Nope, no job yet

My job search is going horribly.

That first company I phone-interviewed with gave me the silent treatment. The person I spent an hour on the phone with never got back to me, ignoring the 2 or 3 emails I sent. Game over. Fine, I didn’t really want that job anyway, but at least have the courtesy to get back to me and say no thanks.

The company where I had the other phone interview may schedule me for an interview next week. This has dragged out for weeks now, with responses to my emails and voicemail coming very slowly. The hiring manager does seem genuinely interested in bringing me in for an in-person interview, and has been very nice to me, but the hiring process has been slowed down due to client needs and managers on vacation.

The week before last I felt bad/guilty about my very low number of job applications, so I really buckled down on that. I sent out 10 (targeted) applications in one week, which was an exponential improvement over what I had been doing. Then last Tuesday I went to a workshop at my local JVS and was told, not for the first time, that networking was really where it’s at, and job applications are basically useless. So this past week I sent out over a dozen cold-call emails to people, based on the strength of some common affiliation or both being PhDs, asking them if they’d meet with me and tell me about how they got started. I’ve gotten 3 responses so far, which seems pretty low to me.

I’ve devoted a lot of time to that, and to my career-relevant volunteer work, and so I didn’t apply to any jobs last week. I’m getting back to that this week. Wanting some feedback, I sent my materials to my career counselor at JVS. He left me a voicemail a little while ago saying that my application isn’t targeted enough and he’d like to talk to me about it. And since this application is built on the same basis as a million other applications, I feel like everything I’ve done has been a waste.

So 3 1/2 months after defending my dissertation, and 2 1/2 months after graduating, I have two phone interviews to show for all my job-searching efforts. I’m treating my search as much like a full-time job as I can, and this is where it’s gotten me. I read up on my new field, conduct informational interviews, do relevant volunteer work, go to career skills workshops, write targeted resumes & cover letters, and go to networking events. I’ve got a PhD from a top-tier school, and no one gives me a second glance. I know that’s a horrible, braggy thing to say. But I picked my university because I thought for sure everyone would want someone with a degree from THERE. It was supposed to make me marketable. Desirable.

Next week is my birthday. I’ll be celebrating by sending in a giant check (a loan from my significant other) to pay for a four-month extension on my student health insurance so that I can get the (wildly expensive) medication I need, and also spare myself the crushing debt that would result should some horrible catastrophe should befall me. These few months are massively overpriced compared to the rate I was getting as a student, and perhaps to a more reasonable rate from another company, but I don’t have the time or energy to research other options, given all the small print and “catches.” Also, I’m not sure how they define “pre-existing condition,” and maybe I wouldn’t qualify anyway. Obamacare, you are kicking in a few months too late for me.

I love the post-ac community, but it really bums me out to read all those posts on Versatile PhD from all those people who landed great jobs right out of grad school and then just marched right up the ladder to career success and fulfillment. Also, on the site’s sample job materials, a lot of the submissions break the rules of how you’re supposed to write an effective cover letter and resume (too long, irrelevant information, jargon-y, stilted language) and yet these are the materials that got people jobs. And most of them do not appear to be through networking.

A friend who I haven’t talked to since early June emailed me the other day and asked if I had a job yet. It’s worse than being asked if you’ve finished your dissertation yet.

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8 thoughts on “Nope, no job yet

  1. I don’t know if you read askamanager.org, but I found her advice for job-searching, resumes, cover letters, etc. to be incredibly helpful and humane when I was looking for jobs. It’s tough to find a job in this market, and even tougher when you’re transitioning from academia to something else. From what I’ve read, not having found a job after a few months of searching is quite common, and it certainly doesn’t say anything about you or your ability to do any of the jobs you’ve applied for.

    I didn’t go too crazy applying for jobs because I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I did have to temp at one company for eight months before they finally got their act together and hired me (for about five of those months we were having discussions about me potentially getting hired, and timelines kept getting pushed back and then pushed back again – it sucked big time). The day I was hired was almost a year from the day I passed my qualifying exams and did my last academic work. I think once you *do* find a job, it’s kind of easy to just stop thinking about how frustrating and depressing it was to be in job-search limbo, which might explain why people on VPhD can make it sound like they fell right into jobs and didn’t have to go through months and months of anxiety looking for work.

