Archive | April 2012

The Path to My Dream Job – Chapter 3

After a few hiccups regarding my interview process for ABC Agency, I was ecstatic to find out that I had been offered a STEP (Student Temporary Employment Program) position with them where I would essentially be functioning as a junior level I/O Psychologist. The position was part time and paid, and could possibly lead to a full time opportunity in the future. The position was a fantastic experience, and I got to meet some great people during my time there. Unfortunately, as many of you are well aware, this was also right around the time that the government was having the whole budget crises and threatening to shut down and go into a furlough.

With this in mind, I knew that as much as my supervisor and co-workers would have loved to have me become a permanent member of the team, there was little chance that they would be able to hire me once the semester was up. Through a bit of serendipity however, I happened to be talking with a classmate of mine when I found out that there was a SCEP (Student Continuing Employment Program) Human Resources position opening up at her agency.

Note: For those who aren’t aware of the difference, the major difference between the two programs is that SCEP interns are guaranteed a non-competitive conversion to a full-time federal employee status once they successfully complete their academic program.  

In terms of government internships, getting a SCEP internship was the top of the line. I mean, come on, guaranteed employment as a federal employee once you finish your academic program and fulfill your duties and responsibilities? Job security? Full time? Benefits? Sign me up!

After submitting my resume and going through the interview process, I was offered a SCEP position with XYZ Agency. This came shortly before my STEP internship with ABC Agency was about to end, and though I was sad to leave, I felt that this was the best choice for me since becoming unemployed again would have meant back into the abyss of the unknown.

Looking back on it, I had managed to do the impossible. Not only did I manage to find employment in these difficult economic times, but I managed to gain employment with the federal government (in the event you are not aware why this is so prized, be on the lookout for a future post on this). In addition, let’s not forget that I was now on track to become a Human Resources Specialist.

So I had the Holy Grail of jobs right? Full-time job, benefits, job security, twenty minute commute, flexible work hours (I could work 9 hours a day so that I could get every other Friday off), Federal employee… What more could a person ask for in these tough times? At the time, my answer would have been, “Nothing more. My job hunt is finally over.”

Or so I thought…

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The Path to My Dream Job – Chapter 2

Let me backtrack a bit, because I forgot something that many can empathize with…

After moving back home, you would think that an unemployed undergrad graduate with a generic Psychology degree and no inkling of what he was going to do with his life would get his ass in gear and try to figure it out. Yeah… I’m sad to say that I was very much the norm in this case…

I did what most people would do when they suddenly have vast amounts of free time: I did everything except trying to figure out what I was doing with my life. I poured myself into all sorts of hobbies: Go/Weiqi, World of Warcraft (Yes, I had a level 80 Blood Elf Shadow Priest and I’m not ashamed to show my true nerd colors), Photography, CrossFit Training, etc. There’s nothing wrong with this, but let’s be honest, I needed to actually spend some time job hunting. I mean, sure, I occasionally looked at those job newsletters that the university sent out; but I never really tried to look for a job. Looking back, I’m wonder whether it was due to a lack of direction, or perhaps a subconscious fear of being unable to actually get a job. Either way, I failed to take any significant action towards gaining employment.

During my first semester of graduate school, through a bit of luck, a friend helped me get into an internship at a non-profit. I was feeling elated because I felt that I had gotten one step closer to employment. In reality however, it was just a part-time volunteer position that really didn’t provide much solid job experience. My friend and I got some great stories and got a chance to hangout a lot, but otherwise, it didn’t contribute much resume wise.

In the end, neither of our efforts to help the organization become less liable to legal scrutiny or avoid the usage of invalid data came to fruition. Our supervisor thought he knew what was best and paid little heed to the fact that he had brought on two graduate students as interns. I really think that he was looking for undergraduate research assistants who would do his every whim. It’s safe to say that we didn’t get along in the end.

After a month or so, we were tired of how we were being treated. Instead of just complaining about our situation however, we tried to figure out what our next move would be. And coincidentally around this time, I was informed of an opportunity with a Federal government agency that hiring for about twenty to thirty student interns. Although I’d heard of how competitive getting Federal internships can be, but I figured that I’d take a shot anyhow. Lucky I did, because this internship was about to set the stage for my journey to my dream job.

The Path to My Dream Job – Chapter 1

Undergrad had come and gone, but fortunately for me, the following factors were playing in my favor:

  1. My parents were happy to have me home (which alleviated the pressure of me quickly finding a job).
  2. I got along with my parents just fine, so Perk #1 was not going to really interfere with my independence.
  3. My grad program was located only 15 minutes away from home.
  4. The Stafford loans that I was approved for was just about enough to cover my grad school tuition.

