Job Search

Grad Life Voices: Hope in the Job Search


-written by Jennifer, a current graduate wife

Current graduate wife, Megan Lucy, recently finished up a great five part series about finding a job after relocating for your significant other’s academic career. If you haven’t read it already, I highly recommend that you do. She gave some great advice, all which I would have loved to have had four years ago when my journey as a graduate wife began. She shared some really practical tips, and many times, took the words right out of my mouth.

I started this adventure fresh out of college. I graduated in December and was married in May. That August the hubs and I left Arkansas for Boston, where life in the “real world” truly began.

I searched for weeks for a job before we left for Massachusetts, sending out dozens of cover letters, and praying for an interview. I thought my resume was great for just coming out of college. I had an internship, relevant job experience, and a ton of great volunteer work, but apparently, none of those things were enough. I was naïve and really had no idea how the whole job searching process worked. I was likely applying for jobs that I was under qualified for, and became discouraged after just a couple weeks of searching. I felt a tremendous amount of pressure and was stressed when I wasn’t receiving any positive results. My husband had a scholarship, but only enough to partially cover his tuition. There was no stipend involved for his master’s degree, so we were entering this game with little to no financial security. The pressure was on.

As I had spent a lot of time babysitting during college, I thought that maybe I would give that a try in Boston, just long enough for us to get on our feet. I figured that the job hunt would likely be easier when we actually lived there, and decided to put the search on hold until we made it to town.

A week before we left Arkansas I talked with a family who was looking for some help– full time help to be exact. We skyped before I left, met the day after I got into town, and I then started work a few days later. This changed my plan a bit as it was a full time gig and I had committed to work for the family until the end of the school year. I told myself that during that time I would search for other jobs and begin my career in journalism at the end of the year. Well, the year came and went, and I committed to a second year with the family. Womp, womp….

My two years with this family were lovely. They treated me wonderfully and I learned many great lessons along the way. Some days were incredibly tough, but I truly grew to care for the girls I looked after. While most days I enjoyed what I did, I often felt ashamed when people would ask what my job was. “I am a journalist working as a nanny,” I would often say. I felt embarrassed that I wasn’t doing something greater, something more relevant to my preferred career choice. Despite childcare being a challenging field in its own right, I felt like I had taken the easy road by settling for a job that wasn’t right for me. Searching for a job was hard, and rejection was even harder. I gave up before I ever really started. I found security in a paycheck, and put my dreams on hold.

Eventually, our time in Boston came to an end, as did my time as a nanny. We were headed home to Arkansas for a bit and I was excited to finally begin my career as journalist. I set some writing goals and started to reach out to local publications. After a few months of being in town, I was writing consistently and working part time doing PR. My schedule was chaotic but it felt good to be creative and work a job in the field that I wanted to work in all along.

As happy as I was with the way things were, I knew that they wouldn’t be that way for long. Just like that, it was time to move again, and I was searching for a job once more.

I felt a little more confident about finding a job as we prepared to move to Austin. I had gained a lot of great work experience in Arkansas, and I was sure that I would quickly find a job once we made it to town. Unfortunately, my thinking was wrong. It took three months of consecutive work until I was finally hired. To some, three months may sound like a lifetime, it certainly felt that way to me, but according to research, three months is the average low. Some people search six months or longer before landing themselves a job.

Those three months were three of the hardest months of my life. My emotional state was determined by how well my job search was going. If I got a call back, I had a pretty good day. If I got a rejection, well, that day wasn’t so great. Eventually, even good news wasn’t so good. The whole thing made me feel ashamed and rejected, and very much unlike myself.

I feel okay talking about this now because I finally have a job, but a couple of months ago, you could find me crouching on the kitchen floor crying over our grocery bill. Most days I had to drag myself out of bed, and then there were those days that you could find me sitting in the closet, feeling as if I couldn’t bear the weight of it all. I felt so much pressure and terrified by the unknown.