    In any case, hang in there – once you find a job (and you will), according to what others say, no other job search you go through in the future will be as awful as this one is. The next time you’re searching, you won’t be coming straight out of grad school; you’ll have experience and a network and a history of getting results in your chosen field.

  2. Anon says:

    I’m usually just happy to be a lurker on post-academic blogs, but I felt like I had to de-lurk to offer you some encouragement. It sounds like you are doing everything right– the disappointing results have nothing to do with you at all. Just like the academic job market, you can’t control who’s looking for what positions at what time. On the bright side, one great thing about the post-ac job market is that new jobs are constantly being posted, new positions are always being created, and you’re not stuck waiting for the next hiring round centred on the academic year.

    I completely concur with anotherpostacademic– the people who are posting success stories on Versatile PhD? They’ve already made it through the fire and brimstone of that first initial post-academic job search. Every single job that you apply for after this one will be easier, as you’ll have proven that you’re able to transition your knowledge to the real world, work with others, work to deadlines, work under pressure, etc. These are already things that we post-acs already know you can do, and do well, but unfortunately (most) post-academic employers don’t seem to understand that we *have already done in grad school*.

    You’re not wrong to feel disappointed that your advanced degree from a prestigious school doesn’t seem to be helping at this stage of your job search. I do have confidence that your degree will eventually help you in your career– part of the reason that people on Versatile PhD have reported quick career progress is that, once you’re on that ladder, your degree and experience kick in to help you climb speedily. The hardest part is proving yourself to get onto that first rung.

    You sound like you’re taking a responsible, structured approach to job hunting– well done. Keep up your great work, try not to lose heart, and try to stay as positive as you can. You have a bunch of readers rooting for you. 🙂

    • Anon says:

      P.S. Re: the comment from JVS that “job applications are basically useless” – I’d definitely beg to differ. I’ve been on a post-academic career track for the last few years, have held four positions of increasing seniority, and achieved every single one of them through job applications, not networking. YMMV, of course, but I wanted to counter this notion (which seems to be oddly popular in post-ac job advice all of a sudden) that job applications aren’t helpful.

  3. Chiming in to say – I also presume what you’re seeing at Versatile PhD is survivor bias; only those who feel confident about their Shiny! New! Job! are posting so you won’t hear the other stories. Job hunting is hard thankless work, and it’s ok to feel rotten about the process when it’s not quite working for you.

  4. GG says:

    I usually like to read the post-ac blogs, but since I’m one of those who wrote for VPhD, I thought I really should delurk and comment this time.

    Academish – hang in there. Job hunting is tough in this economy and the transitions from academia and research are among the toughest. I spent over a year hunting for jobs and soul-searching during my transition from academia and research. Even though my story on VPhD may sound like the process was effortless, that was the last thing it was! It was hard and frustrating and some days it felt like all the work in getting a PhD from a top-ranked school and working like crazy on the research and teaching was a waste. The transition time does end – and at least for me, part of what helped me get through that period was reading a lot of books, blogs and stories from people who had gone through transitions in different forms.

    What really made the difference for me in the end was networking and making connections with people through conferences and local meetups. You sound like you’re doing a fantastic job with your search efforts and I’m sure they will pay off soon.

  5. Hey Academisch,

    I can understand your feelings. I am not a PhD graduate but a bachelors graduate and it is tough to find a job. I have yet to find a permanent position and I have been struggling and struggling. Just know that you are not alone and that this post helped others, like me, feel better about the hunt.

  6. Thanks for all the encouraging comments. It’s great to know I have thoughtful readers supporting me! I can’t say I’m 100% better, but maybe I won’t be until I have a job.

    And thanks, anotherpostacademic — I do read Ask a Manager and have learned a lot. However, she also brings out a bit of dread and terror in me, because every so often she’ll link back to her post about “If you’re not getting interviews, it’s probably your resume/cover letter.” And so I’m left feeling like it’s all my fault, and there can’t be any other reason why I’m not hearing back from people. So I’ve gone from reading religiously to reading moderately, to try and limit how discouraged some of the posts make me feel.

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