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
Tags: , , , , , ,

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!

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It’s my blogoversary! October 27, 2008

Well, that’s not exactly true…

I started blogging in general in 2005, when I mostly discussed happenings around MIT.  I started discussing personal finance related topics in May 2007, and made the transition to WordPress in October 2007.  So it’s been about a year since I’ve started writing on this blog.

I suppose, as is the trend around the blogosphere on your blogoversary, you take a look back at your year of blogging.

So let’s begin!

Financial achievements and changes:

Opened my Roth IRA in July 2007, met goal of fully funding it for 2007.  (somehow didn’t post about that one).

Enrolled in my company’s flexible spending account (and did that again at my new job).

Got laid off

Got a new job

Bought a car

Since December 2007, through saving, paying down student loans, and contributing to my retirement funds (and getting a salary, of course), my net worth has gone up approximately $17,000.  I’m pretty impressed by that.  Though I have to keep in mind that my method for calculating my financial net worth also includes my car, both the Kelly Blue Book value for how much it’s worth (assets) as well as my loan amount (liability).  So currently, that number pretty much cancels itself out (since the car is still valued pretty highly, but I haven’t paid off much on the car yet).

I’ve continued to make most of my financial transactions automatic if possible.  My ING accounts take money from my other accounts a few times every month, my Roth IRA also deducts from my checking account once a month, as does my student loan company, my insurance and 401(k) contributions are taken directly from my paycheck, my car payments are withdrawn from my bank account, and some of my utilities are also withdrawn directly.  However, I do go online and pay my other utility bill every month, cable and rent I have to transfer myself every month, and I sign online to pay my credit card off each month.  I think with these expenses, they change a bit each month (or there is no automatic option available) and so I’ve chosen to pay those off in that way to make sure I have enough money in the correct account.

I have to attest that I think making the monthly expenses automatic is pretty key.  You make sure that you pay your bills on time, which means you don’t have to pay unnecessary fines/fees.  You just have to be careful not to go on autopilot in terms of spending.

Okay, to prevent this from going on too long, I think I’ll talk more about other blogoversary-type things in another post.

Woo, blog blog blog!

 

I got a new job! July 20, 2008

Filed under: Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 5:05 pm
Tags: , ,

So, I was holding off posting this until everything was official.  But now I can spread the good news.  I actually got TWO job offers!  How exciting is that.  Yeah, I’m bragging a little bit…  I joked with my friends that this must be what hot girls feel like, when they get asked out by a ton of guys.

And in the end, I had to make a decision.  My friends also laughed at me, having the “problem of choosing between multiple job offers”.  And let me tell you, it was a tough decision.  Both offers were really interesting.  They had similar pay, and were both for the Boston Area.  There were many differences, however.  Job A was located in Cambridge, so I could take the bus there (though there would be a bit of walking to and from the bus stop).  I’d be working at another startup company, doing pretty interesting research.  Job B is a 20 minute drive from home (a “reverse commute”) at a large established company.  I’d have to buy a car or figure out some sort of sharing or carpool (more on that later).

I decided on the more established company in the end.  They have a lot of opportunities for growth and improvement, and I can try a lot of different projects within Materials Science research.  There’s also the possibility for tuition reimbursement and other educational opportunities.  And I think I wasn’t quite ready to jump into another startup company.  I think stability will be nice.

In the personal finance part of this decision, I’m luckily making money again…always good.  And my salary is higher than my last job, which is also pretty nice.  And they match my 401(k) up to 4%, which is pretty awesome as well.  On the downside, as I mentioned before, I’m likely going to have to buy a car, which will include gas and insurance as well.  I’ll have a post about car ideas later, but if you have any ideas or suggestions for buying a car, I’d love to hear them!

Well, tomorrow’s my first day.

Wish me luck!

 

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.]