Sharing with you what I went through isn’t necessarily easily, but three months ago, I needed to read something like this. I needed to know then that I wasn’t alone, and I needed someone then to tell me that it’s okay to crumble. Just because you fall apart every now and then doesn’t mean you are a failure. It just means that rejection is tough, and that job searching takes some time, no matter how qualified you are. Things will pan out, it just takes patience, which sometimes is hard to find.

I don’t have any great words of advice on how to get through it, accept to say that you will. It’s incredibly discouraging at times, but hard work does pay off. Don’t get down on yourself when things aren’t going the way you expect, and just keep moving forward. Take breaks when you need them and continue to do things that you love. Don’t let searching for a job rule your life. It may seem like your world at times, but really, it’s only part of it.

Through this all, my dissatisfaction with work in Boston, my work enjoyment in Arkansas, and my stress in Austin, I’ve learned many different lessons about life and myself. Sometimes living life as a graduate wife makes tasks that are already hard, just a little bit harder, but I am learning how to make due. I’d like to believe that this lifestyle helps to make me a bit stronger, and prepares me for what the future may hold. I am more than happy to support my husband during this time; it’s just not easy some days. If you are struggling emotionally like I know I was, hang in there. You are not alone. You’ll figure it out and make it through this, and soon, I guarantee you’ll have a job. Meanwhile, I encourage you to take this weekend to relax. Spend time with the man that you love, and give yourself a break. With my deepest sincerity, good luck! I hope that your job search will come to an end soon!

Job Search

Two Careers, One Big Move: Job Searching When Moving for a Partner’s Graduate School – Part 5


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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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!


Job Search

Two Careers, One Big Move: Job Searching When Moving for a Partner’s Graduate School – Part 4


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 4: Telling the Story of Your Career

Everybody has a story. Our stories are what set us apart and make us unique from everyone else in the world. The story of your career is what sets you apart from others applying for the same jobs. A story often begins with an outline, has a summary that entices readers to read more, and a plot built around a specific theme. In the story of a career the outline is your resume. Your resume hits all of the major plot points- where you worked when, what you accomplished, and characters- your own contact information, and that of your references. Thinking of your resume as the outline of a story will help you see how things go together, so you can find the theme of your story. The summary of a career story is a cover letter or screening interview. Your summary should be engaging, give a good idea of the overall plot and point readers in the direction to learn more. An interview is your opportunity to fully tell your story, develop your theme, and lead to the ultimate conclusion- that you are the best person for this job. Here are some tips I have found to tell a truly engaging story about your career:

