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If you want an honest depiction of what the last week or so looked like for me, it’s above. I came back from a weekend at a wedding in Phoenix, and it dawned on me: I really need an extra job or two this summer. I need to take care of that. That’s really important. I will have student loans due in like two years, and I need to make sure I’m not destitute while this whole poetry thing is working out. Oh my goodness!
So I went and found a job (or maybe two?). I had set myself up for this when I made the decision to come here, and my plan is so far working out. But that whole “having a plan” thing–what is it? What is it to set oneself up to be able to easily find a job?
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In my case, I set myself up through the two years of work experience I had before I came to Columbia. I worked in web development, eventually as a developer that was able to freelance remotely for one of the clients I worked for in the year prior to coming here to Chicago. That familiarity with the web, and specifically e-commerce sites, put me in the market for jobs in that industry. The MFA I’m working on also screams “COMPETENT WRITER” (this blog also doesn’t hurt, right?), and so I actually got some very quick responses from the resumes I sent out. Hooray! Hopefully I will be getting some good experience to add to my resume/portfolio or even have one of these jobs work out to something I could take on full-time once school is done in, you know, 14 months.
I doubt the majority of the incoming class is going to have web development experience, but that’s not really the point. The point is to have a plan. It’s tempting to see graduate school as an escape from the real world, and to some extent that’s kind of true. It’s a unique community and a unique experience. It’s not a place to put your head in the sand; frankly, it’s too expensive for that. I’m not even saying you need a very concrete plan. However, I do think that having a general professional direction you’d like to follow after school (besides being a creative writing instructor, since that’s not likely to happen right after graduation… It’s just too competitive, and you need to publish a book or two before you’re really in the market) is very important. Poetry is one of those things where you need to have a two-pronged life approach, in my eyes: have a career path you follow where you’re making a decent living and generally not hating existence, then when you finally get that breakthrough job, drop everything and go to it. That’s my plan, anyway.
(Lurking in the background: the PhD).