Graduated Learning: Life after College

I got my degree, I got a job…now what?

Graduated Learning’s Guide to Finding and Getting a Job December 21, 2008

Filed under: Careers,Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 10:34 pm
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I don’t claim to be an expert on any topic, but since I finally read the Brazen Careerist book (which I recommend reading) and I have a few friends looking for new jobs asking for advice, I decided to gather up a bit of my words of wisdom and share them here.

As many of you may know, I got laid off back at the end of April.  There was plenty to figure out about my situation, even without thinking about finding a new job.  I had to figure out what I was going to do for health insurance, apply for unemployment, roll over my 401(k), and figure out what happened to my FSA (you’re allowed to use up to the amount that you originally enrolled for, but only for expenses on or before your last day of employment…according to the person I spoke with at my old company’s payroll service).  Looking at the trends of search terms leading people to my blog, as well as the financial news, I know that a lot of people out there are in that situation right now.  So, if you have any questions about all the steps you should take post-layoff, let me know, either with a comment or an email at graduatedlearning@gmail.com.

Anyway, most of this advice will sound pretty similar to many other guides.  But I’ll let you know what helped and what didn’t in my search for a new job.

I started out by casting a pretty wide net. I posted my resume and did some searches on sites like monster.com.  But I also made sure my profiles were updated and informative on monster as well as on LinkedIn, and even made sure my Facebook profile looked good (I don’t have any weird things posted, I just went ahead and updated my work and interests…but those of you with scandal on their profiles pages, I recommend removing it!)

I wouldn’t stop with job posting sites, though.  I mostly got emails from insurance companies trying to hire me through monster.com.  Though a few messages did come through about jobs in my field.  And I did apply to a bunch of jobs on there.  But I think most of the time the science job postings were for biotech jobs.  Lifehacker actual had a post about the top job search engines.  But I have to say that it’s pretty tricky to actually get a job through those sites.

I think it’s key to spread the word that you’re looking for a job.  Of course, if you’re still employed but looking for a new job, you’ll want to be a bit more discreet about who you tell.  But making it known via Facebook status (Stephanie is…looking for a new job!) or LinkedIn’s “what are you working on” (Stephanie is looking for new and exciting opportunities) is a simple way to start.  I believe that there is no need to be ashamed of your unemployment status.  I’ll admit, I was a bit embarrassed that I had lost my job at first.  But I think that the more people that know of your plight, the better your chances are that someone might be able to help you with advice, referrals, or even job offers!  Of course, you also don’t want to seem too desperate, or look like you’re complaining.  Just be clever with your online messages, and equally clever with your person to person interactions!

I also encourage you to get back in touch with people.  Contact old bosses or supervisors from past jobs or internships, or perhaps others that have given you job offers or contacted you regarding a job in the past.  That’s actually how I came across my job.  Right after I started my last job after college, I got an email from someone who had seen my resume (presumably since I applied to the company in general, and they must have been looking to fill some positions).  I respectfully responded that I had already started a job, and that I would contact him if my job situation changed.  Well, you can bet I looked up that email and sent him a message to catch up!

I also took advantage of my alumni network.  Granted, MIT does a pretty good job of keeping track of their alums (possibly so they can beg you for donations when you hit it big), so I might have had an easier time looking up alums compared to people at other schools (as I have no idea how well your Alma Maters keep track of alumni).  Some schools have a list of alumni who are interested in helping other alums with their careers.  Or they at least encourage others to get in touch with them.  I looked on there for people interested in talking about careers that interested me as well.  I usually emailed them, introducing myself and asking if they’d like to meet with me or chat over email.

Recent graduates should also consider contacting past professors, TAs, or colleagues.  I wrote to a few of my old professors asking for advice, or if they had any ideas for good companies to work for in my field.  One professor responded by asking for my resume and sending it to a few people he knew at other companies.  So that definitely helps as well.

Overall, don’t expect a job to fall in your lap.  That being said, don’t be discouraged if you don’t initially get invited for an interview or offered a job.  This will take time.  As many career books and articles say, “looking for a job is a full-time job”.  And, either fortunately or unfortunately (depending on your view of things), it’s really about networking.  Even if you’re shy and you don’t really know people, just talk to the people you already do know.  Go to a local social event.  Meet new people.  Even if they never help you with your job search, you’ve practiced talking to people!   Think of interviews for jobs you don’t get to be practice as well.

I still encourage you to apply directly to companies or organizations you’re interested in working for, even if you don’t know anyone at the company.  Just make sure you construct a very clear cover letter!

A few other thoughts:

Update and review your resume.  Send it to friends so they can read it from a different perspective (they’re more likely to see the typos or notice if something doesn’t make sense).  Also, if you haven’t read over your own resume, you might forget what is on there.  That actually happened at one of the first interviews I went to this time around.  They asked me about one of my past internships, and I completely blanked on the name of a piece of equipment I had experience using.  So know your resume!

I know this isn’t a full set of everything you need to know about getting a job.  There’s plenty more to think about: resume and cover letter writing, efficient job searching, interview techniques, etc.  But this is just to get your started.  I encourage you all to comment with your favorite job hunting/searching/getting tip.  And perhaps I might follow up some other time with more advice/thoughts/insight.

