The time to search for jobs is getting closer and closer. This week, I did myself a favour (unlike when I was a cocky undergrad) and went to a careers day aimed at postgrads. It was about finding out what we can do, where to find jobs, checking our CVs and practicing our networking and interview skills. I feel a bit more hopeful now, and like I’ve found maybe a couple more things I could do. And it was pretty much all about civilian jobs rather than academia, which was also good (very much at the ‘definitely not staying in academia’ end of the scale at the moment!).
I mentioned a few blogs back that the part of teaching I enjoy the most is helping students one-to-one, as I’m a massive introvert who finds groups exhausting. One idea I already had was working in student support, but the careers day questionnaire threw up a few more potential advice-related positions I might go for. While I’d particularly like to pass on my academic skills to students, as that’s what I’ve spent nearly seven years of my life building up, I’m open to other positions where I can use my listening and idea-generating skills to help people.
In one of the sessions, we went to an IT lab to research the careers that had been suggested to us, and I did actually find a couple of useful-seeming websites for the sorts of jobs I’d like to do. One part of the day involved thinking of an action we would commit to as a result of the sessions. Mine is that I’m going to make a list of job websites that seem particularly good, as well as of companies I’d particularly like to work for, and when I’m looking for jobs, I’m going to use the list, as opposed to faffing around on any old websites I can think of. Last time I was unemployed (after undergrad), I got rather depressed, and I think it was partly due to lack of purpose or routine. So if I have a set list of sites to look at, and I get up at certain times (basically carrying on my current routine of booking a gym slot I have to use, so that I don’t sleep in every morning), and apply for jobs on certain days, and use my spare time to keep my hand in the history world, I might be a bit more okay this time.
The good news is, my CV is in pretty good shape. I forgot to delete some information when converting my academic CV to my ‘civilian’ one - few employers in the real world will care what my dissertations were about, or who supervised them - but it’s all there apart from that. We also received some great interview advice: prepare at least two answers to the sort of questions you might be asked, in order to avoid using the same example twice, or completely forgetting the one answer you had! We were also presented with a realistic set of interview questions - no ‘what kind of animal would you be?’ daftness, more ‘give me an example of a time when…’ type-questions.
Part of me is looking forward to finishing my PhD and getting a ‘real’ job, and the careers day did make me more hopeful and excited to get on with the next phase of my life. But there’s always that doubt in the back of my mind - no amount of careers advice can help if there are no appealing jobs, surely? And there are my ongoing fears that I’ll never be the best person at an interview, or that nobody I want to work for wants to hire a PhD. I’m also scared of how I’ll feel about being unemployed, despite my plans to be as busy and organised and have as much of a routine as I have made for myself as a PhD student. I nearly have a full draft now. It’s already way too long and I’m still working on the conclusion and need to add a couple of things here and there, but when I think that next term is very very likely to be my last, the end of the PhD suddenly seems very close indeed.