Monday, December 29, 2014

Reminding Yourself to Stay Positive During the Job Search

My semester as an adjunct teaching five English classes is over; I am on vacation, and my main task now is to find a  full-time job. Never in my life have I had such a hard time finding a job, but, then again, this is different. This time, I am seeking a job with a company where I will start my career and hopefully be employed for a long period of time.

However, getting your foot in the door for a professional position is difficult, and it is easy to get discouraged--especially when you have student loan payments looming and living expenses to consider. At times, the task seems impossible, especially when you don't regularly get responses on your resume, or if, when you do, and you go on interviews, they decide to "pass on you" for someone with more experience or who more closely meets their needs in some vague, undisclosed way. Then you get desperate and end up settling for a part-time job or multiple part-time jobs to try to make ends meet, and you start to feel that you have been the victim of a huge lie...

After all, the unemployment rate of recent college graduates between the ages of 22 and 27 in 2013 was 5.6%, and "more than half" of those "22-year-old degree holders" who found jobs found ones where they didn't need a college diploma. When you are stuck in this sort of situation, you start second-guessing yourself and all of the decisions that you made that led you to this point in your life. You think about your options, and you only grow more discouraged, as you are so close that you can see your goal, but you can't attain it, and it is there teasing you, just out of your grasp. 

This is when it is important to remind yourself that, in spite of your current situation, it is worth all of the hard work, and, as a few quick Google searches will prove, the sort of success that many people go to college to attain is overwhelmingly not a lie for most people. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2013, people with a bachelor's degree or higher had an unemployment rate of 4% or less and a median weekly earning of $1,108 or more. This is in contrast to people with a high school diploma, who had an unemployment rate of 7.5% and a median weekly earning of $651. That is a very clear difference, and with every successive degree that you earn, the income only increases, and thus, going to school is indeed worth it, even when you take into account student loan debt.

According to CNN Money, student loan debt averaged $29,000 in 2013. Based on an income of $1,108 a week, on a standard repayment plan, a single taxpayer with $29,000 in loans would pay $242 a month (in the state of Ohio) towards their student loans over 120 months (Repayment Estimator at If you consider that, according to the Federal Reserve, the lifetime earnings of a college graduate is worth $830,000 more than that of a high school graduate, even if your loans are $100,000, you will earn substantially more money that you would have likely earned if you not going to college (Forbes). The overall financial reward for going is worth the cost of it, and worth the continued effort to find a job that will put you on the positive side of these statistics.

The key, I believe, is to keep trying. Do research and figure out what you are doing wrong. Find all the jobs that you seem remotely qualified to do, and apply for them all. Adjust your resume and write a new cover letter for each new position. Use all of the job boards, but also apply directly through companies' websites. Ask your friends and your friends' friends to see if where they are working is hiring, and if they have any jobs like what you are qualified to do. It only takes one success application and interview process--you just have to make sure that you are in the right place at the right time. And that takes a lot of work, and a lot of applications.

If you are creative, and persistent, eventually you will find the right job. If you stay positive, work hard, and attempt to learn from your mistakes, you will more likely be successful. Of course, that is easier said that done--as I will be the first to admit--but, just like everything else, having the right attitude takes effort too.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Considering: A Well-Respected Man About Town

Lately I have been torn. I like teaching, and I like writing, but I don't necessarily have to have jobs doing either. I would do well at those sorts of jobs, but I could do well at lots of other jobs, too. I think the key is to remain open and hope for the best. You also have to be prepared for the possibility that a job won't come your way on its own, and you will have to seek it out.

When doing so, you have to be open to everything that fits, not just one thing or another. Of course, it is okay to have preferences, but don't let your  unimportant preferences overrule what could be good positions with decent companies. Consider taking full advantage of each opportunity, if possible, before you choose one over the others--if you are lucky enough to have a choice. That way, if you have a choice to make, your choice will be well-considered among all the choices, and as a result you will have a greater opportunity to maximize your benefits.

Not all positions are created equal: you have to think about whether or not you truly have the skill-set required for that position, whether you have a realistic chance of getting such a position, whether you have the right amount of experience. You also have to consider whether the position is paying enough, whether the benefits are fair, and whether it's close enough to be a reasonable commute. By comparing each of the positions, you will apply for the ones within a range of how well they fit those needs based on your analysis. This is also true with different types of jobs.

For example, as a teacher, I have no work-life balance, but I have more room to make decisions about how I spend my time, because I only have class and office hours for so much time. After those obligations are finished, I can continue working, or take a break, and work later, or get up earlier, and work and work. The only thing that matters is that you finish your work. If you can do that, then you can do stuff. You can also work crazy hours for like the last two weeks and finish up everything. The key benefit here, I think, is flexibility.

Whereas, having a full-time job with a regular schedule has a different set of benefits. You have to fully commit to the job while you are there, but for the most part, outside of the job, you can do what you want. There are clearly defined barriers. As long as you are available to work when they need you to work, having that type of all-or-nothing separation makes it possible to more fully concentrate on family, friends, and hobbies outside of work. Also, the pay is often better, especially if you have gone to school for long enough, and you are applying for the right types of positions.

