one part post-academic, one part post-evangelical, and a generous splash of feminist

Archive for the category “Work”

I have a job

I got the offer about 2 weeks after I wrote my last post, and I started less than 2 weeks after that, so it’s coming up on my four-month anniversary. I didn’t blog about any of the hiring process–I was scared of jinxing it. And it’s taken me awhile to be able to write about it since then–partly I’ve been so busy, and partly I’ve been gathering my thoughts.

The unemployed hiring manager

I was recently in the exceedingly ironic position of hiring  someone while unemployed myself.

The organization I volunteer for wanted to create a new part-time position (5-10 hrs/week). This organization has only 2 (now 3) paid positions, all of which are similarly part-time; the bulk of the work is done by volunteers. We talked a lot about this new position, but no one was moving forward, so I took the initiative to write up a job description, post it for free on local university career websites, and, when that wasn’t working, get approval to post a paid ad on

Our ideal candidate was someone with an interest in nonprofit management and knowledge of our specific sector. Over about a month, we received 25 applications. They came from a wide range of applicants: there were a few people right out of college, some who were very advanced in nonprofit management, and some who had a good deal of experience in unrelated fields.

I wish I could have written back to many of the candidates with my feedback on their resumes and cover letters; instead, here’s where I turn into Ask a Manager:

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From the archives

Here’s a post I wrote late last October, when I was in my receptionist job. I was working on perfecting this when I got laid off, at which point it seemed irrelevant. But I’m posting it now as a record of what that job was like.

I’m six weeks into my new job.

At first I was really happy: having a real job made me feel needed and valued, and it was really good for me to have a legitimate reason to get out every other day. I was no longer isolated and felt like I had a purpose, however minor my contribution.

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Just sent off an application via Jobvite in which I attached the wrong cover letter file. The one that included a previous draft of the real cover letter, the copied-and-pasted job description, plus a generous sprinkling of bits and pieces from other cover letters. I spent far too long agonizing over this job application in the first place, and then I send it off and make a stupid, magnificently ironic mistake like that. After touting my brilliant eye for detail, killer proofreading abilities, and unmatched communication skills, I miss this. I guess it was bound to happen at some point. But is it better or worse that this is a job for which I got a contact through my ever-improving networking skills? If I were a nobody, then I could just scratch this one off the list: oops! But since I have an in, this person who doesn’t really know me is probably going to think I’m an idiot and regret recommending me.

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“Benign self-absorption”

I just got off the phone with my mom. I mentioned to her that I was going to get unemployment benefits, saying, “I didn’t think I’d qualify, but I do, so that will be really helpful.”

Her response: “Yeah, under Obama everyone gets everything they want, all they have to do is ask. Doesn’t matter if you’ve earned it or not.”

I have been through enough therapy at this point to know that my mom’s personal judgments often come at the cost of civility, and it doesn’t help the situation for me to take it personally. So I ignored her unintentional implication. But I was genuinely confused because I knew she’d made the tortured decision to collect on her benefits a couple of years ago. “Well, you got unemployment too when you were looking for work.”

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Feeling better

I’m feeling a lot better now than I was the other day.

First, I found out that I’m eligible for unemployment benefits. I applied a couple of weeks ago just for the heck of it, figuring I never made enough at any part-time jobs to qualify for anything. But a couple of days ago I got a form in the mail including the details of my weekly and maximum benefit amounts. Just knowing this has made a big difference for me–it’s not tons of money, but it’s so much more than $0, and I won’t have to feel like a total drain on my partner’s income.

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Unemployment Blues

Job hunting is as bad as dissertation writing. It’s different, because I am more motivated to find a job than I was when I was writing most of my dissertation. But job hunting is, like my dissertation, much more than a full-time job. Even when I’m not actively working on application materials or networking or informational interviewing, the foremost thought on my mind is I don’t have a job and I really, really, really need one. It’s gotten particularly bad lately, and I’ve been asking myself why. I only defended my dissertation a month ago, and I only graduated a week ago. Yet the trajectory of my pessimism has gone sharply downhill in that last week.

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I got laid off

In what may be an alt-academic blogger first (?), I got laid off. From my two-month-old, part-time admin assistant job.

