I’ve almost successfully completed my second semester of graduate school! This has definitely been the longest school year of life my life with no competition. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing for me—it’s been long in the sense that I really care about what I’m doing and often get lost in assignments and planning for the larger project. As Civic Media is only a one year program, it’s often felt like a crash course in all things regarding civic engagement, sustainability projects, and relationship building, among other important skills.
Last semester feels like it was another lifetime. It might be because we didn’t have a spring break, but this semester alone has also been extremely busy. I’ve started volunteering at two new places: Westside Health Authority’s Good Neighbor Campaign and Finding Justice Vegetable and Flower Garden, both of which have been incredibly fulfilling. At the Good Neighbor Campaign I help give free food boxes to residents of the Austin neighborhood, and so far at the garden we’ve been de-weeding and getting the farm ready for new seeds. As someone who grew up comfortably in the Wisconsin suburbs, it came as a surprise that I enjoy farming. Maybe I’m a farmer now too?
Now that things are slowing down and I can focus nearly all my attention on working with the community I chose for my participatory action research project and getting the last details of my finals done, I’m looking ahead and thinking what life will be like post-graduation. It’s nearly three months away. I’m not emotional about it yet, but I’m getting there. One of the side effects of being two-thirds of the way finished with graduate school is thinking a lot about the future, particularly in relation to jobs and careers. I’ve never had a full-time, salaried position, and I’m excited for that part of my life to come because 1.) financial independence and 2.) I’m at the point in my life (I’m 23) where I feel like that is the natural next phase for me. So naturally, I’ve started internship and job hunting about three months ago for both summer-time internships and full-time jobs.
Job and internship hunting was bleak for a little while with no one contacting me back for an interview, so I went to my career advisor (shout out to Jennifer Halperin) who helped me tremendously with my resume, cover letter and getting ready for interviews. This past week, miraculously, I was contacted for four interviews (yay)! My heart is set on one photojournalism internship specifically that would fit me perfectly, so hopefully I’ll have some good news to share soon.
While job and internship hunting can be exciting and scary and mentally-draining all at the same time, I wanted to share some tips I’ve learned from my experience of looking for career opportunities during a pandemic.
- Ask for help: mass-applying for openings on Handshake and LinkedIn is not the best route, I’ve learned. If you can build connections with people in the company you’re aiming to work for, that’s a much better bet considering companies are getting tons of applications per day. Also, go to your career advisor! Jennifer Halperin is literally a superhero.
- Be patient: job searching is another job in itself. I know I haven’t secured anything myself, but just getting those interviews has motivated me to keep applying and be optimistic about the prospects. It’s easy to get discouraged or feel like it’s a lost cause.
- Focus on your accomplishments: being in graduate school is an accomplishment in itself, so don’t be humble about the work you’re doing. It’s okay to brag about yourself!
- Make sure your application is neat: this may sound obvious, but it’s easy to want to get through applications quickly because they’re often boring, long and tedious. Employers can tell how much time and effort you put into the application, and it will come up in the interview. Aside from that, having a good resume, cover letter and portfolio are significant.
- Lastly, only apply for opportunities you want. For me, after I wasn’t getting any responses back from places I really wanted to work at, I resorted to applying for any and all opportunities that fit my experience even if I wasn’t that interested. Don’t apply for jobs that you’d be disappointed if they were the only place to offer you a position. It’s okay to be picky too!