English Major Looking for a Job

These past few months have been an upheaval and I haven’t even started on the real uphill slog of relocating and starting a new vocation.

I gave my notice for my current position back in December so my mentor/boss would have plenty of time to acclimate to the idea. This news came on top of other big projects and personnel changes at work, including ongoing efforts for our Scientific Advisory Committee Review. I collaborated with my boss and the rest of the faculty to create a binder that told the story of the Division’s creation and development from the very beginning in 2008. It meant pulling old records, tallying publications and grants, grafting research program descriptions and organizing lab information. It was immense. It was involved. And it was supposed to be, for the most part, done in February.

Oh, how naive I was. The actual review took place in February.

The followup steps hung over us like little creeper vines, just waiting to loop around an unsuspecting elbow and give us a lurch.

I’m being melodramatic. My point is that I thought we were done, but it was the beginning of a Process (and I do mean “Process” with a capital “P.”) After several letters, emails, Power Points, and meetings, we’ve finally reached some kind of conclusion. And in spite of a stellar report card from our external reviewers, the institute response is something along the lines of “that’s nice, continue doing all of that, but also bring in more grants, and we’re not going to give you any more money.”

But at least it’s done. Until next year, when my mentor will have to go before the board of directors and explain our progress (or lack thereof) on the targets outlined for us by the institute. Perfect timing too, because my replacement is now here (hallelujah!), and my new project is training her in all the minutiae that comprises the admin work for this division. I’m glad she could be spared the difficulty of the SAC Review process when it relies so heavily on historical knowledge of the Division. It also feels like a good capstone project to conclude my time here.

Now that I’m approaching my move date, I’m starting to take active steps to prepare. The U-Haul has been reserved. I have boxes threatening to avalanche out of two closets. I’ve been reviewing my belongings and trying to purge or donate whenever possible. I officially started packing last night (six boxes of book, so many more remaining!). Of course those efforts will continue steadily until the mad rush that will inevitably fall upon me the last few days, because I somehow managed to not pack enough each day for a month.

I’m also starting the job search in earnest. I’ve been eyeballing jobs on and off for about four years now, if I include the time I spent senior year at Hollins searching and securing my current employment. I have a spreadsheet, with multiple tabs for the different years, so I can keep track of all the submissions. I’ve written so many cover letters at this point, the word count would probably equal a full length novel. It’s formulaic, to the point that I can look at a job description and jot out a cover letter in about 20 minutes (I actually did this while I was with Megan and family in Paris earlier this month – see Megan’s post on that exciting trip!).

The process of hiring my replacement has provided some interesting insight into how job requisitions are posted and how application materials are reviewed that I think will help me apply for jobs with greater acuity.

  • Most job requisitions are chimeras between what the original department actually wants and the HR language that corrals/warps the description – based on my observations, the larger the institution, the more jargon and disparity there will be between the requisition and the actual job.
  • They “require” years of experience, but this is often more of a suggestion than a strict rule, especially if you have the skills and can show translatable examples of experience. It does however put another barrier between you and an interview if a sorting algorithm is in place to weed out applications.
  • Translatable experience must be described in a cover letter. It is incredibly difficult to cite experience through a resume or general application if the experience is not industry specific – in this case, it means I have to look for entry level jobs, even though I’ve been in the workforce for three years, because I am switching industries from health care to publishing/copywriting.
  • If a cover letter is required, they want to see descriptions of specific work that link directly to keywords in the requisition. Don’t simply regurgitate your resume. The connections must be spelled out; it cannot be left to the HR reviewer to logically relate the experience with capability for new or unrelated skills. This was an oversight that I was particularly guilty of in all those cover letters (*cries,* so much wasted effort). They receive too many applications to spend time contemplating how other skills or experience could relate back to the job they’re trying to fill. They want as close to an exact match as possible with keywords; they’ll care about getting to know all of your unique qualities as a human being once you’ve signed your employment contract (maybe).


It’s a bit frustrating, but I can understand the process. And as much as I would like to grumble about bureaucracy and red tape and ‘why can’t they remember that we’re human and just hoping for a chance!’, the work of finding and integrating a suitable employee is it’s own kind of desperation headache. I’m trying to maintain my sense of optimism.

I’ve been dreaming of transitioning to a job where I can function as a full-time writer and editor, effectively since I started working in my current position. Over these next few months, I will shift this dream into a goal that I can and will achieve. One of the resources I’m taking advantage of right now is this “Creative Pro Week 2018.” It’s a LinkedIn Learning subscription, but they are offering a free month through the end of June (you just have to remember to cancel your subscription before the free trial runs out). I found courses for SEO, HTML, and most importantly Adobe InDesign. It’s a skill I often see listed as required or preferred on all of these requisitions for copywriters and editors, so I’m taking the initiative while it’s free to teach myself and give myself a bit of a boost in the job market.


I’m excited for the upcoming changes in my life, and even though jumping into the relative unknown scares me, I believe it will work out in the end, through my efforts and maybe, hopefully, a bit of good luck. In the meantime, thanks to all of you lovely readers for your support  ^_^


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