On the other hand, I was dealing with these other problems as well.

  1. I was unemployed.
  2. Like everyone else graduating in this economy, the prospects of finding any decent work seemed quite bleak.
  3. While my program is a relatively niche part of psychology, I wasn’t really sure if the degree would really help to increase my job marketability.
  4. Probably most importantly of all, I still had absolutely no idea how I was going to move forward with the rest of my life. (I have a whole rant on how society’s system is largely to blame for this, but more on this another time.)

As graduate school was quickly approaching, I was anxious to get started and finally break my die hard habits of procrastination and a lack of focus. Like most people, the “next” step in my life felt like a clean slate: new classmates, new professors, and a chance to start over. And like most people, it doesn’t take a professionally trained psychologist to predict that twenty-three years’ worth of habits and predispositions quickly tramples over that clean slate feeling.

More importantly however, the unemployment bug was starting to get under my skin. So I did what most people do: I skimmed around the university’s job catalogue, perused around Monster.com, set up my account on CareerBuilder.com… in other words, a lot of gibber jabber and busy work that honestly ended up being not doing a damn thing for me. Well, to be fair, Monster.com ended up netting me a bunch of calls for sales positions. In fact, I even got a call from two different  recruiting companies and even went to interview for them as well. None of it ended up going anywhere (although I do have my own thoughts about sales positions in general, but that is for another time). Fortunately for me however, out of the many random applications I sent out, I happened to get a phone call to intern (more like volunteer) part time at a non-profit. Little did I know, that this was one of the major pieces of kindling that eventually help to send me blazing down the path to finding my dream job…

The Path to My Dream Job – Introduction

So I know that everyone is probably itching for how I managed to get my dream job and how they can do the same, but before my methods and rationale would really make a lot of sense to you, I think it’s really important to explain my background so that people don’t assume incorrect things about why I managed to get where I am now.

Education wise. I’m nothing really special. In high school, I was never anything stellar like some of my classmates. I spent a large portion of my undergrad teetering between dental school and the vast unknown. As a result, my attempts at preparing for dental school yielded a mediocre GPA.

On the flip side of the coin, I’ve had a number of random jobs over the course of my life. In high school, I did some work as a salesperson for a windows company for like a month. In undergrad, I worked in various seasonal/internships including: student clerk with the university transit department, executive assistant with a small business, dental assistant with an endodontic office, and a program assistant at a NICU facility (e.g., an intensive care unit for babies). All of them were pretty much part time, and very scattered in regards to job experience.

After figuring out that dental school wasn’t for me, I considered getting an MBA; but all the programs that I looked into would’ve cost me like $50,000+. In addition, I knew that the market was over saturated with MBA’s and that the odds of me getting a job to pay off the debt were going to be slim at best. So luckily for me, my mom had done her own research and discovered that my alma mater had a graduate program in Industrial-Organizational Psychology. At the time, I/O Psychology sounded like an MBA with a psychology spin. It was a very niche group of psychologist, and could possibly increase my job marketability. With that in mind, I applied, got into the program, and graduated with my BS in Psychology.

At this point, I’ll be honest with you; I still had no idea what I would be doing. The only substantial decision I had really made at this point in my life was to drop my aspirations for becoming a dentist. Unfortunately, this left me like a lot of other undergrad graduates: jobless, headed for some debt (although not nearly as much as most people go into for grad school), little direction, and completely unaware of how I was going to survive the already grim economy…

Next Week: The Beginning of My Graduate School Chronicles!

Emerging from the Trenches…

It’s been nearly two months, but I’m back and will be here to stay for quite a while! (And for those who are skeptical, don’t worry, I have a whole system designed now to prevent me from disappearing again.) A lot has happened over the last two months, but I’m sure the one thing that everyone wants to know is whether I managed to achieve anything.

Ladies and gentlemen… I am happy to inform you that after a bunch of crazy tactics and pursuit of my dream job, I am now officially an “Associate User Experience Consultant!” In the big picture of things, it’s just one small step; but nonetheless, it is a step forward in the right direction! More on this to come!

I know that posts have come on and off before, but I wanted to start by letting you know what you can be expecting from this point on.

  1. There will be a new post every Monday at 9:00am.
  2. Unless there’s a special reason why, all posts will have a 500 word count limit for the sake of your time.
  3. The lineup over the next few weeks will recount my experiences with my own job hunt over these last few years.
  4. Ideas and methods that you can apply to your own job hunt and life to help you achieve a more fulfilling and enjoyable life.
  5. If anyone has any requests for topics or things to talk about, let me know and I’ll work it into the schedule!

See you next week!