Job Search

Grad Life Voices: Hope in the Job Search

Credit
Credit

-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!

Advertisements
Expectations · Moving · Sacrifice

REPOST: The Courage of Exploration

                                                                                             written by Sarah – a current graduate wife

So there I was, sitting at a cheap, plywood table in Newcastle England, starting blankly into a MacBook, more than 3,000 miles away from where I wanted to be.

How did I get so far off course, you might ask? Well, pull up a chair and lend an ear. My story is one a graduate wife can appreciate.

Some of you might remember what it is like to have a great career. I can still hear the hum of the printing press and feel the thick tension in the air as I tried to get a newspaper out on deadline. As a reporter and editor for our local newspaper the days were 100 mile-per-hour marathons, both exhilarating and exhausting. Since I was a little girl I had dreamed of this career. Every extra-curricular activity, internship and my university education had been strategically designed to make me a super reporter.

In my early 20s, I had almost made it. I was an editor at the local paper. The job title, awards and offers proved that I had become a small town Lois Lane. But I was aiming higher.

Then I met my husband.

He was intelligent, ambitious, a Matt Damon look-alike, and I was in love. He was also applying for medical school.

After a year of dating and applying for schools, we were married. On our one month anniversary he was accepted to a medical program – out of the country. We would be moving once a year for the first four years of our marriage, or more if fellowships and residencies dictated.

Like a monkey wrench thrown into the cogs of a printing press, my dreams came to a grinding halt. For this next season of our lives it would either have to be his career or mine on the chopping block – we couldn’t do both. With a few tears, I carefully packed up our unopened wedding gifts, cleaned off my desk and moved to England. I doggedly looked for a job. Anything. Sadly, there were no jobs there in newsroom administration, especially for a transient who would stick around for less than a year. This foreigner couldn’t make headway in the reporting business either – I didn’t know a bobby from a bodge.

Do you ever feel resentment for the sacrifices you have been asked to make?

My bitter tears and empty days alone in a foreign country were poison to my budding marriage. I knew I needed to find an antidote.

A wise comedian, who also found himself 3,000 miles from where he wanted to be, once said, “There are few things more liberating in this life than having your worst fear realized.” Conan O’Brien might have been speaking to graduating academics at Dartmouth, but his words resonated with me. He continues:

“I went to college with many people who prided themselves on knowing exactly who they were and exactly where they were going. At Harvard, five different guys in my class told me that they would one day be President of the United States. Four of them were later killed in motel shoot-outs. The other one briefly hosted Blues Clues, before dying senselessly in yet another motel shoot-out. Your path at 22 will not necessarily be your path at 32 or 42. One’s dream is constantly evolving, rising and falling, changing course.”

As a newly-minted graduate wife, change was my only constant and adaptation my only antidote.

Somewhere in that foreign London fog of change and hopelessness, I started trying new things. I explored. I blogged. I taught myself how to design a website. I adapted.

Fredrick Nietzsche famously said “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” But what he failed to stress is that it almost kills you. The loneliness, the disrupted career path and the stress in my marriage almost killed me. But for those who are stuck in the middle of that mire, I promise that on the other end of your effort there is peace.

My blank stare into that MacBook on that plywood table in that cold, dreary place turned into a journey of exploration. But only because I made it so. Conan was right – there is nothing more exhilarating than having your life flipped on its head and, through your own sheer force of will, flipping it right side up again. When you finally straighten things out, your dreams might look a little different. But because you were the one to do the changing, somehow those new dreams are alright.

Sacrifice became what I made it. It was still painful, but only as painful as I would allow it to be between the bouts of blogging and exploring.

We have survived our second move now and are tripping blissfully and blindly into year three of marriage and year two of his late night, blood-shot eye studying. We have learned that those who adapt, survive. I am a survivor.

What strategies have you found successful in your transition to a graduate wife?

