When I was still looking for a job out of grad school in August last year, I was worried that maybe I started my search too late. Maybe my experiences at a range of institutional types across the entire country were not enough. Maybe my cover letters were worded wrong or my resume was not quite right. Maybe I was a bull in a china shop, and just did not realize it.
I graduated without a job. Not surprising, it is not uncommon for graduates of my program to walk without a job. Our commencement was in early May, most institutions have not offered by then. I had done all the “right” things. I started with a national job search, I narrowed down functional areas I was interested in, I wrote different cover letters for every institution and position I applied to (much to the chagrin of a couple of my classmates). In my head, I imagined having this great story of my first year in a job, this perfect fit, this thing that worked out in a magical way.
What happened, I never could have imagined.
After no success at The Placement Exchange, I chatted with one of my supervisors. We talked about the process and my hopes and dreams. I wanted so desperately to move back to the West Coast. I needed the West Coast like a fish needs water, like an eagle needs to soar gently. I was suffocated, constrained, not quite my Real Self in the Midwest, and I needed the West Coast.
I do not have a home. I do not have family I can live with while job searching. The family I do have has told me openly and honestly that they would expect me to pay rent if I lived with them. So I jumped, I moved to Portland with no job, and my life savings of a couple thousand.
The moment I got mostly settled in my apartment I thought “okay, but now what?” and I walked around the city. I walked around a very large part of the city. Like, so much that I have not walked that much since. I was excited to walk around my new city.
I did not get a job that month, despite dozens of applications.
I did not get a job the next month, despite dozens more applications.
I started applying nationally again. Maybe it was getting close to a point where I needed to say “hey, at least I tried.”
I did not get a job that month either. I did have a couple interviews. Those were cool.
Writing different cover letters over and over is exhausting. Saving every position posting as a .pdf, properly labeling, typing out similar skills to what I wrote last time. Trying to research enough about the university that I can find what they may want, but not so much that I was interested enough to be disappointed when things did not work out. Words. So many words. Maybe part of why I have recently had trouble writing is all the cover letters I have written.
Rejection was not just an option. It was a likelihood. It was most likely I would apply and be rejected.
Another interview opportunity for some job, some job that, well, who knows. And then I botch the interview, I think I do, anyway. After all, no good interview is shorter than 15 minutes, right?
A couple days later, I get a call. They want to hire me.
So I start working in the School of Business at Portland State University as a Degree Completion Specialist, reaching out to students who did not complete their degree but are close. For 15 hours a week. Within a month and a half, I am asked to cover for a co-worker out on leave. I work 40 hours a week through Christmas.
I return to 15 hours a week in January. Somehow my supervisor finds a way to bring up to 30 hours a week with a second 15-hour contract. Both end in June. June, at the time, was too far away for me to wrap my head around.
The months have flown by. This job has been more than I could have possibly imagined. I had the opportunity to present at a regional conference on a project I worked on, I have learned academic advising skills, I have had the opportunity to help students in crisis and congratulate students that will be graduating if they pass all their classes. And my skepticism on the phrase “you’ll find the right fit” is starting to wear down. Because the office I have had the privilege to work in is so perfect. Between push-ups after appointments with one co-worker, office pot-lucks, trips to the food carts, I have found a place I feel comfortable, a place I feel like I can be a professional and be myself.
All through this, I have been job searching. I wish I could explain the uncertainty, I wish there were words to share how this felt. Applying on evenings and weekends to everything that comes up, to every opportunity I think I could maybe, possibly want to take. It was scary, setting down a life in one place, and knowing that at any point in time an opportunity could arise that would sweep all of that away. The job search part of the process is almost over, for now. I think I will have more to share on that in the next week or so.
So, how about that second year, eh?