Job Search

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

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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!

 

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Job Search

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

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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

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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

 

Job Search

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

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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

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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