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?

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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!

 

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.]