If there’s anything I’ve learned about the postgraduate landscape, it’s that there are no one-size-fits-all maps. Maybe, if you’re really lucky, you have some great mentors who can help guide you. Maybe, you find yourself more-or-less on your own trying to pave a path. Either way, I’m here to say that I relate and here are some of the things I’ve been doing to keep the ball rolling.
1. Continue Educating Yourself / Sharpen Your Skills
I’m a firm believer that education doesn’t end just because you get a degree or certificate. There are always new skills to develop and areas of life to learn about. Something that I’ve been researching a lot since graduation is personal finance. Not all people come from backgrounds where savings, investments, and loans are talked about, but finances are an unavoidable part of life. I’ve been reading blogs and watching YouTube videos from an amazing website called The Financial Diet. I can’t recommend it enough. There are also tons of great articles on career and financial literary, including the blog post that inspired me to write this entry.
Some other things I’ve been doing is reading non-fiction books, listening to public radio, continued self-study of French, writing, and photography.
2. Be An Intentional Consumer
As someone currently seeking employment, I will own up to the fact that I spend a good number of hours during the day as a consumer rather than as a producer. I read. I watch television. I listen to podcasts. I go shopping. I eat at restaurants. There is nothing inherently wrong with consumption, but I’ve learned that I need to be very intentional when it comes to these choices.
For example, when I consume media, I think about the things I read, hear, and see with a purpose. Am I educating myself on new topics, issues, and perspectives? Can I find a French television series on Netflix to practice my language skills instead of watching something thoughtlessly?
Before I go shopping, I always take stock of the things I already own. I try to be creative with my existing resources. Do I really need new clothes for interviewing? Or can I refashion things I already own in my wardrobe by pairing old items in a new way? Can I find a recipe on the internet for the items I already have in my fridge? Is it possible to find that book or film at the library instead of buying it new?
I am a bit of a self-proclaimed gourmand and living in France for the last year has only enhanced my foodie tenancies. That being said, I believe that going out to eat should be treated as something special. I don’t do it unless it’s to spend time with people I care about. I make a meal out an occasion to connect and share. In the last year, I have nearly eliminated eating out as a matter of convenience.
3. Create An Application Organization System
When I started the job hunt, I just blindly went for it. I used various search engines, LinkedIn, and good old fashion research to find organizations I want to work for. I periodically checked for postings a couple times a day. This worked well enough for the first couple of weeks, but soon I realized that I needed a better system. I needed a structured process for research and I needed something to help me keep track of the status of individual applications and other details.
I started treating the job hunt as a job. I wake up every morning at the same time and follow a procedure I created for myself. I eat breakfast, sit down at my computer, open job boards, bookmark promising postings, and research the companies. After reviewing postings and companies, I finalize my choices and begin the application process. I determine if I need to modify my resume for specific jobs and get letters of recommendation. I always make sure to personalize my cover letter for the specific position. I work until lunch. I do this five-days a week.
Application Organization Spreadsheet
After about the first 10 jobs I applied to, I realized that simultaneously keeping track of the status of each application was proving to be very difficult. I could try to search through my email inbox for confirmations, but it was very inefficient. So, I created a simple spreadsheet with auto-filters on Excel that allows me to keep track of my past and on-going applications. I can sort by organization, title, type of work, benefits, submission date, interview date etc. Every time I start a new job application, I enter it into my spreadsheet and update it as I hear back.
5. Find Your Side-Hustle
The full-time job hunt can get a bit discouraging. In the meantime, I’ve been working on setting up my perfect side-hustle. This will be different for everyone. Perhaps it’s driving for Lyft, freelance writing, building an Etsy shop, doing yard work etc. Because of my background and past experiences, I decided I wanted to start private tutoring and teaching flute lessons. This kind of work is great for me because I can do it on weekends and evenings. If I do find a full-time job, I can continue to do it in my spare time. If I don’t find a full-time job, I can consider expanding the number of hours I teach and actively look for more students. Besides, I hear diversifying your revenue stream is a good thing.
5. Volunteer for Things You Love
And finally–last, but certainly not least, volunteer for the things you love. I have always found that volunteering is the single best way to meet new people, give back to something you care about, and learn new skills. Getting out and doing something for the the causes and organizations I care about in my community has helped me keep my spirits up in what can be a very frustrating period of transition. Like I said in my last entry, we are all capable of good work–no matter where we are in life or career.