  1. Get your story straight– Everything you write and say, your resume, cover letter, and interview questions should tell the same story. Make sure your outline- your resume- includes all of the necessary information, and is accurate. Double and triple check it. Then, when you write your cover letter, refer to specific information in your resume, and do the same in your interview. Be sure to bring copies of your resume and cover letter to the interview so you can easily refer to them.
  2. Find a common theme– It is not uncommon for partners of graduate students to have changed jobs multiple times while they travel from school to school with their student. While some may think of this as a liability, tell your story in a way that shows this experience as a strength. Try to find commonalities between your jobs, even if they seem very different at first glance. Maybe you worked as a barista, a telephone operator, and sales representative over the past five years. Highlight how each of these jobs made you better at customer service. Maybe you have been a web-designer, a lab tech, and an engineer. Explain how at each of these jobs you had opportunities to build critical thinking skills.
  3. Be Prepared for Plot Twists- Plot twists are those items in our resume that are unexpected and may confuse or concern the reader. In my own story, I have worked for a specific political party. My plot twist is that a potential employer of a different political inclination may see the name of my former employer on my resume and assume I wouldn’t be a good “fit” for the culture of the organization. I anticipate this and re-route the story back to my original plot- that I’m perfect for this job- by emphasizing the parts of my political work that were non-partisan, like helping veterans get their benefits, and working with people of the opposite party to solve local problems. Other plot twists could be periods of unemployment, time off to raise a family, a lost job, or major career change. Whatever your plot twist is, think of ways to use it to reinforce rather than damage your overall story.
  4. Be The Hero of Your Story- Sometimes it can be hard, or feel wrong to talk about yourself. A lot of times, for me, it is much easier to talk about how proud we are of others- our kids, our partner, our friends- than it is to talk about how proud we are of ourselves. Other people’s stories are awesome, and we should be proud to share them, but it is important to remember that, as far as your career story is concerned- YOU are the hero. Don’t be nervous about sharing your accomplishments, taking pride in your work, or talking about your strengths as an employee. In the setting of an interview this isn’t “bragging,” it is advertising yourself honestly, as the accomplished potential employee you are.
  5. Tell Your Story Over and Over- Some of the best stories are ones we can tell from memory- The Three Little Pigs, Sleeping Beauty, Spiderman’s origin story. We know these stories by heart because we have heard them told over and over again. Your career story should also be a story you know by heart. You should practice telling it, so that even when you are nervous, or caught off guard by a surprise interview opportunity, you are confident in how your story goes. A great way to practice is by having practice interviews with your partner (surely you’ve listened to him/her practice presentations enough that he/she owes you one!), a friend, or someone at a local career center. The feedback you get from practice interviews can be constructive, but just as constructive is the act of practicing itself.

Next Up, Part 5: Maintaining Your Sanity During a Job Search.


Job Search

Two Careers, One Big Move: Job Searching When Moving for a Partner’s Graduate School – Part 3


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 and 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


Job Search

Two Careers, One Big Move: Job Searching When Moving for a Partner’s Graduate School – Part 2


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 CV or 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 2: Preparing a Solid CV or Resume

Anyone who has seen a graduate student spend hours pouring over journal articles and staying up into the wee hours of the morning writing a dissertation knows the power that a paper can have over lives. The day my husband hit send on his doctoral program applications was the day I started revising an important paper of my own- my resume. Considering the importance a document such as a resume or CV plays in our lives, it is no wonder there are so many competing opinions on what makes a killer resume stand out. Should it be one page or twenty? Should you include every job, or only the most relevant ones? Should it be creative or standard? Enter a search for resume advice and you will get all sorts of conflicting answers to these questions. The truth is, that while confusing, I have found all of that advice to be correct, just not for everyone. The best way to make sure your resume is solid is to make sure it is a good fit- a good fit for the field you are wanting to enter, a good fit for the way the document will be reviewed, and a good fit for you as an individual. Here are some questions to consider to help you find that “fit.”

1. What do the resumes of others in this line of work look like?

Different careers require different types of resumes. Academics often have 15-30 page long Curriculum Vitae, while careers in business may require short 1-2 page resumes. A graphic design firm may value an artistic resume or a tech company may be “wowed” by a resume with an online component, while such extras might get overlooked or looked down on in another field. To figure out what is expected of a resume in your line of work, look at the resumes of others in your field. If you have friends in your line of work, ask if you can see their resumes. You can also find examples by looking at sites like LinkedIn, but remember to search specifically for people in jobs similar to the one you want.

2. What is expected for a specific job vacancy?

One of the biggest mistakes that people make is only having one resume that they use to apply for every vacancy. This is a mistake because what is valued by one organization for a specific vacancy, may not be what another organization is looking for, or even what the same organization is looking for in a different vacancy. You should read job ads carefully to find out what that specific ad is asking for, and tailor your resume to fit that specific ad. In the previous installment, I mentioned keeping a long form CV from which you can cut and paste different experiences. This is where that comes in. A summer job as a barista might not be helpful if you are applying for a web-design job, and could be left off that resume. However, if you are applying for a job in sales, the barista gig could demonstrate good customer service skills, while the fact that you know C++ might not be as relevant. In most cases, especially where space is concerned, it is okay to pick and choose what to include on your resume.

