Job Searching Like It’s My Job

After a fairly uneventful month, I’ve had a jam-packed week of job searching and future planning full of successes and…well, total failure.

On Monday, I had an interview with a local Starbucks. I think I did well, but I may have done too well. Sarah said that I answered questions about my experiences too intelligently. I didn’t understand why that was a bad thing until she told me that if you sound too smart they won’t hire you because you’re less likely to stick around. Oops. Yeah, I didn’t get a call back, but that’s okay. I didn’t really want to work there anyway.

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On Tuesday, I drove to my alma mater for a much needed job search session at the Student Professional Development Center aka Career Services. I got some good advice about how to get an entry level job in the education field without a license or a master degree. I’m looking forward to using some of these tips and utilizing my LinkedIn profile more.

That night I attended a graduate school information session at UNCG and visited my best friend who is a student there. It was really informative and I got to meet some faculty members. When I told her my GPA, she cringed and said, “You’re almost there.” Then told me to study hard for the GRE and get good recommendations. I didn’t realize how much competition there is for grad school before. My program is cohort based so they only accept 20 applicants every two years. Pressure!!! But, I’m going to remain optimistic and open to the possibilities. The first step is writing the personal statement. I feel this is going to be difficult because, as you all know; I am not a woman of few words.

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I’ll post my statement on the blog once it’s completed for your comments!

After driving back to Elon and hanging out with my good friend, Tori, who by the way has an awesome blog as well, I was exhausted! The next day, I attended the job fair on campus. I have to say I was a little disappointed. Most companies were looking for sales reps or for students majoring in business and accounting, etc. I did meet a few teacher recruiters, but I’m not really passionate about teaching in a secondary setting anymore…I guess you know why. After leaving with a shockingly small number of cards and only giving out two resumes, I met a few friends at a local restaurant for dinner. That dinner made my trip worth my time. I don’t have any friends in Raleigh, so being able to socialize with friends after weeks of basically being a housewife for my family was awesome. We just talked and ate good food, that’s my idea of a great time. I miss them so much!


Well, Reader, I’m almost finished with my week; where is the promised failure? you ask. To be honest, this failure truly wasn’t my fault. I couldn’t have studied more or prepared more, I did everything I could. It was an act of God, that’s the only way I can explain it.

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I applied to an indie (read: pretentious) coffee shop in downtown Raleigh and had an interview on Saturday at 2:15pm. At 2:05pm, I drove into a parking garage behind the coffee shop looking fabulous and feeling confident. I was stopped by a woman wearing a blue collar who explained that all parking downtown was $7 due to a festival happening all weekend. I didn’t have any cash and my interview was in ten minutes, so I begged her to let me pay on the way out. When she refused to let me in, I asked her where an ATM was and turned around. I knew I would be late at this point, so I fought back tears…okay I opened the flood gates! and called the coffee shop to let them know. I frantically searched for an ATM and found one close by that was accessible by car (most ATMs downtown were on streets blocked off for the festival). When I got there, I saw lovely trees and a scenic meadow…and no ATM. Repeat this series of events six times, SIX TIMES. It wasn’t always a meadow, sometimes Google Maps led me to a bank nestled in an antiquated brick building blocked off by construction, sometimes an empty parking lot, sometimes to a building that was locked or closed. The minutes were ticking by and as I grew more and more desperate, I searched for an ATM farther and farther away from the coffee shop.

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ATM #7, a SunTrust. FINALLY, I got the cash I needed and called the coffee shop to let them know I was on my way. At 3:20pm, I drove into the parking garage behind the coffee shop with tear-stained cheeks and absolutely no confidence. I had cried off all my make-up and was trembling from frustration, but I put on what I hope was a smile of confidence and walked up to a flannel-wearing barista with thick-rimmed glasses to ask for the manager. After a few moments waiting at the bar, another flannel-wearing barista came up to me and told me that the manager couldn’t wait for me and left for the day. I asked her if I could reschedule, she said that they “weren’t interested” in me because it had taken me so long to get there. I stumbled out an apology and explained the situation. What I got in reply was, “It sounds like you’ve had a rough day. I hope your day gets better.” Luckily, I made it out of the door before I burst into tears. I cursed myself for not having $7 in my pocket. If I did, I would have been on time and probably gotten the job. Maybe not, I don’t own any flannel plaid, which is apparently the uniform since every time I’ve gone there that’s all I see them wearing.

