Marginalia, Graduate Blog

Moving, Applications & Interviews: Post MFA Life

Jenn Tatum

There’s Sassy again. Snoozing. She has no idea how crazy the past few weeks have been. Summer, for me, is off to a busy start.

I moved out of my apartment this past week. Just when you think you’ve sold a ton of stuff, you’ve condensed all of your possession down to a manageable amount—then you move. Your six (let’s be honest, nine) bags of clothing are on display for everyone to see, along with your five boxes and two bags of books, your three boxes of kitchenware, and that bag of Halloween costumes. It’s time to donate again. There’s just too much.

I haven’t found an apartment yet, because I thought it might be smart to be employed first, so I’m staying with my boyfriend and a few friends this month, and luckily my good friend Wes Jamison and his soon-to-be-husband Gavin took in Sassy for the month. So I’m in Ukrainian Village, all of my belongings are in Lincoln Park, and Sassy is in Rogers Park. It’s a strange feeling.

Even stranger is having two degrees and not being employed. I mean, technically I am doing some freelance work and do have some income coming in from here or there, but it is so very strange to wake up and not have to teach, go to work, go to class, grade, write a ten-page essay, etc. etc. etc. Instead, I make some coffee, maybe take a shower, and then I sit at the computer scrolling through job boards and drafting cover letter after cover letter. Sometimes I feel as if I might be going a tad bit crazy, cue eye-twitch.

One thing that I have learned during this post-MFA job hunt is this: a language in which to speak about myself professionally. As a writer, I always found it hard to answer the questions: What do you write? What is your thesis about?  It’s hard to streamline what it is I do into a few tiny sentences. Writing cover letters and preparing for interviews demands that you do just that. Being able to effectively communicate your purpose, your strengths, and your long-term career goals is a skill that is taught, but that I don’t think can truly be learned until you actively use the skill. You will never know how effective that knowledge is until you put it into practice. Here’s to cover letter number 18 (just completed this morning!) and putting those skills into practice.

A colleague of mine recently gave me some advice: Ask Gets, she said. I am someone who doesn’t like to ask for help or feels strange when I do. But, plainly stated, Ask does Get. I’ve put this into practice recently too. I always have my feelers out for employment opportunities. Always. I’ve learned to ask for a referral, a reference, a good word or two. And, I’ve learned that there’s nothing wrong with this.

At graduation, Columbia Journalism Alumni Mary A. Mitchell told us not to knock on the employment door. No, she said, You kick in the damn door.

This is valuable advice. I’m asking. I’m applying. I am not giving up. I’m ready for employment and if I need to, I’ll crack a booted heel through the next door I see.

Moving, Applications & Interviews: Post MFA Life

There’s Sassy again. Snoozing. She has no idea how crazy the past few weeks have been. Summer, for me, is off to a busy start. I moved out of my …

Creative Writing - Nonfiction MFA Jenn Tatum, jtatumcotamagana@colum.edu
600 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60605

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