Friday, September 21, 2012

Passing on some good advice

I'm working on a few upbeat posts but in the meantime I wanted to pass on some advice a reader emailed to me. The comment police said it was too long so ze sent it in a letter. Ze had a lot of good advice that might help others out there hunting for jobs...or needing to reboot their job search. Some things have been left out to protect ze's anonymity. And ze is funny and this blog has been seriously short of funny lately. So, here's some advice from someone further along the trail that I am. Enjoy.

Don't worry about the wheres and hows of skills like database design and management, or the skills that are relevant to the job you're applying for. Just create a section on your résumé called "Skills" or "Qualifications" and list them, and elucidate on them later in the interview.

Make GradU the core location for your TA work but note that you "taught across departments on a range of subjects and disciplines like [English, history, politics, law, psychology]..." (I don't know what you specialized in but the Humanities and Social Sciences cover all of these and then some, and interviewers have been surprised to learn that English is about analysis and pattern recognition, as opposed to reading old-timey poetry on manicured lawns).

Add an "Accomplishments" section on your résumé. A recruiter suggested this to me yesterday. Ever had a positive TA review? Recognized for outstanding customer service at GradU. Ever written a research or grant proposal? Developed and wrote a [$] research proposal that was awarded by the [whatever council].

Get on the temp agency band wagon. They recruit for a lot of jobs that you’ll never see advertised and pretty much land it for you. Plus, you can earn money in the interim as a temp. Apply to a bunch of temp agencies (really emphasizing every last computer and office-type skill you have) and if they don't get back to you in a week, follow up by calling them. One agency I sent my résumé to is working on getting me a three-month contract with a tech firm testing bugs for a website they're developing for Wrigley, and all I had to know was how to use a Mac. The recruiter told me that a lot of employers who go to her are simply looking for smart and capable people, so they're often willing to train on the job.

You will have to demystify your education in an interview. Grad degrees are mysterious outside of academia. Explain that being a grad student is a job, tell them the hours you worked and what the expectations were, and watch as their eyes sproing out of their heads. I'll be honest: I thought doing an M.A. would make me a killer job candidate but it hasn't. Depends on the employer. A graduate degree is meaningful to some, but for most it's sort of meh. Sometimes I'm like, I have an M.A.! I'm special godamnit!, but the truth is I'm not, and this was verified for the millionth time when a different recruiter informed me that graduate degrees are becoming really common.

Above all, tailor your résumé for every job. It’s a bitch, but hiring managers don’t want to have to read between the lines. If they want photocopying, say photocopying. You love photocopying. You can’t live without photocopying. I thought being a modern human being signified "can photocopy" but apparently not. As for your cover letter, show as much personality as you can (ie. steer the reader away from boredom). I've heard about the résumé black hole where people are sending their applications into the great online void, but I've had five people contact me in the last six weeks from online job ads, and I attribute that to changing my cover letter from professional-sounding to this-is-who-I-am-I-don't-give-a-fuck. I have ten years of admin and insurance experience prior to doing my M.A. and that wasn't enough to get someone to call me. Imagine the kind of person you'd like to work with and then write that cover letter.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Update to last post and a few queries

After multiple phone calls, messages left, and emails sent, GradU department has sent the necessary form to the dean's office. They claim it will be there by tomorrow. Hopefully the rest of the paperwork will fall into place and I'll officially have a Ph.D.

And hopefully I'll start to get calls for job interviews. I've got five more in the wings I'm applying for. Anthea made a good point in the comments to my "Some Days I'm Just Dumb" post awhile back about how to phrase some of my nontraditional administrative experience from being a TA and instructor. I think that's something I should do before my next round of applications.

On a related note, how do you talk about experience you have in relevant skills (such as database design and management) when they were not part of job you were paid for but skills you learned while being a grad student? I can't list "Graduate Student" as a job and "Professorial Apprenticeship" would just be confusing.

And from those of you who have worked for multiple departments within a university: do you list each separately as a different job or just as "Instructor for Grad U" for however many years? I taught for 7 years in three different departments at my GradU while working on my degree. I tutored for a few years prior to and overlapping with that. And then it's hourly jobs so far back in time that I don't even remember my supervisors' names. How do you deal with listing jobs on online apps when you can't remember supervisors' names? I don't care if they contact these businesses for a reference. I don't think anyone in those businesses would even remember me. How far back do you go in time with your resume?