3. What format does the document need to be in?

There are a lot of different ways to apply for a job these days. Some organizations will still accept paper resumes mailed to their P.O. box or hand delivered. Others want applications attached to an email to a specific address. Still, others won’t accept your pre-written resume at all, and will require you to paste information from it into their web form. It is important to look in the job ad for this information, and follow it as closely as possible. Chances are, if you do not submit your resume via the preferred method, it will not be considered.

4. Are any additional documents needed?

Depending on the job you are applying for, you may be asked for additional documents. You may need to provide transcripts, licensing paperwork, proof of car insurance, letters of recommendation, or other field specific documents. Check the job posting for this information and be sure to provide all of the required documentation, all at the same time so nothing gets separated. One additional document that may or may not be mentioned in a job ad, and is often controversial is a cover letter. When I worked in politics I was told to never include a cover letter, because it would be ignored. When I moved to university administration, and was seeking jobs where writing skills were valued, my cover letters became very important. If you are unsure if you need a cover letter, ask others in the field, or look for examples from your field online. Remember, like the resume itself, it is essential that cover letters be unique for every application you submit.

Next up, Part 3: Planning an Efficient Job Search


Job Search

Two Careers, One Big Move: Job Searching When Moving for a Partner’s Graduate School – Part 1


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


Humans of New York: A Peek into Graduate Life

Stories are worth sharing.

I’ve been a big fan of Humans of New York, both on Facebook and Tumblr for some time. Brandon has done a tremendous job of sharing amazing stories of people all over the world, and it truly highlights that fact that no matter what culture we’re part of or country we live in, a lot of the same fears, hopes, and dreams are universal.

One of the stories he shared recently was from a couple from Vietnam who had weathered graduate school in the USA. Here’s a snippet of the post:

“Our daughter was five months old when I got a scholarship to Johns Hopkins. My wife came with me to Baltimore so that our family could stay together. I will always be thankful for that sacrifice, because I know it was the toughest three years of her life. She didn’t speak a word of English…”

It’s a beautiful story of giving, sacrificial love, and the deepening of relationships. No matter where we sit in the graduate life at the moment, it’s stories like this that keep me going, and I hope it does the same for you too.





The Dating Game


-written by Elissa, a current graduate wife

It’s fall and academic life is in full swing. For the scholars, the season means new writing, tutorials, seminars, book reviews and job applications. For the partners, this season means a wide variety of things but specifically for now, new relationships. You may have thought casual dating was something you would never do again after committing to your scholarly sweetheart. You were wrong.

Life as a graduate spouse, especially around this time of year, can feel like a never-ending speed dating escapade, first impression after first impression. People are exchanging numbers, fretting over coming on too strong and awkwardly engaging in conversation as they try to meet friends in their new environments. Few are particularly comfortable at this stage in the semester.

If you recently left home or your last version of it, I feel for you. The ratio of strangers to familiar faces is daunting. By the time you settle into life’s new patterns, you may not even have the energy for the friend dating game. That was my experience when my husband and I left Vancouver, and landed in St Andrews, Scotland back in September of 2011.

The first few weeks stretched our little family and we became insular to cope. We spent nearly all our time together. We listened to Bon Iver on repeat for days, consuming an impressive amount of wine and comfort food, and binge-watching Arrested Development for the third time. Eventually Steve and I realized that as much as we adored each other’s company, we had to start seeing other people.

Now, you need to know this. I’m an extrovert and a social connector to the core but the move shook me up. In those early days, it was a great accomplishment if I managed to have a conversation – any conversation – with another breathing human, let alone a peer. Eventually, I was invited to an event designed to link women who were connected to St. Andrews’ Divinity school. My husband was studying Medieval History, so I was technically outside the fold. I felt a bit uneasy about it, but I knew it would be good for me and I chose to attend.