Happy searching!

 

Went a little spend crazy December 9, 2008

Filed under: Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 11:55 pm
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So, I’m always trying to avoid spending money if at all possible. But I think the one problem with that is that I’ll spend a lot of money all at once to make up for that. I don’t think it’s like diets, where you try to be good and then follow up by eating half a chocolate cake and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. I think it’s just that I rarely spend money on things for myself, which means that there are large gaps in my wardrobe where clothes that I got 5 years ago aren’t quite fitting the bill.  So I spend.  I try to get good deals. But let’s go on a journey through my spending this past Sunday.

The purpose of the shopping trip: get something to wear to my boyfriend’s company holiday party. I don’t want to look too young (one of the women I talked to Sunday thought I was closer to 18…even though I’m actually 24!), so I wanted to look sophisticated, mature, and beautiful. And all the dresses I have in my closet may have fit me back in my sophomore year of college…but they just aren’t quite zipping up the way they used to!

I ran into a friend at the mall, who told me all the things I need to dress up for an event like this.  The dress, the shoes, the clutch, the pashmina…I wasn’t even sure I knew what all those things were!

I went to plenty of stores, and I have to admit, I was getting pretty darn sick of trying on dresses.  Though most of the ones I tried on “fit”, they just did not look good on me.  I also seemed to be grabbing dresses that appealed to the “younger me”.  And I think I’ve discovered that it’s difficult to get a good idea of what the dress looks like.  And it seems that some stores seem to know that there are people like me.

I finally went to Ann Taylor Loft, where something actually looked good on me.  But I have to say, I think it really helped that the employees there knew what they were doing, and how to sell things.  Well, that’s the cynical side of me talking.  The grateful side of me appreciated their help.  They gave me their opinion on dresses, and helped me pair jewelry with the dress.  They showed me awesome shoes that made the dresses look better.  And yep, I bought a dress (and those shoes…gosh they’re good salespeople).  And silly me, I let them trick/convince/guilt me into getting their store credit card for a little extra discount.  I know, it’s a hit to my credit score.  But oh well, what’s done is done.  I did get compliments on the dress from other customers, rather than just the salespeople, which made me a bit more confident in my purchases.

And rather than buy accessories at Ann Taylor Loft, I headed to other shops in the mall to buy all the other things you’re supposed to wear at a fancy event.  I picked up a clutch and some slightly outrageous earrings at Aldo, and bought a wrap for just $10 at H&M (rather than the $40-50 at other stores!  deal!).  It helped that I didn’t get a real pashmina…100% rayon works for me, if it looks the same!

So, I spent over $100.  Yeah.  I’m going to use the excuse that I don’t really have any of those things, and I need more mature and sharper looking items to wear…I can’t keep dressing like a college or high school kid forever. 

So, there’s my shopping confession.  And I haven’t even started my Christmas shopping!

 

What are you saving for? December 7, 2008

Filed under: Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 6:03 pm
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I was updating my net worth calculations, and it got me thinking:  What am I saving for?

My current financial goals are not very specific.  Many pf bloggers have noted their short and long-term goals, often using nifty status bars.  They’re saving for an emergency fund, or a new puppy, or a down payment.  And I realized that I’m just saving to be saving.  At least for the short term.

My goals are stepwise.  First goal is to have a positive net worth.   Then I want to eliminate all debts (currently $60k+ student loans and $17k+ car loan).  After that, I guess I’d be saving for a down payment.

I think I’m sometimes just saving for the future, but I have no idea what I’m going to use that money for in the future.  Will I be buying a house?  I hope so, assuming it’s the right time and place for it.  And if marriage and kids are in my future, will I be paying for the wedding?  I’ll need money to raise kids, and maybe consider putting money away for their college education.  But really, I think I’m just hoarding money, with the intent of having it around in case I find myself in need.  It’s almost as if all of my savings is one big Emergency Fund.  The money’s there if I need it, but I don’t really have a plan of ever using it.

I realize that I could probably use some of my savings to pay down my debts.  But I just feel safer having a larger emergency fund than having a smaller debt, even though, mathematically, it’s not the best choice.

Should I start creating a “fund” for everything?  My long-term financial goals seem so far away.  I feel like I’m just saving and avoiding spending, and hoping that it will all fall into place.

 

A Commercial Holiday December 3, 2008

Filed under: Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 11:41 pm
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Usually, I leave the advertisement discussions to my friend at Drink Moxie, but since this one has a bit of a personal finance relationship, I figured I’d mention it.

Every year, when Christmas starts to roll around, there’s a whole slew of ads.  And the ads that bother me the most are the ads for new cars.  Almost all of them involve someone surprising their loved one with a brand new shiny car.  Complete with a bright red bow on top.

Do these ads bother anyone else?  How many people actually do this?  I’m guessing it’s usually just the luxury cars on these ads since it’s the more well-to-do people that could actually afford to surprise someone with a car.  But how often do people do that?  Every Christmas?  But like most ads, they’re trying to convince you it’s the thing to do; everyone else is doing it!

Do you let the commercials out there impact what you buy?  I’d like to think that most commercials don’t affect me.  The only ones that make me crave what they’re selling are ads related to chocolate.  M&M’s and Toll House ads get me drooling every time.

 

 
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