Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Weak Connections, Strong Networking

They say, in all those job-getting advice books, that networking is the key, and that most people find jobs through their "weak connections." I've been telling everyone for about a month now that a) I am in need of some sort of work and b) I am trying to move out of academia, and I'm actually seeing results of this tactic, with one major drawback.

First off, I will point out how extremely difficult it is for me to admit to having troubles or tell people I need help. So I am doing surprisingly well in telling people that I am in job difficulties and admitting that I am leaving academia. And friends and work colleagues are now talking to me about it and passing along little leads or articles and helping me out in all sorts of wonderful ways. But.

While I'm actually getting a lot of leads and offers, they are strictly of the temp/part time/an hour here an hour there variety. Like, go research this and do a lot of photocopying for a professor for two days, or here's someone who wants private tutoring once a week, or here's my contacts for doing editorial work for that journal when I move. And I am highly appreciative of all this help, but it is not going to get me into a full-time job.

Part of that is because my "weak network" consists of grad students and retired people who are working part time. And if I was still a grad student needing just to eke out my ta stipend, this would be just fine. But none of these things are permanent or offering very much in the way of hours, and I wonder if I take them all on I won't have time or energy to do an actual job search.

Of course, on the other hand, I'm not really getting interest in my permanent-position apps, so soon I really will be needing these types of jobs to make rent and whatnot. Well, right now I'm about to have some spare time, so I should just suck it up and try to translate as many of these into actual paying gigs as I can right now, and I can cut back later.

Another suggestion someone made to me was to try the temp agencies, so that I would have more recent administrative/clerical experience on my resume and could that might make it look more impressive when I send it out to admin/staff type jobs. And they also might be able to give useful advice about my resume and cover letter. While that may be good advice, a) I loathe the idea of meeting new people and interviewing with them and working new jobs every few days and b) I work every weekday, but part time, at my biggest part time job. So I don't know if I have the flexibility to go for that right now ---- I don't think they'd be interested in someone who could only work mornings. But they might.

Would having some more recent secretarial-type work make my resume look better? I don't know.

And another thing: I hate salary qualifications. I won't apply to anything that demands to know what my current salary is --- why should I have to embarrass myself putting down my minimum-wage jobs on your application? Why should I admit to my hourly rates and thus have you take that as the basis for this new job's wages? I don't want to lowball myself like that. And I also hate positions that don't at least give a salary range in their ad. The same ad usually does both, too. Bleah. Some of the positions are scandalously low-paid, too, like a couple for a private school in SF that were paying barely 19k for full-time work. That's not really livable in downtown SF, people. And I wouldn't have known that from the ad --- I had to poke around on other web sites first.

Let's see, what are some of the interesting postings I've found so far? Besides a call for someone to catalog and manage the Greatful Dead papers at SC, UCLA had a posting for costume shop manager for their theater and film department. How fun would that be! Of course, I have none of the proper degrees or qualifications or abilities (like being able to operate an industrial sewing machine), but it just sounds cool. I don't even picture it in terms of work, just someone standing in a costume-filled room, wearing a tiara, maybe, and saying, "dude, I'm surrounded by all these cool clothes!" Probably it's not that easy of a job, heh.

There are lots of science and medical-school type administration jobs open right now, almost all of which require a BS or medical billing experience I don' t have. And the listings are surprisingly sparse in the entry-level arena ---- The Elf Queen kinda snorted when I mentioned this and said, "yeah, they downsized all the lower-level positions in order to save their own hides during the budget cuts!" which kinda sucks for me. Now all those downsizers appear to have decamped for greener pastures, and their positions are being advertised not the opening ones, which makes it extra hard for me to break in to another field, as the Elf Queen admitted.

She agreed with me that I'm not really competitive for any positions where I'd be managing a team, as I don't have that kind of management experience, and she helped me decode the I, II, III type classifications for postings --- I was right in guessing, by salary range, where I might be able to break in or not. Likewise, all those "five years demonstrated experience" lines that want grant or fundraising or management experience kinda cut me out, so we had trouble finding jobs on the lists that I could realistically apply to, as opposed to just apply to. And she had much more advice, although some of it I had already heard.

Sigh. I don't want the old advice or info I can glean for myself off the web. I don't want to go through the work of actually applying for a job; I just want someone to hand it to me --- that's why I've been telling people everywhere, so that I can get some sort of connection or deal that will just magically land me in a job without all the tedium and hard work and scary talking to strangers stuff. I just want to magically be employed.

Preferably somewhere I can wear a tiara.


Fie upon this quiet life! said...

So... You might find this a horrible thought, but you could try applying for a banking job. The lowest rung would be as a bank teller. I did that for a year and a half between my BA and going back to grad school. It wasn't so bad, but it doesn't pay well. The good news is that once you're in, you can look at all the internal postings and try to find something that is more in line with your skill set -- perhaps their marketing department would have something along the lines of putting together publications of some sort. I also worked in data entry at a bank as a secret side job while I was doing my MA. (Teaching two classes of comp with 30 students per class, AND taking classes, AND working 20+ hours a week at the bank. It's a wonder I survived that.) Anyway, there are a lot of different things that you can do in banking on the entry level without having a degree in the field. I would recommend looking into it. And if they ask what you want your salary to be as a bank teller, I'd say in the bay area you have to ask for 15 per hour, at least. If not slightly more. 10 per hour is minimum wage here, right?