It feels a lot like being broken up with by someone who thinks they’re too cool for you. While I’m pretty much over it now, and actually bounced back pretty quickly, it was a huge shock at the time, and an experience I hope I don’t ever have to relive. Here’s what happened:

A couple of weeks ago it was time for all the full-time, salaried employees to get their quarterly performance reviews and attendant bonuses. I knew I wasn’t eligible for a bonus, but I did want to see if there might be a raise in my future. I also wanted a chance to talk about my performance, both to get feedback and to share some of my ideas for ways that my responsibilities could be expanded or altered. So I asked my non-official manager, Endora, to schedule me for a review. Never having had a true performance review before, I was a little nervous—worried that maybe I couldn’t handle the criticism and would wish I hadn’t asked for it in the first place. But in I went that Wednesday afternoon  to meet with the two Big Bosses, armed with my little Post-It to remind me of the things I wanted to discuss.

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Update on my job

I’ve been at this for about two months now, so there’s lots to say about all aspects of my job. So, in the interest of starting somewhere, I’ll describe what I do all day.

I work 8-5, MWF. I arrive at the office at about 7:50, depending on how early or late my bus is that day. My first tasks are to work out that day’s scheduling for the conference rooms, make coffee, and tidy up the conference rooms and the employee kitchen. I finish all of this before 9:00, at which point I’m sometimes given other tasks to do, and sometimes not. In general, I’m responsible for things like answering the phone, buzzing in guests and making sure they know where to go. I prepare and mail packages, keep the kitchen neat and clean, field random employee questions, and refill printer paper. Other projects I’ve worked on include organizing an overflowing closet of office supplies, collecting and editing employees’ bios for the internal website, and (teaching myself how to do) a merge-mail to get addresses from several hundred company contacts. Sometimes there’s not much for me to do, so I email/read/write/whatever. For the most part I can be found at the front desk, separated from the rest of the office by a wall. It’s fairly isolated, especially compared to the open-office plan that structures the rest of the space. I get paid through lunch, so I work through lunch, which is provided by the in-house chef. I do eat with everyone else, but when the phone rings, I have to get up and go answer it.
And that’s a glimpse into my pre-post-academic life. I’m very strongly aware of how I’m not quite in and not quite out of academia. The question “What do you do?” no longer has a simple answer. I usually just say that I’m writing my dissertation, but sometimes I add that I’m a part-time receptionist. I no longer feel like my academic work defines me, since it is far from the only thing I do now, but I also don’t want my part-time receptionist job to define me. These two things have roughly equal demands on my time, and it’s both of them together that make me who I am right now (most painfully in that I won’t have much of a social life until next spring). Being in the middle is hard enough, and for me it’s complicated because of how acutely I’m made aware of the prestige of the one identity and the low status of the other (more on this in a future post). Nevertheless, I feel like one somehow excuses the other. I’m proud that I’m working while writing my dissertation, and that I’m getting “real world” experience while still officially cloistered in the ivory tower. And I’m proud that I’m writing my dissertation while working: I am more than my job.

distractions:SAT tutoring::SAT tutoring:happiness

Last Thursday I had three tutoring sessions back-to-back. By the time I got to the third one at 7:30pm, I was worn out but still ready for a productive 90 minutes. My new student, who I’ll call Ahab, greeted me at the door. Before I was two steps inside, his brother, who seemed to be about 17, ran past me in his swim trunks calling, “Sorry I’m wet!” Two medium-sized dogs, also wet, were close behind. They made a beeline for me, rubbing and licking and sniffing my legs. I don’t like dogs who are badly trained, let alone if they’re wet, but I said nothing and tried to walk past them and over to the table so we could get started. Ahab asked, “Do you like dogs?” and I replied, “Oh, they’ll be fine once they calm down.” He said, “I’ll just go put them outside.” This was an excellent idea, given that they were so distracting that neither one of us was going to be able to concentrate otherwise. But it was only a temporary solution; within five minutes one of the dogs was back in, having very sensibly hopped through the little dog door in the kitchen. So Ahab took him upstairs and shut him in a bedroom.

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