–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 5: Maintaining Your Sanity During a Job Search
Job searches involve a special level of frustration. They come with long waits, the knowledge that people are judging you, rejection, and uncertainty. None of these things are fun. None of them are entirely avoidable. However, by the third or fourth time I went through the job search process, I found that while I couldn’t control whether a company rejected me, or how quickly they responded to my calls, I could manage my reactions to the frustrations of job searching. I could put my best work into the search, without it driving me insane. Here are some of the best tips I have:
- Keep a schedule. Set a specific day and time during which you will work on your search. It is best if you can set this time during the usual workday, so you will be able to be in touch with potential employers during that time. However, if you are working and searching at the same time, that may not be possible. Perhaps you can set aside one hour each night, or a block of time on Saturday morning. Keep that time sacred, and devoted entirely to your search. More importantly, try not to worry or think about the search outside of that time.
- Work on other projects. My plan for my first post-grad job search was to work on it all day, every day until I was hired. This is unrealistic. There may be long periods of time during a job search when there is nothing you can do but wait. If the job search is all you are thinking about, the waiting will frustrate you immensely. Instead of worrying, fill this time with something else. If you are moving, you can be working on sorting through your belongings, learning about what to see in your new town, or planning décor for your new home. Do something fun, binge-watch a TV show, start a new craft, learn to play a symphony on the kazoo. Anything is better than making yourself sick with worry.
- Lean on your partner. At the Graduate Wife, we talk a lot about being there for your partner during the ups and downs of graduate school. Sometimes it is a lot easier to give support than to receive it. A job search is a good time to work on the skill of receiving support. Speak up and let your partner know what is frustrating you and let him/her comfort you. Let your partner remind you of how much he/she loves you and that your value to him/her is not tied to your career. This is a time to be thankful for being lucky enough to have a partner to share life’s journey with.
- Don’t take it personally. This is a tough one, especially if you are leaving a job you like and are well respected at, especially if this is your first search or first in a long time, especially if you are human. Our careers are important, and can feel like an essential part of who we are. Facing the multiple rejections that are par for the course in a job search can hurt your self-esteem and make you question who you are- but only if you let it. I’ve been on the hiring committee side of job searches before too. The decisions that hiring committees make are really tough. They may see dozens of equally qualified applicants. It could be that they have to choose between multiple people who would be a great fit for the one opening they have. Just because you are not chosen for a job doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t have been great at it. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t cut out for a career, or that you aren’t a valuable individual. It means one thing- there was one opening, and this time it wasn’t for you. Maybe the next one will be. Maybe the one after that. There will be a place for you to work and contribute. In the interim, your job isn’t the only awesome thing about you. You do a ton of awesome stuff every day that makes you unique. If you don’t believe me- go ask your grad student. He or she knows how amazing you are.
- Remind yourself that the search is hard and long, and that’s okay. I’m not a patient person. I’m the type of person who sends an email and then refreshes the screen to see if I’ve gotten a response yet. That’s not how job searches work. Job searches can take many months, and that’s okay. It’s okay because you want the organization that hires you to have taken their part of the search as seriously as you have taken yours. You spent a lot of time, effort, and thought preparing a resume and application. You want the people reading it to take the time to consider your skills and accomplishments and be thoughtful about determining if you are a good fit for the organization. You want to work for an organization that cares about making the right decisions in who they hire, and that takes time.
Best of luck to you on your job journey!