Anyway - just a thought. It's not horrible work, and there are some surprising opportunities to use your analytical mind. I might go back into it eventually if nothing pans out on my end.

And yeah, a financial crisis is not a great time to be looking into banking jobs, but only on the high end. There is always a need for entry level people in banking.

Dr. Crazy said...

First of all, Sis, it's been a while since I commented over here, but I have been reading, and I've been thinking of you a lot. I know all of this is really hard, and I'm sending all good vibes and support your way.

Re: temping, I temped on and off throughout undergrad and grad school. Now, it's worth noting that the last time I temped was in 2002-2003, so that's a while back now, and also that I was doing it in my hometown, at the temp agency for which I first worked in like 1995, so my situation was somewhat different. Anyway, here was my experience.

At least at the temp place I worked, a lot of the jobs were long-term replacement sort of gigs (covering for people on medical or maternity leave, for example), so you were not necessarily stuck doing short-term, a few days here, a few days there sort of gigs. (Worst temp gigs I had were those, all of which were basically, "we want you to file for three days straight" situations, which may explain my loathing of any kind of filing that persists to this day.) Also, I was able to set a bottom number for salary, so they didn't even bother to contact me with anything below that. (I think I set my bottom at 10 bucks an hour or something, and that was in a v. low cost of living place and again, 8 years ago. I tested through the roof on typing and office computer skills, so it wasn't like I was without work even though I refused to take stuff that was 7 and 8 bucks an hour.

Also, it's worth noting that a large part of the temp market is temp-to-hire, where they'll hire you on as a temp for three months, with the understanding that if you do well, you will potentially be hired into a full-time position. My last temp gig, which involved doing transcription typing and managing appointments at an office of the county juvenile court, would have hired me on (my boss asked repeatedly if I'd consider it) if I wouldn't have gotten an academic job. And I had fully intended to take it if I hadn't, mainly because I would have had really great benefits (though the pay would have been pretty lame) and that, while soul-sucking, it would have left me time/energy to beef up my academic credentials in the following year, while at the same time I'd have been able to look for other administrative jobs with a beefed up non-academic resume.

In other words, don't write temping off because it conflicts with a part-time job that you've got. A better solution might be to try to shift your part-time job schedule (if possible) and to begin temping a few days a week, and then if a long-term temp gig comes up (usually they'll specify 3 months, 5 months, etc.) it could be advantageous to quit the part-time gig.

Just a thought about temping. I think that people's perception of temping is that it's only a day here and a day there, and that decidedly wasn't my experience except for at those times when I specifically requested only short-term gigs. (I also worked for most of a summer in undergrad as a telephone operator. That was actually a really fun job - right across the street from the main public library and they didn't care if I read all day when I wasn't answering phones!)

A said...

For what it's worth, my experience tracks Dr. Crazy's. I know a bunch of people who wound up with permanent or semi-permanent jobs from what started out as temping-- often even if the job you're doing ends, they can hire you on as something else once you're there and know people. But that was a few years ago, and obviously the economy was better then.

And you have my sympathy; it sounds awful, and (just judging by the blog) you deserve better than the endless soul-sucking job hunt.

Anonymous said...

I don't know how you feel about the bank idea. My best friend in seminary had a bank teller job in college and while we were in seminary. She paid her rent working just part time. she opted not to go into ministry or academia and stayed with the bank. she's a VP now. and as far as hiring bank tellers, responsibility and lack of criminal record count for more than anything.

my friend has been in oodles of bank robberies, on the other hand. :)

Phul Devi said...

Is there any possibility of going in to some kind of editorial work? I suppose those jobs may be in high demand, but it seems very well matched with your degree & skills.

Bardiac said...

Like Dr. Crazy, I temped and got a long term permanent job through temping. I also had several longish term temp positions along the way, and while none paid especially well, I did learn some helpful business skills.

My thoughts are with you. I wish I could be more helpful.

Anonymous said...

Got nothing different to add, just know I'm reading, Sis.

Dr. Koshary said...

How much can you squeeze out of your weak connections, particularly the retired faculty? It seems to me that they could introduce you to someone with a position open, if the circumstances permit. Any chance that you can wangle an invitation to some gathering or other where current faculty and more high-powered people might be socializing?

Best of luck, Sis. I'm pulling for you.

Poppy Red said...

I agree with Dr Crazy, A, and Bardiac -- temp jobs do tend to be fairly long term. It's been a few years since I temped, but I had a job that was 20 hours/week and I had it for a year.

Also, even though you haven't "managed a team," you can start thinking about how your experience can translate. You've taught classes, right? Motivating students and making sure they do their work can to some extent be applied to management.