Monday's Food for Thought

Monday’s Food for Thought: The Power of Being Vulnerable

This insightful TED talk, recently shared by my friend Kat, presents us with MUCH food for thought on this lovely Monday morning.  If you have 20 minutes over your lunch break, or while someone is napping, I highly recommend you check it out.  For some of you what Dr. Brene Brown shares is like second nature to you already.  For some of you, it might be something you are learning to do and you can relate to the hardship mentioned…and for some of you it might be a completely foreign concept.  As a graduate wife, I have realized just how truly powerful the act of being ‘vulnerable’ is and how, in my opinion, I don’t think we can survive without it.  I hope the below talk really leaves you with much stirring in your heart, as it did for me.  Lots to chew on…

-Does true courage mean admitting we are imperfect?

-The actual meaning of courage is to share one’s heart.

-Is being truly vulnerable beautiful?

-When we try to numb emotions and run from being vulnerable, do we numb true joy, love, peace as well?

-M.C.

Expectations · Moving · Sacrifice

The Courage of Exploration

                                                                                             written by Sarah – a current graduate wife

So there I was, sitting at a cheap, plywood table in Newcastle England, starting blankly into a MacBook, more than 3,000 miles away from where I wanted to be.

How did I get so far off course, you might ask? Well, pull up a chair and lend an ear. My story is one a graduate wife can appreciate.

Some of you might remember what it is like to have a great career. I can still hear the hum of the printing press and feel the thick tension in the air as I tried to get a newspaper out on deadline. As a reporter and editor for our local newspaper the days were 100 mile-per-hour marathons, both exhilarating and exhausting. Since I was a little girl I had dreamed of this career. Every extra-curricular activity, internship and my university education had been strategically designed to make me a super reporter.

In my early 20s, I had almost made it. I was an editor at the local paper. The job title, awards and offers proved that I had become a small town Lois Lane. But I was aiming higher.

Then I met my husband.

He was intelligent, ambitious, a Matt Damon look-alike, and I was in love. He was also applying for medical school.

After a year of dating and applying for schools, we were married. On our one month anniversary he was accepted to a medical program – out of the country. We would be moving once a year for the first four years of our marriage, or more if fellowships and residencies dictated.

Like a monkey wrench thrown into the cogs of a printing press, my dreams came to a grinding halt. For this next season of our lives it would either have to be his career or mine on the chopping block – we couldn’t do both. With a few tears, I carefully packed up our unopened wedding gifts, cleaned off my desk and moved to England. I doggedly looked for a job. Anything. Sadly, there were no jobs there in newsroom administration, especially for a transient who would stick around for less than a year. This foreigner couldn’t make headway in the reporting business either – I didn’t know a bobby from a bodge.

Do you ever feel resentment for the sacrifices you have been asked to make?

My bitter tears and empty days alone in a foreign country were poison to my budding marriage. I knew I needed to find an antidote.

A wise comedian, who also found himself 3,000 miles from where he wanted to be, once said, “There are few things more liberating in this life than having your worst fear realized.” Conan O’Brien might have been speaking to graduating academics at Dartmouth, but his words resonated with me. He continues:

“I went to college with many people who prided themselves on knowing exactly who they were and exactly where they were going. At Harvard, five different guys in my class told me that they would one day be President of the United States. Four of them were later killed in motel shoot-outs. The other one briefly hosted Blues Clues, before dying senselessly in yet another motel shoot-out. Your path at 22 will not necessarily be your path at 32 or 42. One’s dream is constantly evolving, rising and falling, changing course.”

As a newly-minted graduate wife, change was my only constant and adaptation my only antidote.

Somewhere in that foreign London fog of change and hopelessness, I started trying new things. I explored. I blogged. I taught myself how to design a website. I adapted.

Fredrick Nietzsche famously said “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” But what he failed to stress is that it almost kills you. The loneliness, the disrupted career path and the stress in my marriage almost killed me. But for those who are stuck in the middle of that mire, I promise that on the other end of your effort there is peace.

