing reference. The first step to maintaining good references is to avoid making a bad one. When you must leave a job, do so respectfully and in a way that causes as little damage to the organization as possible. The second key to having good references is to keep in touch. Email or call your former employers and coworkers from time to time to say hi, so that when you call to ask them to be a reference, they will remember you. When you are entering a job search, you should prepare those who will serve as your references. Send them an email explaining your job search, and politely ask them to be a reference for you. Attach a copy of your CV or resume so they will have it to refer when your potential new employer calls.
Tip 4: Keep a Long-Form Curriculum Vitae
Some fields, perhaps your partner’s academic field, require a career spanning Curriculum Vitae, that lists every job that person has had, every responsibility she has had in those jobs, awards won, courses taught, papers published, and the list goes on. For a professional with a decades long career, a CV may reach 30 or more pages. Other fields of work require a much shorter resume, sometimes only one page long. No matter the field you are in, keeping in mind the idea of a long-form CV can be very helpful. Keep one long document that lists everything you have ever worked on, including volunteer work and all of your responsibilities and achievements. Later, when you are deciding what makes the cut for a shorter resume, you can cut and paste from this much longer list.
Tip 5: Seek out opportunities to develop new skills
Versatility is a very useful tool for the partner of a graduate student, especially one who must move frequently. Try not to limit yourself to what your current job description says. When opportunities arise to be part of a different project, join a different committee, or receive different training than you normally would, seize these chances. Through saying yes to something different, you may discover a career path you hadn’t considered before, become qualified for positions you previously had not been, and demonstrate your value as an employee willing to be a team player and learn new things.
Up next, Part 2: Preparing a Solid CV or Resume