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I don’t expect them to give me second chance; I wouldn’t take it even if they did. I was mostly using this interview as an opportunity for more practice, but it was humiliating all the same. After wasting so much of my time and gas, and trying so hard to just get there at all, I was turned away. I paid $7 to cry in a parking garage for ten minutes before I was capable of driving my car home.

Tomorrow, I start afresh searching for and applying to jobs again like it’s my job. Wish me luck!

Beck

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The Final Report

I’ve kept strangely quiet about my summer job in a college after my first optimistic post. Every time I try to think over what happened, to make sense of the chaos and horror that was this summer, I come up empty. It’s almost as if I’ve repressed the memories to keep myself from going insane, but I need to write about it if I’m ever going to get over it. I’m still hurt and angry, and I’m afraid this post has an awful lot of complaining in it, but writing it all down has helped. As my sister says, writing is healing.

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Lessons Learned

The first thing I learned as Dean of Residence Life was that I was not ready for this job. I had just graduated, had no real job before, and was coming into an important administrative role with no prior experience to pull from. I did not know what it took to house and run a residence life program. I thought of myself as a lead RA because that’s what I understood. I did not have the skills, the attention to detail or the ability to keep up with the work load required for this job. A few days into the program, I found myself at my wits end and with nowhere to go but down. A week into the program, I made a mistake and was led to believe that all my coworkers resented me, and that I was a “whisper away from being fired”. I was quickly labeled as incompetent (even called selfish) and the majority of my responsibilities were given to other administrators for the rest of the program. They even promoted two RAs to administrators in order to “delegate more effectively”. It’s important to me that my boss and coworkers believe in me, that I can do my job and improve. Maybe this isn’t a good thing, because it makes me reliant on others for my self-assurance, but so it is. I did not feel that they had faith in me after that first week and my self-esteem suffered as a result.

The second thing I learned was that this program was poorly designed and managed. The students doubled in number this year; the admin team did not double in number this year. That is not a recipe for success. This program was extremely ill-designed and set up all its workers for failure. Is it reasonable to expect every administrator to be efficient while working 19 hour days for three or more days? This is not an exaggeration. Throughout the duration of the program, I got five hours of sleep on a good day. We had multiple administrators and RAs up until 2am or 3am dealing with residents going to the ER, getting locked in trash rooms, getting calls from peeping toms; the list goes on. Expectations from the main office were not communicated clearly or in a timely manner, so deadlines were missed, mistakes were made, and miscommunication multiplied. The most frustrating thing about this job was that no matter how many times we as an admin team tried to tell the director that things needed to change, she was unwilling to listen and make changes. If a worker is not performing well, you can respond in one of two ways. You can (1) threaten and criticize that worker in the hopes of scaring them straight, or (2) work with them to discover the root of the problem and implement strategies to improve. As a boss you also play the role of the teacher. If a teacher does not succeed in teaching her students with one method, it is expected that they try other methods in order to help that student reach his or her goal. These were not theories the director attempted to put into practice, despite having a doctorate in higher education.

The third thing I learned was that if you cannot communicate and work with your coworkers, you cannot be successful. I thought in the beginning that we were communicating well, but that quickly failed after the first weekend. We were not communicating well at all. Misinformation was abundant and when mistakes were made we blamed each other instead of changing the process. It got so bad that we had an intervention where we all sat in a meeting for three hours alternatively blaming each other and then being vulnerable and apologizing. I was the only one who cried; it was mortifying. After this, things got a bit better, but we never fully recovered. Again, our boss didn’t seem to care that we had problems responding to her communication and management style. This experience has made me realize the importance of acting quickly in the future when I have conflicts with coworkers and my boss, and to apologize early when you make mistakes.