My blank stare into that MacBook on that plywood table in that cold, dreary place turned into a journey of exploration. But only because I made it so. Conan was right – there is nothing more exhilarating than having your life flipped on its head and, through your own sheer force of will, flipping it right side up again. When you finally straighten things out, your dreams might look a little different. But because you were the one to do the changing, somehow those new dreams are alright.

Sacrifice became what I made it. It was still painful, but only as painful as I would allow it to be between the bouts of blogging and exploring.

We have survived our second move now and are tripping blissfully and blindly into year three of marriage and year two of his late night, blood-shot eye studying. We have learned that those who adapt, survive. I am a survivor.

What strategies have you found successful in your transition to a graduate wife?

Inspiration · Moving · Patience · Roles · Sacrifice · Trust · Vocation/Gifts/Calling

Pilgrim Call

Written by Judy – a former graduate wife

Today I open the book of readings my husband gave me over 26 years ago—before we were married—and the author’s dedication reminds me of who I am: ‘For every pilgrim who yearns for God’

I am a pilgrim, though an unlikely one. When I was growing up, my family rarely traveled. We lived in the same house since I was four years old and the furthest we traveled was to a nearby campground for our vacations. We did not suffer from wanderlust.

So I think it came as a surprise to all of us when, at the age of seventeen, I became convinced that I was meant to go away from home for university. Far away. Three thousand miles away. And though I have been back for visits, and even married a man from the same state, I have never lived there again. In fact, I have never lived again in any of the nine cities (in three different countries) in which we have lived since getting married.

I could say I blame my husband for my vagabond state. He was a graduate student when I met him, and three graduate degrees and a job in academia later, all of our moves have been related to his career. But it wouldn’t be true to say that it is his fault. I knew before I met him that I was not called to stay in one place; I was called to ‘go’.

One of my favorite passages in the bible comes from Psalm 84. I can still remember reading it, before I had ever met my husband, and knowing that there was a message there for me: ‘Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage…They go from strength to strength…’ The Cambridge dictionary defines a pilgrim as ‘a person who makes a journey, which is often long and difficult, to a special place for religious reasons.’ I have made a journey, which has been long and sometimes difficult (and often amazing), to many special places because that is what I believe God has called me to do. I have set my heart on pilgrimage.

I say this, not because I think I am special—I believe we are all called by God to an amazing journey with Him—but because I think that unless you have a sense of calling, it is impossible to live the life of ‘sacrificial support’ that is the life of the wife of a graduate student.

I love that term, ‘sacrificial support’. I think it precisely embodies what it means to be the spouse of a graduate student. Because providing the support that a person who is pursuing a graduate degree needs does require sacrifice, often on a comprehensive scale: sacrifice in terms of career, income, children, family, home-making, personal pursuits, even attention and affection. It is not for the faint (or the selfish) of heart. And while in the early stages love for our spouse and a love of adventure may propel us along, there comes a day when the newness wears off and we begin to feel neglected and unappreciated and we wonder, ‘Is this what I signed up for?’ It’s then that we have the chance to truly understand the sacrificial part of the equation; it’s then that we have the chance to dig deep to find what we didn’t know we had.

Or not. I’ve seen graduate marriages fail, and others take a severe beating. This can be a very difficult road to travel. And while I don’t believe there is a formula for success, I do believe that it is essential to have a shared sense of call and vision, something larger than merely what this means to the interests and career path of the one who is studying, and something larger than the attitude ‘I’m letting you have your turn now so that I can have my turn later.’ There is no 50/50 in marriage. There is give and take; there is negotiation; but always there is sacrifice—on both parts, because that is what love is about.

So here I am, twenty-six years of marriage, fourteen moves of house and three (mostly) grown children later, looking back at the beginning of this adventure in ‘sacrificial support’. I had no idea what I was in for and it has not turned out anything like I’d expected. And I’m sure the adventure is not over. There have been wonderful experiences too numerous to count, and there have been difficulties I couldn’t have managed if I had not believed that this was all part of a bigger plan, part of a pilgrim call.

