Graduated Learning: Life after College

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

Are you a member of a professional society? March 18, 2009

Filed under: Careers,Science — Stephanie @ 9:51 pm
Tags: , ,

I’m always hearing about presentations, conferences, and networking sessions sponsored by professional organizations.  And that reminds me that I should perhaps think about joining one.

I know that there are quite a few groups related to my academic background and current work, such as the Materials Research Society or the American Ceramic Society.  Then there are also groups like the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) that are geared toward women in particular.  And there are plenty of benefits to joining groups like this.  I can keep up on the latest news/research in my field, network/meet new people, and otherwise utilize the group for both intellectual/career benefits and social/personal benefits.

I’m already a member of the alumni association from my college.  And I’ve gotten involved in activities geared toward recent alums like myself.  So I’ve done some networking and met some new people.  But I think I’d like to learn more about the latest research, and be able to meet new people in my field.

The membership fees for most of these groups aren’t too bad.  In fact, many professional organizations are providing membership discounts for unemployed individuals (so they can get back into the field).  So which groups do I join?  I’m thinking I should ask around at work to find out what groups are beneficial.

Are you a member of a professional society?  Which ones?  What do you gain from your membership?  Or if you’re not a member, why not?

 

And yes, I love material science! November 18, 2008

I don’t usually touch on my academic background in the blog.  I tend to talk more about personal finance, with a bit of food and Boston talk thrown in.  And I guess general musings about life after graduation.  But today I’d like to talk about Materials Science and Engineering.

First off, I studied Materials Science and Engineering at MIT.  I originally was going to major in Chemistry or Chemical Engineering, but the more I looked at the majors, the more I realized Materials Science and Engineering was the place for me.  It’s a great combination of Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Aero/Astro, and really, lots of science and engineering majors.

I think I often find myself urging others to pursue Materials Science and Engineering, or at least science/engineering in general.  And my new job gives me plenty of ways to share my love of science, engineering, and my scientific background with others.  I went back to MIT for their Career Fair and talked to students about my job and what sort of work I do.  And I went to an event for women in engineering, where high school girls interested in science and engineering came together and learned about future career opportunities.  I really like telling people about all the cool things that you can do as an engineer or scientist.  Maybe that makes me a geek!

So, I think I’ll post every once in a while about materials and such.  It’s something I’m really interested in!  And I’d also like to mention that, while I’m not a career adviser or anything, if you have any questions about college/careers in science/engineering, let me know.  I know it sounds lame, but I really like helping people.  And so if there’s a student who wants to know more about colleges or majors, I’d be happy to help.

So, stay tuned for more posts, likely with more reasons for why I love materials!

p.s.  A really cool resource out there is OpenCourseWare, a program through MIT where material from classes taught at MIT is posted for anyone to read/watch/listen to for free.  Check it out!  And since I’m promoting Materials this week, you should definitely look at the courses listed under that major. (especially 3.091, an extremely popular class at MIT.  The professor, Donald Sadoway, is an exceptional scientist and lecturer, and the class is a good start on the topic).

 

Looks like I’m a brazen careerist September 14, 2008

Every once in a while, I get an email asking if I’d like to be part of a blogging network.  It’s kind of cool, makes me feel special.  I’m definitely nowhere near the top when it comes to personal finance bloggers:  I don’t post very often, and I haven’t been doing this nearly as long.  And I’m sure I don’t get anywhere near the number of visitors as the likes of The Simple Dollar or Free Money Finance.  But anyway…

I got an email from someone at Brazen Careerist Blog Network.  It seems to be the sister site to Penelope Trunk’s Brazen Careerist blog.  Now, when I hear the words “brazen careerist”, it makes me think that you’re gung ho about climbing to the top in your career, often at the expense of other priorities.  I’m pretty sure that’s not quite what she means (I’ll admit I haven’t read her book.)  From what I’ve gathered, the term still relates to doing what will help you climb the corporate ladder, but it’s not all about ignoring other values and priorities.  So I think I’m cool with that.  It’s more about being smart about what the current work environment is like.

So, anyway, this invite basically means that I am now a member of a blog network!  The network is geared towards members of Generation Y and covers topics such as careers, finance, and other general topics for our generation.  Frankly, I didn’t actually know what “generation” I was part of, but I was born in within the year range listed at the wikipedia page (1982-1994).  I was asked about another blog network before, but I didn’t think I could commit to the number of posts they were talking about “requiring”.  Mostly, the site I’m part of now merely posts my feed under my profile.  So I can handle that.  It sounds like sometimes you might write an article specifically for the site, but for now, I’m just going to go with this.

It’s got me wondering…Am I a brazen careerist?  I enjoy meeting new people, which comes into play nicely when it comes to networking.  I’m thinking it might be a good idea to read this book…so I know what I’m actually talking about.  I did read The Big Sister’s Guide to the World of Work, which has a lot of those types of business tips.  Guess I should put the book on my request list at the library.

I think I should start thinking more about my goals, not only for my career, but also for finances and personal life.  Looks like I’ve got a topic for my next post!

