Friday, 4 December 2009

stairmaster 3000

As you will have noticed, I have had little to say about job hunting recently. That's because I am taking a break, and I've put the career search on hold for a short time. My current job is great fun (tinned pumpkin aside) and I'm also very excited to announce something else:

I have paid off my overdraft!

I am indeed back to black. As you may recall, this was the first step in my five step plan, so now I can concentrate on saving a bit of money, and (gulp) learning to drive, which I promise, promise will start in the new year.

So this, along with graduating a few days ago (woohoo!) has made it a very good week for me.

But it's difficult to see my friends in different states of post-graduation despair. I see facebook status updates, receive text messages, and have conversations with people very close to me who are struggling in dealing with this time. I hear bitter words from friends who don't know what they want to do with their lives; those who do know what they want to do but are finding it impossible to get on the career ladder; those who thought they knew but it's not quite working out.

Some of my friends have just left Universityville, and have also just begun the rite of passage of uncomfortable disillusionment that occurs in the period between Uni and starting a career. I know how it feels. I spent 2 years reading up on jobs and job hunting, because I was doing the awkward shift into entry level work while still studying. I had the panic-ridden thoughts of "what am I doing?"
"what SHOULD I be doing?"
"am I doing the right thing?"
"Is this all I am worth?"
"Why can't I get where I want to be?"
"Is this it?"
"Why didn't I do things differently? Would it have made a difference?"
"Why won't someone give me a break?"
"What else can I try?"
"If this is all I can get, why even bother?"
"Where does all my money go?"
"Why is everyone else getting better opportunities than me?"

It's difficult to know what to say back to my friends though because I can relate all too well. Practical advice is usually not what they want to hear, and empty words like "I am sure it will turn out fine" are meaningless and insincere.

Most people find their way during this horrible period. Some shake up their lives a bit, go travelling, sign on, reconsider their priorities, find their own coping mechanisms and then find a way of making money. It's not easy, and there's little to say to reassure people.

I can't pretend to be a careers expert; for a start I don't really have a career, but I do have a lot of experience of the job-hunting mill (at least more than one of my student friends who stepped inside the Uni careers centre for the first time recently and was so scared she ran away).

I already went through these thought patterns and now have a clearer idea of how things work as well as a clearer idea of where I want to be. I don't have a problem with admitting to people, or myself, that I am living with my parents and working in a deli and that my career is currently on hold. When I started my first job out of University, as a staff assistant for the government, I was thinking too much about what my next step would be. When I was studying for my MSc, I was thinking too much about what I was going to do when I finished and how I would afford to live. Panicking too much about the next step made me panic too much about the one I was currently sitting on.

There are lots of approaches to job hunting and career starting, but the one that has worked best for me so far is to take things slowly, to take things one silly step at a time. When I moved back home in September, I set myself some very small goals indeed. But as silly as these goals may seem, and no matter what happens next, achieving the first one this week has made me feel like everything is on track.

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