I'm working on a few upbeat posts but in the meantime I wanted to pass on some advice a reader emailed to me. The comment police said it was too long so ze sent it in a letter. Ze had a lot of good advice that might help others out there hunting for jobs...or needing to reboot their job search. Some things have been left out to protect ze's anonymity. And ze is funny and this blog has been seriously short of funny lately. So, here's some advice from someone further along the trail that I am. Enjoy.
Don't worry about the wheres and hows of skills like database design and management, or the skills that are relevant to the job you're applying for. Just create a section on your résumé called "Skills" or "Qualifications" and list them, and elucidate on them later in the interview.
Make GradU the core location for your TA work but note that you "taught across departments on a range of subjects and disciplines like [English, history, politics, law, psychology]..." (I don't know what you specialized in but the Humanities and Social Sciences cover all of these and then some, and interviewers have been surprised to learn that English is about analysis and pattern recognition, as opposed to reading old-timey poetry on manicured lawns).
Add an "Accomplishments" section on your résumé. A recruiter suggested this to me yesterday. Ever had a positive TA review? Recognized for outstanding customer service at GradU. Ever written a research or grant proposal? Developed and wrote a [$] research proposal that was awarded by the [whatever council].
Get on the temp agency band wagon. They recruit for a lot of jobs that you’ll never see advertised and pretty much land it for you. Plus, you can earn money in the interim as a temp. Apply to a bunch of temp agencies (really emphasizing every last computer and office-type skill you have) and if they don't get back to you in a week, follow up by calling them. One agency I sent my résumé to is working on getting me a three-month contract with a tech firm testing bugs for a website they're developing for Wrigley, and all I had to know was how to use a Mac. The recruiter told me that a lot of employers who go to her are simply looking for smart and capable people, so they're often willing to train on the job.
You will have to demystify your education in an interview. Grad degrees are mysterious outside of academia. Explain that being a grad student is a job, tell them the hours you worked and what the expectations were, and watch as their eyes sproing out of their heads. I'll be honest: I thought doing an M.A. would make me a killer job candidate but it hasn't. Depends on the employer. A graduate degree is meaningful to some, but for most it's sort of meh. Sometimes I'm like, I have an M.A.! I'm special godamnit!, but the truth is I'm not, and this was verified for the millionth time when a different recruiter informed me that graduate degrees are becoming really common.
Above all, tailor your résumé for every job. It’s a bitch, but hiring managers don’t want to have to read between the lines. If they want photocopying, say photocopying. You love photocopying. You can’t live without photocopying. I thought being a modern human being signified "can photocopy" but apparently not. As for your cover letter, show as much personality as you can (ie. steer the reader away from boredom). I've heard about the résumé black hole where people are sending their applications into the great online void, but I've had five people contact me in the last six weeks from online job ads, and I attribute that to changing my cover letter from professional-sounding to this-is-who-I-am-I-don't-give-a-fuck. I have ten years of admin and insurance experience prior to doing my M.A. and that wasn't enough to get someone to call me. Imagine the kind of person you'd like to work with and then write that cover letter.
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