 

Rolling over my 401(k), and other transitions May 16, 2008

Well, I got the official paperwork today telling me about all the options I have for the money in my former employer’s 401(k) plan.  They’ve given me plenty of options, some of which I think are not so good (i.e. taking the money out for myself), and the two that I’m mostly considering:  roll over to an IRA or roll over to a new 401(k) plan.  The problem with the latter option is that I don’t have a new job yet, and I don’t know if I’d even be able to roll over the 401(k) with them (it differs for different companies).  So it seems that my best bet is to open a Traditional IRA and roll my 401(k) into that.

I’m going to open up an IRA with the same company that I have my Roth IRA with, and presumably buy a life-cycle/age-based/target-date fund with a target date of 2050 or so.  My one concern is, even though these funds are supposedly diversified, I am thinking of investing in both IRAs in that fund…that’s not very diversified!  However, there are minimums for purchasing a fund in many cases, so perhaps I’d just let my money grow using those funds (and continuing to invest in my Roth IRA), and slowly build until I have more money to spend on different funds.

At any rate, I’m thinking it’s still my plan to roll over to an IRA.  I’m a bit ticked off that my old company’s 401(k) company is going to charge me a $40 processing fee, but hey, not much I can do.  They charge it for pretty much every option that I would do.

As for my other transitions (since I got laid off), I’ve filed for unemployment and been informed of how much I’ll be earning each week, and of course, looking for a new job.  And as I look at different job postings, I’m starting to understand what I do and don’t want to be doing.  This is a pretty helpful development, since I was so overwhelmed initially thinking of all the different career paths I could follow.

I’ll keep you updated!

 

I got laid off…now what? May 6, 2008

Yep, you read it here first folks. I got laid off. Thank that beautiful economy of ours, I guess. But now that I’m unemployed, what do I do?

Be thankful for the emergency fund

Remember that emergency fund that every personal finance guru, blogger, author, etc. tells you about? You’ll be very relieved when you find out you have that nice cushion to fall back on. And really, that whole “pay yourself first” idea really works. I never noticed the money was gone (every month I had an automatic transfer over to my ING account), and now that I need it, it’s sitting there waiting for me to draw from when I need to.

Take care of the transitions

Depending on what your severance package provides (or if you didn’t get one at all), you’ll probably look at a few things. Did you get any severance pay? Congratulations. Stash that into your bank account ASAP, and be thankful that your company was nice enough to help you out there. My company did provide some severance pay, but a friend of mine got laid off recently and got pretty much next to nothing. It’s really dependent on your company.

What are you going to do about insurance? Again, some of this depends on your company; they may immediately stop paying the premiums for your insurance, or provide you a grace period. Either way, you should learn about the COBRA. This is where you are given the opportunitiy to continue your insurance plan, but you must pay the premiums, at up to 102% of the cost. Many people can just find alternate, often cheaper plans that still cover their needs. Depending on your state, you might be required to have insurance (which is the case in Massachusetts). From what I’ve heard, if you don’t elect to continue through COBRA, but then something happens and you need insurance, you can retroactively get it taken care of. Don’t quote me on that, I’m looking into it.

Were you enrolled in a 401(k) or similar program? If so, you have a few options that I know of. They are summarized rather nicely in Get Rich Slowly’s page. I am most likely going to either roll my 401(k) over into an IRA, or, if I find new work soon enough and it’s a feasibility, I will move my 401(k) to my new company’s 401(k). What I will NOT do, and I don’t recommend you do it either, is cash out my 401(k). You have to pay a penalty, and taxes right then for your money, and now you are back to square one with your retirement planning.

And if you had an FSA account (I did), you’re probably going to have to just submit the rest of your claims ASAP, and lose any money that you didn’t spend. I guess this wasn’t something I considered when I initially signed up, but I guess that’s something to think about…how quickly you’ll spend the money in your account. I’m not sure what happens if you spent more than you accumulated, if you have to pay back the extra. I’ll have to check on that as well (for you guys, not for me).

Looking ahead

It’s rough, but it’s time to get back out there! Let your friends know that you are looking. I went ahead and listed it on my facebook profile…which worked out nicely, because a friend saw that and offered to talk to someone in his company that works in my desired area of research. Having good friends willing to help you out is definitely a plus. This is not the time to start networking with people you’ve casually met in the past…hopefully you’ve been networking all along…of course, if you haven’t, you might as well start now! It just looks a little fishy when you suddenly talk to someone you sort of know who can help you find a job. But don’t be afraid to. Update your profiles on your social/business networking sites, and confirm that the available information and connections is accurate and represents you in a positive light. My next step is to look at companies that interest me, and then determine if I have a personal connection to that company, either through friends or through my alumni network.

In the meantime, I’ve also started looking at the assorted job posting sites out there, like monster.com and career builder. There are plenty of others that I’m looking at, and if you want, I can post those, too, though I’m not sure how popular of a site they all are.

Well, hopefully you aren’t all in the same boat as me. Let me know what you’ve found helpful, or if you’re looking for information that I didn’t include, since I probably just omitted it for no useful reason.

[Edit: I forgot to mention applying for unemployment. There’s a good overview here, and for Massachusetts, you can find out how to file claims and such here. If you have trouble navigating that site, let me know. I managed to figure it out.]