“Where did the time go?” is a common theme in my conversations these days, with my co-workers, my friends, and myself. In terms of wrapping everything up for work, we all seem to be pretty much on track, but nailing down all the plans for after our years of service is a different story altogether. Whether we’re trying to find a place to live, getting ready for a new job, or frantically searching for work, it seems like there’s just so little time left to get it together!
And yet, there is plenty of time left. So breathe 🙂
At this point, the looming deadline has instilled fear into our hearts, which can be quite motivating. The important thing now is to work smarter, structuring time and actions wisely so we don’t spend a lot of time running around in circles and not actually doing anything. So, what follows are some of my favorite tips (which I actually found from other tips lists), and resources for making your life easier in your quest to figure out your life after AmeriCorps (or whatever transition you may be making).
Scour the hidden job market: I found this one from an article from CNN.com. In the article, they say that, “in good times, only about 20% of available positions are ever advertised or posted. In a slower economy, even fewer jobs than that are publicly announced in any way, because employers don’t want to be inundated with resumes,” This means that you can’t rely on websites like craigslist.org, monster.com, or even idealist.org to bring you all the information you need. You need to take advantage of networking opportunities, personal contacts, and driving around the neighborhood looking for “for rent” signs in order to find the best fit for you.
The Connecticut Department of Labor has a really good article about making the most of the time you spend job hunting- the next four tips come from that article:
Keep track of everything and follow-up with leads immediately. Keep notes about the employers you contact, the dates you send your résumé, people you talk to, and notes about those contacts. Once you find out about a position, apartment, or whatever, follow up with it right away. If you wait, you could either lose your motivation or someone else will have snatched it up.
Make a “to do” list every day. One of the things I find is that even if I do this, it’s really hard to keep up the habit and I can get off track. I find that making a list of goals for the week or the month is a better place to start. Then taking those goals and working “backwards” each day to figure out how to make sure I get those things done on time makes it easier to accomplish them.
Try the buddy system. Having a friend to get you through the times when you’re getting frustrated, fed up, or just plain down can make a world of difference. Set up a regular time to meet about your progress, accomplishments, any leads, and to make sure that you are both staying on track.
Idealist.org put out a book called Making a Difference. This document has some pretty great resources about honing your job search information, and then it goes even further to give guidelines on how to negotiate nonprofit job salaries and benefits, and tips on how to save and manage debt. One interesting fact they include is that “the average college graduate today is expected to change jobs 12 times and to change careers at least three times during his or her life.” So all you job seekers are in quite good company!
The website EnCorps has an article on what you need to do in a successful job hunt. It is a pretty comprehensive resource geared specifically towards AmeriCorps members.
AmeriCorps Alums is worth signing up for, especially because if you do, you can access a job search database that posts various nonprofit sector jobs.
Above all, the most important thing to remember is, if you come to the end of your year and you still haven’t been able to do what you needed to do, don’t beat yourself up about it! That will accomplish exactly nothing, and is more likely to set you back. I’m currently taking an evening class on human development, where I learned about a study that was done with fifth grade students, which you can read about here. In the study, they had the students complete puzzles of increasingly greater difficulty. One half of the students, when they completed a puzzle, were told, “Wow, that’s great, you must be really smart at this!” and the other half were told, “Wow, that’s great, you must be a really hard worker!” As the puzzles got harder and harder, the group that were told they were smart did worse and worse, because when things got more difficult they began to question if they really were smart or not. In contrast, the “hard workers” did just that… worked hard until they solved the puzzles, and did drastically better.
So as you are looking towards the end of your year of service, be the “hard workers.” Keep at it, and you’re bound to see results 🙂