It was the ultimate speed dating experience. We sat in a circle and introduced ourselves. I wore a name tag and perched nervously on a cold plastic chair, nodding and trying to smile. It sounds uncomfortable because it was.

Finally, it was my turn.

“Hi. My name is Elissa. I’m from Vancouver, Canada.”

Each woman shared what pulled her to the Scottish seaside town. I remember listening to another person introduce herself and all at once her words cut through the static in my head and rang like church bells.

“Hi. I’m Andrea and I’m from Seattle.”

At last my thoughts were discernible- “Seattle? The other Vancouver?! Thank God!” We had common ground. I got butterflies in my stomach and hoped she was the One.

When the event’s formalities were over, I pounced with a pick-up line. Andrea and I discovered we shared a mutual fondness for yoga pants and happy hour nachos from a tequila bar in Ballard. We exchanged numbers and set up a date to do what west coast people do best: walk in dismal weather conditions while drinking a hot beverage. Thankfully, Andrea and I hit it off.

I steadily made more friends in the weeks that followed but, as expected, the honeymoon period ended. I realized how deeply I missed my close relationships at home. I longed to share history, to be known. Sometimes I felt like I was counting the days until I could visit Canada. Recovering from a displaced social life is painful and exhausting. It’s so hard to leave your comfort zone and go on dates with new people when all you want is to process the pain of isolation and loneliness with long-distance friends at home.

The beautiful thing is that feelings of isolation abound in graduate circles. Many of us were experiencing the same pain. It took time and vulnerability but eventually acquaintances became meaningful friends and we found solace in each other.

Time passed. My new friends and I endured the cold Scottish winter and the stresses of academic life side by side. When our spouses were knee-deep in work, we were graduate widows together. We enjoyed the long days of summer, the quirks of life in a tourist town. We shared knowing glances and inside jokes.

When I finally visited home in July, I treasured every minute with my long-time friends. Absence did indeed make my heart fonder for my girls at home. I also realized, though, that part of me was completely unknown to them and that part of me became lonely. I experienced the same longing to be understood, for someone to say, “I’ve been there. I get it.” I found myself missing my St Andrews community.

When we returned to Scotland, I got out my little black book and got in the game again. It felt surreal to be perceived as a veteran. Had it already been a year? What’s more surreal is that as I write this, I am playing the field for the fourth time in St Andrews.

Currently, I am discovering the tension in making friends as someone with an established community. I certainly want to make people feel welcome and help them get connected and yet a part of me almost doesn’t even want to meet them because if I enjoy their company, it means I’ve got one more friend to say goodbye to when I leave. Saying goodbye is rough. The other sad reality is that every minute I spend investing in a new friend is one minute away from girlfriends who will soon depart and before long, I’ll be the new person all over again. This damn dating cycle never ends.

I’ve found that being a veteran graduate wife puts me in a unique position to help new arrivals and to be honest, I feel a sense of responsibility to help them connect. I cannot and will not befriend them all but I do earnestly long for them to find their own community. I empathize and want to see them happy and understood.

I’m no relationship expert, but after doing this for so long, I think I have some tips worth sharing.

Get uncomfortable. You won’t meet people if you’re sitting at home with your partner. Go on, girl. Get out there.

Do what you love. Find a book club. Join a gym. Sign up for a class of some sort. Go for drinks with your new co-workers. Take your kids around town. Hang out at a community center or local church. You’ll have some common ground to build on.

Be the friend you seek. Get clear on what you value in a friend and be that person. Like-minded people flock together.

Make the first move. If you meet someone that you click with, don’t be afraid to ask for their number and plan a date. A phone number doesn’t obligate you to be best friends, so why not take the risk?

Harbour your expectations. Each person defines friendship differently and social norms vary. Trying to build bridges in unfamiliar territory is difficult and it could take some getting used to.

Be vulnerable. You may be surprised at the impact this will have on your relationships.

Explore Facebook. Hopefully there are some local public groups worth joining. You may meet others who are share your status as a graduate wife and are also looking for friends.

