Friday, March 16, 2012

The Best Summer

2007 Graduation - I have a Master's!
My sister is graduating in May from her master's program. For Rachel and her classmates, this final semester can be a nerve-wracking time. You feel like you need to find a position before you graduate in May. You and your fellow classmates are all equally on edge, and so it becomes tense and competitive and sorta icky. Not to mention that you are trying to conduct a job search while you are also still expected to be completing final projects and other coursework and balancing the demands of your assistantship. It is super stressful. To add to your stress, there aren't necessarily a ton of positions posted yet, and you may not be all that excited about those that are posted. So you are questioning whether to just apply for everything or hold out for something better. You feel like you might never have a job.  I remember hating that semester, and just wanting it all to be over. However, I'll let you in on a little secret...

One of my favorite summers was the one between graduate school and moving to St. Louis to start my first professional position. The one where I was unemployed. I did not get a job offer until the first week of July, and then did not start my position until August 1.  So May through August were spent just hanging out in Ames, Iowa. And it was exactly what I needed.

My ELPS cohort - the best people I know
That second year of graduate school had really put me through the ringer. Had I moved immediately and gone directly into a position, I would have started it even more stressed out. Instead, I was able to enjoy what would likely be my last summer off.

I got into a lovely daily routine. I would wake up naturally around 8:00 (to the sunshine and fresh air rather than an alarm clock, what?!), and drink my morning coffee and eat a bagel while watching The Today Show or reading a book out on my deck. At 10, I would head over to the gym for a daily workout. Did I mention that I was the skinniest and healthiest that I have ever been that summer? It certainly helped that I was eating nutritious meals at regular meal times because I had the time and energy to cook (Taking care of myself - who knew?!). My apartment was also spotless, which is not exactly something I am known for.

I would typically spend a few hours searching for positions, submitting job applications, and following up with potential employers. I made a point to set the time aside, but didn't let it consume my whole day. Afterwards, I might head to the public library to pick up some more books, to the farmer's market to get some fresh produce, or I might decide to hit up a matinee movie. It was that summer that I discovered I actually enjoy going to the movies by myself. And I read a lot of books. A lot. Plus, I enjoyed those last few months that I had with some of my closest friends. This was leisure, and I liked it. I was okay with being a stay-at-home person, at least in the short term. 

Phil and Me. He worked with me at the call center too that summer.
To help pay my bills, I picked up a part-time position working at the student call center. Yep, that awful position where most people only last for a few weeks. I didn't make it much longer either, but that is because I had to leave for several on-campus interviews. I had enough stashed in savings, that I knew I would be okay through the end of the summer, as long as I lived very frugally. Which I did. I didn't go out to eat. I didn't step foot in a mall all summer. I would sneak my own snacks into the movie theater. I spent a lot of time, just hanging out on my deck. And it was still awesome.

I feel it is important to share that I am not saying unemployment is easy or fun. I applied for well over 60 jobs that summer, and only heard back from a fraction (maybe 10?). I had a total of three campus interviews. And I am thankful that one turned out to be the right fit for me. If I hadn't gotten the position by the end of July, I would likely have had to move home with my mom and sister. That would have been significantly more stressful, and a lot less leisure. But thankfully, I found my new home in St. Louis. I was searching for just a few months, but I understand that for many, unemployment can be much longer and more painful. I am very grateful that I did not get to that point of panic.

The day that I picked out Bucky and brought him home.
I also acknowledge that there is a huge amount of inherent privilege in my story. I still had my student health insurance through the end of the summer. I did not have any car payments, and was still on my parent's auto insurance because I was driving one of their cars. I also didn't have anyone to feed other than myself. Well, I did adopt Bucky during my last week before moving and snuck him into my apartment (because it was a really great idea to then go through a six-hour move with a cat...). But, basically I was only responsible for myself and had very few expenses other than rent, utilities, and food.

I share this story mainly for my friends and sister who are going through their search process right now. Know that it is okay if you do not have a job before graduation. Not many of us did, except for the crew looking at live-on positions. Also do not feel like you have to take something that is not a good fit just to have a job by June 1. There are many positions that will not post until later in the summer - many individuals in those entry-level positions are searching right now too, and their position won't post until after they accept something. If there is one thing that I have learned along the way, it is that hiring processes take a LONG time. Be patient. And, of course, if you do find that you have a little bit of time in between graduation and your first job, make the best of it. You may never have another chunk of time like that in your career to just enjoy yourself. If you are anything like I was in graduate school, you probably need time for some self care too.

You are almost done. Enjoy this last semester, and congratulations!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...