So I am very thankful for my pilgrim heart. I think it has helped me negotiate this sometimes difficult road. It has helped me to keep the big picture in view—that we are on a journey and that each stop along the way is just that, a stop; it is not the final destination. It is not the point at which I can say, ‘Well, that’s over. Now I can begin my life.’ Life is in the journey.

Words from a Michael Card song that I love:

There is a joy in the journey,
there’s a light we can love on the way.
There is a wonder and wildness to life,
and freedom for those who obey.

May we all experience joy in the journey; May we all experience the wonder and wildness of life and the freedom that comes from following our call.

As a graduate wife, did you ever feel ‘called’ to begin this graduate journey with your husband?  If so, how has that ‘call’ helped with your transition into this season of life? 

Children · Faith · Moving · Patience · Sacrifice

Little House on the…

Written by Michelle – a former graduate wife

Baths are done, pajamas are on, and teeth are brushed, so our boys cuddle up on our laps to listen to a chapter of a bedtime story.  Right now, we are starting the third book in the Little House series.  During last night’s reading, our eldest son realized that the little girl named Laura in the story is actually Laura Ingalls Wilder, the author.  We thought about the fact that our six-year-old son, who has moved five times and lived in four countries, probably already has enough material to create his own series.  My husband and I laughed as we suggested possible titles for each book in our own Little House series, a series that begins with my first year as a graduate wife.  Here are the titles we came up with and descriptions supplied afterward by me:

Little House on the Golf Course                                                                                                    Naperville, IL

A young married couple discovers that God has His own surprising plans as they face an unexpected pregnancy and Dad not getting into ay doctoral schools.  Will their brand new marriage survive the shock and loud pelting of golf balls on the windows?

Little Town near the Big City                                                                                                                     Glen Ellyn, IL

This year Dad is accepted to doctoral schools, but which will he choose? He must decide between attending an American university (fully funded) or following God’s leading to schools that have little funding and are an ocean away from family and friends.

By the Shores of the Sea                                                                                                                                    St. Andrews, Scotland

This year finds the family in a community of new friends in the wild, rugged beauty of Scotland.  Dad begins his doctorate, but just as they are settling in, unanticipated news makes it clear that another move is on the horizon. 

Two Rooms of Damp and Mold                                                                                                               Oxford, England

Did Mom and Dad make a mistake in bringing their family to Oxford for Dad’s studies?  Dad is exquisitely happy wearing flowing black robes at the University, but their housing situation is so difficult Mom is not sure she can manage.  During Mom’s second pregnancy doctors are convinced that something is wrong, yet she feels that the baby is healthy.  When the baby is ready to be born, the midwife, the doula, nor the paramedics arrive in time.   Will they welcome another member into their family safely?

On the Banks of the Rhine                                                                                                                          Bonn, Germany

With two healthy boys, the family settles into a new home in another new country.  The eldest son works hard to learn enough German to participate in school.  Mom finds her way through a new city on public transportation in German with two little ones.  She struggles to know how to support her eldest son who is floundering amidst all the transitions.  Dad finishes his doctorate, finds work at the university, and spends many months applying to jobs.  Uncertainty about the future weighs heavily upon them all . . . .

Little House by Donnington Bridge                                                                                                         Oxford, England

After holding their breaths through over 50 applications, the whole family rejoices when Dad receives a post-doc in Oxford.  Three years in one place!  What a tremendously gracious gift.  During this time of stability, Mom and Dad hope to thoughtfully and purposefully prepare for whatever God has next for them.

Coming soon . . .

Little House in South America                                                                                                                  exact location TBA

Dad begins work as a missionary scholar and Mom and the boys enjoy their own set of new adventures. 

As you can see from this description of our travels, chasing this dream of my husband’s doctorate has not been straightforward.  We have spent a lot of time agonizing about the future with questions like these plaguing us:

–      Will we ever find real community?