Try to make friends with locals and expats and everything in between. You’ll be happy you did. Variety keeps things spicy.

Go to The Graduate Wife Facebook page and share where you’re from. You may be spending time alone when you could be getting to know another reader in the same town. Go find yourself some new friends.

What has helped you make friends on your graduate journey? Would you add any tips?

Shuga' Mommas

Shuga’ Mommas: Recipe for Success, and Chilli Mac!

My husband has been going through a particularly busy patch with grad work this semester and while it is safe to say that I do see him off to work every weekday morning, our time to spend together has all but dwindled to about an hour and a half in the evenings. We make the most of this meaningful time, though: this is when we cook dinner!

Cooking for me is a fairly new endeavor. My husband deserves the accolades for cooking in the past but, given our current season of life – I was excited to step up to the plate (ha!), and have started creating our weekly dinner menus. Because of this, I truly look forward to this time together because it not only gives us a set “dinner date” nearly every night of the week, but also has given me the confidence to do something that I was so weary of before. Sure, we eat a little later than most, but the time we get to spend in the kitchen and subsequent dinner together is totally worth it. I’m even finding that I love all this cooking going on in my kitchen! :-)

The first recipe I want to share is one of our recent favorites. We can usually save some for a following evening because there’s definitely enough for leftovers.

One Pot – Vegetarian Macaroni Chili



  • 1 Tbs Olive Oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 3 fresh garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 lb. ground veggie crumbles or ground turkey (I use Lightlife: Smart Ground)
  • 2 Tbs chili powder (I used powdered red chile, found at Whole Foods)
  • 2 tsp taco seasoning (optional)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cans (15 ounces each) stewed tomatoes
  • 1 can rinsed black beans
  • 1 ½ Cups macaroni noodles
  • 2 ½ Cups water
  • 1 Cup shredded cheddar cheese, plus more for topping


  1. In a large pot (I used a dutch oven) heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, jalapeno, green pepper, and garlic. Sauté until softened, approximately 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add veggie crumbles or turkey and break into small pieces. Cook until brown.
  3. Add chili powder, taco seasoning, cumin, salt, tomatoes, beans, noodles, and water. Stir to combine, bring to a boil and then reduce to a medium low heat.
  4. Cook until noodles are soft, approximately 10-12 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat and stir in grated cheese.
  6. Serve with more shredded cheese on top.
  7. Enjoy!



Living on the Ledge

The streets below: Jun Ahn high above the chaotic architecture and bustle of Hong Kong

This is a heavy, heavy post shared anonymously by a graduate wife in the USA. We found her to be very brave to share her story with our readers. This graduate journey can be bumpy for some, but when anxiety and depression are added to this mix, in some cases, it can cause devastating results. Our readers are scattered all over the world, so after reading this post, if you have a suicide prevention number for your country, please send it to us, and we’ll add it to this post. You just might save someone’s life. If you are suffering with anxiety and depression, please seek help. You are not alone. You ARE worth it.  – Mandy & M.C.

“If I die, I won’t be worried any more.”

Scary thought? Yes, and it’s one that went through my head. It is also the thought that signaled to me that I needed help, and set me on a path through counseling that would prevent me from acting on that negative impulse. It is my hope that any one reading my story will come away with the knowledge that you are not alone, and that it is acceptable to seek mental health care when you need it.

My struggle with anxiety started when I was young. For as long as I can remember I’ve been a hypochondriac. One sore muscle from sports would build up in my mind until I was sure I would need a limb amputated. When I recovered without losing any limbs, my worry would ease, but only until the next over-blown health problem would convince me I was doomed.

In college, the stress increased until I finally went to the nurse with a list a mile long of all the things I thought were wrong with me. The nurse took one look at me and said, “You’re not dying, you have anxiety, and need to talk to someone”. When the results came back from all the tests I asked the nurse to take, “so I’d have one less thing to worry about,” I agreed to see a counselor.

