–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 3: Planning an Efficient Job Search
The question that can seem the most daunting at the beginning of a job search is, “Where do I look?” When I was 16 and looking for my first job, I stopped at our local shopping mall, walked into each store, one by one and asked if they were hiring. It took all day, and I didn’t get a single call back from any of the stores I visited. It was an exhausting and demoralizing experience. The next time I looked for a job, I did my research, planned ahead, and ended up being able to choose from three competing and exciting offers in a relatively short period of time. The following lessons I’ve learned can help you hone in on your best chances of finding the right job, and saving your time, effort, and emotional health.
Lesson 1: Have a goal. This might seem silly. The goal of a job search is to get a job, you might say! Yes, but what kind of job and how quickly? Your life circumstances will determine the answers to these questions and help you set your goals. My first job search as a graduate wife was as a newlywed with little savings. We knew it was not possible for us to live off of my husband’s small stipend, so my goal was to find an acceptable job quickly. That turned out to be a short-term gig as a political campaign organizer that only lasted until Election Day. When the campaign job ended, we were more established in our new home, I had more connections in the community, and our finances were in better order. I could take more time for the next search. The campaign job made me realize that I wanted out of politics, and I decided that as we were likely always to be near a university, that university administration would be a better fit for me. My goal this time around was not to take the first job, but the best job. Knowing that a job search involving a change in career paths could take longer, I did free-lance content writing for a website, while I monitored local university job boards for the right opportunities. Within a few months, I had begun a new career helping faculty members gain promotion and tenure.
Lesson 2: Do some research. This is especially important if you are moving to a new city. You can feel even more lost than usual in a job search in a place you have never been to before. Start by reading up on your new city. Look at their Wikipedia page, city government page, convention and visitors bureau pages. Find the names of organizations in the city that employ people in your line of work. If you are a member of a professional organization, alumni group, or other organization, find out if they have a branch in your new town and reach out through those connections. Check with friends on social media to see if you have friends or friends of friends in the new place. These people may or may not know of a job opening for you, but they may be able to help in other ways, like giving you a place to spend the night when you come to town for an interview, or helping you know what streets to avoid during rush hour.
Lesson 3: Narrow your search. General job posting websites like monster.com and indeed.com may seem like the obvious place to start a search, but I have found them to be exceptionally frustrating and unproductive. Vacancies posted to these sites are often out-of-date, so that by the time you apply, the position has already been filled. Additionally, the sites are often not the method the hiring organizations prefer applications be sent through. Finally, it can be frustrating to sort through hundreds of vacancies you are not interested in to find one that applies to you. I have found that it is much more efficient to use your research to narrow your search to specific organizations you want to apply to. For instance, if you are looking for a job in a hospital, find the names of the hospitals in the area you are moving to, and look for postings on their human resources websites. The postings you find on an organization’s own website will more than likely be up-to-date and include the best information about what the company is looking for. Another place to look is field and region specific websites. Search for your state and field of work to see if there is a network of employers in your field with a job board targeted to your region. Examples of this would be the Kentucky Non-Profit Network, Ohio Museums Association, and the American Library Association. Others who work in your field may be able to give you tips about organizations like these that maintain field specific job boards. If you do find an opening on a job board, whether general or field specific, I suggest doing a follow up search on the hiring organization’s website to confirm that the vacancy is still open.
Lesson 4: Keep good records. Keep a list of vacancies you want to apply for, their deadlines, and where you are in the application process. Keep copies of email correspondence related to your job search, and take notes during any phone conversations you have. Staying organized will keep you from missing out on opportunities because you forgot to apply or lost track of the paperwork.
Up next, Part 4: Telling the Story of Your Career