I am in a weird frame of mind to be not partial to either teaching or other types of jobs--until I actually have to lean this way or that. That way, when I commit to one, I can commit to it fully and without too many regrets, because I will have considered every possibility, at length, beforehand. I will somewhat know what to expect and how to maximize the benefits, as much as possible.

Whatever happens, I hope that I can continue writing fiction and playing music, and justify doing both, because I enjoy them, and they keep me sane. Further, as long as I can continue doing both in any capacity, I will be happy. In other words, at least I know how I will be spending my free time.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Some [Surprisingly Positive] End of the Semester Thoughts on Being a Teacher

This semester is nearly over. It's not over yet, but it almost is over, and almost is...Well, let's just say I have had a lot of experience with almosts lately, and almost is... Well, it's much better than some of the alternatives.

Teaching five classes has been a lot of work. Undeniably. There have been times I have wanted to give up, thought I couldn't do it even a second longer, wanted to be doing anything else but this. But I have continued pushing myself. I have continued working, and in spite of my self-doubt, my struggles with myself, I have almost made it to the end. I just have to keep working, and soon enough it will be all over.

With 98.5, Mr. Classic and the Saturday Night House Party, on the radio, I am pushing forward. This station has provided my soundtrack as I have sat here, in my office, for days, pouring over my students' work, trying to be fair, trying not to get frustrated, trying to give them honest, constructive criticism--feedback that they will hopefully use to become better writers. I can only hope that some of them will take it. I know some of them have over the semester, and I hope, eventually, those that haven't will see that I am not just pulling stuff out of my ass to fill their time, that I am actually attempting to do something meaningful, and give them advice that they will actually use in their lives, if not sooner than later.

It is now, when I should be most stressed out, most frustrated, most ready to give up and never think about it again, that I am feeling something that I am not sure that I ever expected to feel. It didn't come easily, and I have indeed been stressed out, frustrated, and depressed, but maybe this is what I should be doing. Maybe I am on the right career path, but maybe I just need to figure out a way to make it work for me. Maybe this profession is what I am meant to do for a living. Maybe this is how I should focus my job search.

If you have been following this blog, you know that I have been trying to find a full-time job. It has been a frustrating process, and, increasingly, I have started to think that I am not qualified for anything--even though I have had some responses, and have been on a few interviews. I know this is a part of the process, but that doesn't make it any easier. My bills aren't getting any smaller, and I am not getting any younger.

I have come so far and worked so hard that I owe it to myself to keep trying and keep pushing, but maybe I need to change my focus, which I have done, but maybe I have not changed it to the right focus yet. At first, I focused on writing jobs, then I focused on recruiting jobs, then I refocused on writing jobs, and lately I have been focused on whatever seems remotely close. Nothing has really worked out for me, even though I have been close. But, when searching for a job, being close is just as disappointing, maybe more-so, than not being close at all.

It's not that I haven't thought about teaching professionally. For a long time, I didn't believe in myself, that I was a good teacher. Now that is changing, now I realize that I can make a meaningful impact, and that I can do this. I just need to keep working at it, keeping building my skills, keep perfecting my approach, keep seeking a higher level of professionalism and dedication.

Maybe I won't ever make it rich, but that is doubtful anyways. I just need to make enough to pay my bills, and save a little, and with a full-time teaching position I could do just that.

As a teacher, I might get stressed at times, I might feel overworked at times, I might not always like the schedule, but at least I will be able to sleep at night knowing that I am doing something where I can actually directly participate in helping to make the world a better place.

Perhaps not all teachers do that, but some do, and I want to be one of those. I look out at society and the way people communicate, and I can see how I can make an impact. Maybe I won't reach everybody, but if I try, I can reach those that are reachable, and even reaching one person is making a difference. You never know who that one person could turn out to be, or how they could impact our world and make it a better place.

If teaching five classes at three different schools and barely making enough money to make ends meet in one semester hasn't killed my spirit, I don't know what could. Maybe I am delusional, or maybe, just maybe, I am truly cut out for this job. The world does need more good teachers, people who want to teach and want to make a difference through their teaching and not just get a paycheck, and I feel up to the challenge. I am already in the midst of it. What I need to do now is make the best of it.

Friday, December 5, 2014

A Rant

Why does it have to be so hard to find full-time employment? It would be one thing if I didn't have any prospects, but, the fact is, I have had some interest, have gone on some interviews, and still... Nothing. It's hard not to take it personally.

It's really difficult to "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" when you are working hard and trying to make the right decisions and are still falling short somehow. It's hard to have faith in something that seems less and less likely as time progresses. It's hard to continue working hard when it just seems to be taking me back to the same place, over and over and over again. 

Am I just stuck being a mediocre teacher working part-time at three different schools just to barely make ends meet? Am I just always going to be poor and never able to pay all of my bills, save up any money, and purchase a house? 

I know I have probably said this before, but I believe it now more than ever: the American Dream is a lie; it always has been, and it always will be as long as the powers that be remain the same. When you are born into poverty, no matter how hard you work, only the outliers and the extremely lucky make it, and the rest of us will continue drowning, no matter what.

One can only be crushed by disappointment and shame so many times and keep going. One can only be rejected so many times before he just says "fuck it" and walks away.