The campus counselor gave me information about anxiety and some control methods to use. For years, this was helpful, and I was able to talk myself down from panic attacks simply by realizing it was just panic. But while my husband was in grad school, my anxiety reached whole new levels. I was anxious all the time. If the phone rang I was sure it would be devastating news. When I drove I thought the car sounded funny and would catch on fire. Everything was blown out of proportion. I knew this, and I didn’t want to be like this, but I couldn’t stop the thoughts, and I couldn’t stop panicking about them.

There are a couple reasons I didn’t seek help right away. For one, I felt like a failure. I felt like I should be able to control it myself. I had for years, why couldn’t I do it now? For another thing, I knew I’d have to pay for therapy and as the spouse of a graduate student, we didn’t have a lot of extra money. I got to the point where I was at levels 9 and 10 of 10 on a panic scale for days on end. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I vomited because I was physically ill from all the worry. I couldn’t even see straight I was so worried, malnourished, and exhausted. I would think, ”How could I live like this? I’m young! I can’t be like this for decades.” Then, during one of my worst attacks, a new thought crossed my mind: “If I die, I won’t be worried anymore”. WOW. I’d pushed all the other red flags from my mind with my stubbornness, but that one couldn’t be ignored. I decided that my life was worth investing in.

I saw a therapist who helped me with coping mechanisms, sort through things, learn how to not get so stressed. She had drills I could do, ways to think about things in a calm fashion. She gave me charts to write things out on to help me see that my situations were manageable. Anxiety isn’t really cured, but you can learn ways to manage it.

Another thing that helped was reading Dan Harris’ book 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works. Like me, Harris didn’t think meditation was for him. After searching for ways to calm anxiety he learned of its benefits. When I start to feel panicked and my mind starts running wild with unfounded worst-case-scenarios, I lay down, I take deep breaths, and I think about the problem instead of trying to distract myself. I say to myself, “What is actually going on now? That other stuff isn’t, it’s your mind going wild. What is the likelihood that one of those worst-case scenarios will actually happen? Basically zero. And if it does, deal with it then. Don’t stress about endless possibilities that aren’t actually going on.” And so on and so forth.

Anxiety can do amazing things. I didn’t say good. I said amazing. It can heighten your senses, and it can make you feel that the stress in your mind as actually physical ailments, which then causes more stress.

The stress still comes but I now have the tools to deal with it. If I get near those levels again I’ll seek help right away.

If you’re like me, please, please see someone. In the USA, Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Americans are required to have health insurance, and the majority of healthcare plans must cover mental health services. You may be eligible through your spouse’s student insurance plan, your own employer’s insurance, Medicaid, or a state insurance exchange plan. Whatever your plan is, familiarize yourself with the benefits, and what mental health services are covered. If you don’t have an insurance plan, or your plan doesn’t cover mental health services, don’t give up. Your spouse’s university counseling center may be able to refer you to free or low cost services that can help. Another option you have is to call the National Association of Mental Illness (NAMI) Helpline. NAMI volunteers can offer limited counseling, but more importantly refer you to appropriate mental health service providers in your area. NAMI can be reached on weekdays between 10:00am and 6:00pm EST at 1 (800) 950-NAMI (6264). If you live in another country, I encourage you to seek out to understand what your resources and options are.

Finally, if you or a loved one is considering suicide, you can seek help 24 hours a day through the numbers below. I know a lot of GW readers are worldwide, so if your country is not listed below, please let us know what it is so we can add it.

USA: National Suicide Prevention Hotline (800)273-TALK(8255).

UK:  SupportLine Telephone Helpline: 01708 765200.

Canada: CASP/ACPS – This link can help Canadians navigate hotlines based on geography.

Know that you are not alone. Seeking help is worth it. YOU are worth it. Talk to someone.

As a graduate wife, how have you dealt with anxiety and depression?