Yeah, I'm trying to think about more productive things than the paperwork snafu at GradU. Any suggestions are welcome and thank you all for your suggestions and willingness to share your job hunting experience.

A slight oversight

There are two numbers in a window on my desktop. They sit in the corner of my monitor. One if for my GradU department's office manager, the other for the chair. They are on my desktop for the duration. And why, might you ask, would a post-academic have the numbers to the direct lines of the top two decision-maker's in their Grad U department? That would be because I do not have a degree yet.

Let me say that again: I do NOT have my degree yet.

That smell of hell and brimstone wafting out of the midwest is the smoke coming out of my ears. Sorry.

I have the number for the admin folks in the dean's office too but that one is not on my desktop. You see, the dean's office sent the final form to my old department for a signature...and have not gotten it back yet. No one in my department is answering their phones. No one is responding to email.

I cannot legally say that I have a degree until it is actually conferred. So if someone evaluating one of my job applications decides to verify my degree before calling me for an interview, it comes up that I don't have a doctorate degree. Now I'm sure that won't be a problem at all.

I did the work. I finished. I did the research, wrote the book, defended it, and got it accepted. No degree.

I have no degree because no one in my GradU department is willing to take up the slack left by our departing graduate secretary. She got a better job in a department that isn't nearly as snake-filled. I wish her the best of luck. However, no one has stepped in to fill the gap. All the other secretaries and admins are overstretched. No one is keeping track of which forms need to be signed and sent to who. The result is: I have no degree.

Given the circumstances, I thought my email to the department chair was very measured and polite. You can be sure that I will be calling and emailing every day until the nice folks in the dean's office let me know they have the form they need. And if you're curious, the dean's office admins are also emailing and calling for me. There may be people in the grad school calling too.

Incidentally, the reason I know my degree has not been conferred is because the former grad secretary at my department checked. Yeah, the person who left the department and did not need to do a damn thing checked and got me numbers to call to figure out what the hang-up was.

Not happy. So not happy.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Some days I'm just dumb

I've had no luck with the job search. Not so much as an interview. I think this is related to my cover letter. Honestly. I just don't think it was specific enough and didn't relate my skills to the job ad enough. I'm trying recent Ph.D's template to see if it has any effect. Check comments to my last post if you'd like to see it.

I'm also applying for a new set of jobs. Most of the jobs I was applying for had odd job titles that related to either project management or data analysis. Though grad school does give you experience in these tasks, most of these jobs want experience in this in industry, preferably with the job title of "Project Manager" or "Analyst." It can be tricky getting past HR without that. I've managed twice, though neither ended up with an interview. On a lark, I decided to look for just any job in New City. There were a few administrative assistant jobs that popped up.

Yes, it's kind of pathetic that I hadn't considered administrative jobs yet. I read recent Ph.D.'s blog. One would think this job path would've occurred to me sooner. As the title says, some days I'm just dumb. I looked up the requirements for these jobs and I have them all. I have mad computer skills, experience with database software, organizational skills, stunning multitasking abilities, comfort with working in high stress environments, and massive experience dealing with people who have a variety of backgrounds. Like many if not most academics. Seriously, think of all the administrative tasks you need to run a classroom and conduct research. You could blow most beginning admins out of the water.

So, now I'm applying to admin jobs at various companies. We'll see if I have any better luck here. I do still have some applications in for advising jobs but I have very little faith that I'll get an interview there. I applied for those before I changed how I wrote my cover letters.

I am also still working on my writing. There's a lot of fear here. I'm utterly terrified that I can't write a good sentence, let alone a good story. I'm going to try some short stories first and build up. They'll probably be really bad at first but you gotta start somewhere. New City has a fairly active writers group that I'm hoping to check out this weekend.

Also, got new music. I may be poor-arse broke but I still have change and Coinstar. They're currently running a special with Amazon where you get $5 for mp3's if you put in $20 in change and get an Amazon gift certificate. I downloaded some alternative rock, Scandinavian metal, and some tunes from soundtracks. Yes, I can cause Amazon's recommendation software to explode. Music is helping me to deal with things and get in a writing mood. See, I'm making progress as a post-aca. I may yet turn into an only marginally-bizarre human being with things like career and hobbies. Stay tuned.

src: Inevitable Life's facebook page