–      How will we get our visas extended while we wait to hear about job applications?

–      Where is the money going to come from for tuition . . . rent . . . food?

–      What will we do if after this degree my husband cannot find any job?

And equally heart-wrenching are our children’s questions:

–      Will I spend my next birthday in this country or a new one?

–      Will I get to keep my best friend or do I have to meet a new best friend next year?

–      Will we ever live near our grandmas and grandpas?

Over the course of my time as a graduate wife, I have learned to hold my plans for our family very loosely. I have tried to stop myself from thinking that I am entitled to have advance notice about what will happen next.  Sometimes when I pray, I try to visualize placing the things that I am gripping with white knuckles (like my desire for my sons to have stability and security) into God’s ready and open hands.  I have to remind myself again and again that my fierce, protective love for my sons cannot compare to the strength of God’s love for them.

I am learning that life is made of up of small moments, and that if I spend my time just waiting for the next phase to come, I run the risk of missing something in store for me in the here and now.  I just started reading a book recommended by a friend called One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.  That is my prayer for each of us graduate wives: that amidst all the uncertainty we face, we could embrace the change and live fully right where we are.

If you had to come up with a title for your graduate wife adventure, what would it be and why?  What would be the theme of your story?

Faith · Inspiration · Marriage · Moving

Courage Lessons

Written by Julia – a former graduate wife.

My husband, Dave, and I have been married for five years, and in that time we have lived in four different countries. The growth of our marriage, my career and our family has taken place in a different zip code, post code or Postleitzahl every year until this one, when we are finally experiencing a second year in one city.  And all this for a girl from the American South, where roots are important.

In our first move abroad, while skirting the North Sea in a taxi cab from the Edinburgh Airport to The Flat I Had Not Seen, Dave praised the rolling green hills spotted with sheep and lined with stone walls, enraptured with some sort of pastoral bliss. I, on the other hand, cried. Putting thousands of miles and an ocean between us and our friends and family somehow did not have the same inspiring effect on me.

At least not at first. In between that day and this one, I have lived in places of unspeakable beauty. I have shared a running route with Eric Liddel, regularly visited splendid castles and wandered around the Black Forest. Just yesterday, I happened upon a 12th century church with a well which served as inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland – just before dinner, a fifteen minute walk from my flat. Those back home who think of living abroad as an enviable adventure are not far off.

But that’s not the whole story. While there certainly is some romance to country hopping, such transience brings with it layers of challenge, from the mundane to the profound. What on earth is the German equivalent of condensed milk? Why does it take four hours to wash a load of laundry here? Where will I work? Will my niece and nephews remember me after not seeing me for long stretches at a time? How will anyone really know me if I don’t stay long enough in one place to form genuine relationships? The questions trip over themselves at first, and transform over time from the urgent practical questions that require immediate answers, to the deeper questions about vocation and identity. Uniting them is a sense of unsettledness, of disquiet in the face of change.

Facing an uncertain future – practically a definition of time spent with a spouse who is studying – invites one to engage the unknown in the mode of trust. Each move, whether physically moving to another place or simply reaching a new season, represents another chance to show bravery. Most of the time, I feel more like an ostrich hiding its head in the sand than an eagle taking the opportunity to spread its wings and soar (can you tell I’ve been reading animal books to my nine month old?), but because of my faith, I am learning that God condescends to meet our cowardice with courage.  In spite of my grumbling recalcitrance, God in his rich love chooses to give us more than we need to press on. In the end, the most lasting help against fear is not a stable income, a comfortable living situation, a routine, but the accompaniment of God himself. But the fact that courage is commanded in Scripture, rather than portrayed as the constant possession of the believer, suggests that this courage is always something to be sought and re-sought:

Have I not commanded you?

Be strong and courageous.

Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed,

for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Most days I find myself living somewhere between the promise and the command, called out of fear and into trust, but struggling to meet the future without nail-biting apprehension.

Anyone else facing these difficult lessons in courage?