Breaking Point

I had many breakdowns during the program, but the incident that made me go absolutely crazy happened on my last night on campus. We had two students left in the dorms and most of the RAs and admins had already left. I wanted to celebrate the end of the program with a few RAs who were also my friends. We weren’t going to do much, just go have a drink or two at a local bar. When my boss found out that this was happening, she freaked out and called me 11 times in 20 minutes, left two voice messages, and many texts asking me the same questions over and over about who was going to be in charge while I was out “partying”. I was not planning to be off campus for more than three hours and felt that she was overreacting. She gave me instructions to put two RAs on duty while I was gone and make sure the residents knew who to contact if anything happened. My RAs were not on contract, so I thought it unfair to ask them to be on duty. After I told my boss I was following directions, which I did reluctantly, I got a call from one of my RAs saying they were scared because my boss called her. My boss said she couldn’t get ahold of me and was threatening to come to campus “if things weren’t going her way”.

This is when I hit my limit.

After I unnecessarily woke up students to give them the RA on duty’s number and doing exactly as I was told, even though it was completely unnecessary, my boss called my RA and freaked her out about the whole thing. I was outraged and only saw red. I called my boss and yelled at her saying she had no right to call my RAs and scare them and make them do anything when their contract had ended. She was the one who did not think through the closing procedures and put safety measures in place. I was there voluntarily. What would she have done if I had left earlier that day and not decided to stay the night? It was fine to bother me about this stuff, but to call and freak out my RAs? They did not deserve that. I hung up after I told her never to call me again, and she didn’t. I know it was unprofessional, but my contract was over; she couldn’t touch me. I knew even before my outburst that I would not get a good reference from her anyway. It felt so good to tell her off like that, especially since it was not the first time I or the other admins had been harassed past 10pm by my boss who was most likely not sober.

I was never so happy to leave a job in my life. There were so many times that I wanted to quit this summer, because I was stretched far past my limit mentally, emotionally, and physically. But I’m glad I didn’t because I was able to finish what I started, even if I went a little crazy in the end.

Beck

Postgraduate Depression

You know the classic story of the hero? He, or in this case she, accepts a challenge, goes through obstacles, faces a crises and recovers to reach her goal. Well, readers, my crisis is over. How do I know that my crisis is over? I woke up this morning and felt like I had something to say. For the first time since I returned from my summer job a month ago, I wanted to write.

Postgraduate depression is a real thing. It’s akin to First-year Loneliness Syndrome most college students go through. It’s probably the same kind of “freaking out” that all people go through anytime there’s a major change in his or her life. Postgraduate depression can be described as a prolonged feeling of “What am I doing with my life?” with the resulting echo being a hollow “nothing, nothing” that fades into the nights of Netflix binge watching and an old friend you graduated with from college, procrastination.

I got so discouraged that I deactivated my Facebook and started calling/emailing my friends that I wanted to keep in touch with (crazy concept, I know). I didn’t want to see day after day that “everybody” was getting great jobs or going to great schools. And I was just sitting here, with an empty bank account and empty days ahead. I know that social media is a farce, that people create ideal versions of their perfectly pictured lives to display for the public; but even so, I couldn’t help but think that I wasn’t making progress.

I spoke with a friend recently who is moving back in with her parents soon in order to save more money. She also felt depressed, like she was moving backwards. But we decided that just because we feel social pressure to get perfect jobs, move out of our parent’s homes, and start our “adult lives”, doesn’t mean that we’re failing at life if we’re not doing those things immediately. Everybody has their own path. Whether it takes you four or six years to get an undergraduate degree, you’re still working toward your goals. Don’t let people make you feel bad for taking time to figure out exactly what you want to do, or for working through obstacles like a lack of resources. The important thing is that you do have goals and that you persevere.

I use my sister as an example all the time. She graduated from college two years ago. During the past two years, she has continued taking courses to fulfill prerequisites for graduate school and made progress into her intended career by becoming a nurse assistant. Now she works at Duke University Hospital and is most likely entering PA school next fall. That’s progress. Who cares if it took two or more years? She has gone through countless setbacks, but has steadily worked toward her goal; no one can say that she has been sitting around doing nothing.

Some people would still judge her for moving back in with her parents this summer, but like I said, everybody has their own path. Until you know everything about what a person has or is going through, you can’t judge whether they are “failing” at life. People forget that college students are graduating into a different economy nowadays. It used to be that people could move out and start a career right after college, but I’ll be lucky to get any job that allows me to start paying back my student loans this year. So I say, screw those people; you do you. I may not have any immediate plans, but I do have goals for graduate school, working abroad and more; and I don’t have plans to give up, no matter how long it takes.

Beck