Confessions of a Job Seeker

I can think of one thousand things to be stressed about right now.

I feel behind, like I’m running to catch up. I have crushing student loan debt. I don’t have a lot of money right now. I wonder when I should start a family. Hell, I wonder when we should get married. Maternity leave in the United States sucks. Daycare is outrageously expensive. Should we move to a European country where they have a better handle on these things? I’d pay half my paycheck to taxes for universal healthcare, free education, and parental leave/job security. Maybe I’ll encourage my kid to go to college abroad anyway. We’re totally moving to Europe. When can I sell my truck and get a better vehicle? What if my dog jumps off the stairs and breaks his giant Great Dane leg? What if I’m the only one home and I can’t carry him to my vehicle and he dies on my living room floor? I can squat more than he weighs, but dead weight is much harder to lift…

These are the things I worry about when I have too much time on my hands.

Stu’s response: “Someone really needs to hire you soon.”

I know, right?? 

Speaking of which, it’s feast or famine when it comes to the job market. I’ve technically been job hunting since January, but only full-time since we moved at the beginning of June. For four months, I’ve had phone interviews and face-to-face interviews, but no offers.

Then, suddenly, like some “pay-your-job-search-dues” clock had run down, two clinical research organizations offered me jobs!

This news is partially what caused me to start thinking more critically about my worries. I have a purpose again, I’m moving forward, and I changed industries to do it. That’s a lot more difficult than it sounds. Getting a job these days is hard enough. I read an article in Forbes about how the average hiring process now takes months rather than weeks. And let me tell you–TRUE STORY.

Switching industries and selling your skills hard enough to surpass those who already have relevant experience is even more of an undertaking. My resume looks completely different than it did when I began my job search. I had to dig deep and realize I already have skills that are applicable to this new path, but I was trained to ignore them until now. I’m not starting out at the top by any means, but I have to start somewhere and get the clinical experience to match the research experience I already have. Sometimes, all you need is that one job to take that first step in the right direction.

That being said, whether you’re switching jobs, switching industries, or just entering the workforce, people need all the help they can get. No wonder there are so many books, websites, and professional consultants that specialize in the job search. It’s a school of knowledge in itself! Personally, I can think of four pieces of advice that stuck with me through this entire process:

Get some help with your resume.

This has been the most important. Whether it be a friend, coworker, former manager/advisor, get someone else to read it. It probably sucks. Even if you’ve worked and reworked it multiple times, it probably still sucks. This is just a fact of life. No one wants to read five pages of insignificance in your resume (this is different from a CV). Saying that you have experience preparing and presenting papers at professional conferences will suffice rather than including four years of citations that nobody (seriously, nobody) cares about. Also, no one cares about your GPA, Greek affiliation, or where you even went to school. It should also be ONE page. Choose wisely, not every experience is relevant to the position you’re striving for.

Tailor your resume to the job. 

This actually isn’t that hard if you’re applying for similar positions in the same industry. Overall, your resumes and cover letters will contain generally the same information, but emphasizing different skills and adding in specifics about each company is key so that employers know that you’ve done your research, know what the position entails, and aren’t just desperate for pay (even though you probably are).

Learn corporate jargon and how to use it.

It makes you sound like an adult. Because you are one. Words like “stakeholder”, “collaborate”, and “enterprise” work wonders. Just make sure you use them correctly to avoid sounding like a fool. Using phrases like “Interfaced with key stakeholders enterprise-wide” sounds a lot better than “I was a minion for the higher-ups and my job description seemed to change every day.”

When you get an interview, be yourself (but the edited version). 

I’ve found that putting your best foot forward is not synonymous with being a robot. If you get invited back for a second interview after the HR screening, it’s so that the hiring manager/potential coworkers can see that you’re not a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Anyone can have a stellar resume and pass the general HR screening, but showing your potential coworkers and manager that you’re not a lazy drama queen, but rather a hard worker they’d actually like to know is key. At the same time, they’ll know if you’re full of crap.

They know that your previous job was not all rainbows and sunshine. Under no circumstances should you shit-talk your past employer/coworkers, but there are ways to communicate that you know how to deal with difficult people in a productive way without sounding like you’re emotionally unstable.

I am no expert. Clearly. But I made a point to seek out advice from others during my job search and take it to heart. After all, if you want to make something happen, it’s always best to consult those who’ve already done it, right?

Since the conclusion of the great sadness known as the Job Search, I’ve been able to think of two thousand more things to be thankful for each day. It’s always best to remind yourself of these things during the process, but it can be difficult. Mostly, you’re just thinking, “What’s wrong with me?” and “How can THAT idiot have a job and I don’t!?”

But the reality is I know that, inevitably, someone will always have it worse than me. It is still OK to recognize worries and uncertainties in life, but allowing these worries to dictate life is unacceptable.

More than ever, I encourage everyone to sit down and write affirmations for themselves. My old roomie, Anne, made me do this once and it was surprisingly effective… Affirmations are not for the benefit of others–they are for your own reflection and mental health.

I live with a dog that pretends to care about my problems, but he actually doesn’t. Mostly, he just wants me to play with him and take him on long walks. The truth is, he relies on us to feed him, keep him healthy, and keep him safe. He is our responsibility for his whole life and he is far more important than the days in my life that haven’t even happened yet. To him, we are his whole world, and that is important.

The two of us might be digging our way out of student loan hell, but we will be doing so with better salaries and better credit than many other people in the U.S. That is something to be thankful for. Even while I was job searching, we were able to pay the bills and make time for little luxuries here and there. Non-profit loan forgiveness is still a thing (right now…). And when compared to what life used to be like, this beats the hell out of TA-ing, working outside in 20 degrees, or drifting in adjunct purgatory.

We have a close circle of friends and family who offer support and encouragement. That is something to be thankful for. People who only complain, point out your shortcomings, or focus on the negative aspects of a situation don’t belong in your life.

We are two extremely healthy people. Neither of us get sick often or require continuous medication of any kind. This is something to be thankful for. Personally, I think this is more reason to contribute time, talent, or charity to those who must live with poor health.

In the end, the two of us will still be a team, we will have put a percentage of our paychecks into retirement every pay day, we will plan as much as we can, and make the best decisions with the information we have. There is a difference between smart planning and spending your entire lifetime worrying. Living a miserable life and ending up with enough money is just as depressing as living an excessive life and ending up with no money. Either way, you miss out. Personally, I’ll try to keep things in perspective and strike a balance between the two.

In my opinion, self-esteem has become very underrated because many people confuse it with arrogance or entitlement. The difference is that you can have healthy self-esteem and confidence without trying too hard to make yourself look better than somebody else. You are allowed to be thankful for the good things in your life. In my experience, truly happy and confident people extend their hands to others to share that happiness. It’s good to remind yourself of the good you have in your life, who you want to be, and where you want to go. After all, everything can change in an instant and you never know where you’ll be a day, a month, or a year from now.

That being said, I’m going to go and drink a Sunday beer in celebration of NOT logging onto tomorrow and, instead, being grateful to drive across town to the new associate orientation. Hoorah!!

By the way, does anyone want to buy a 2004 crew cab pickup?


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