The end in sight :: A job application a week

There’s only a couple of months of our PhD stipend left and with this deadline fast approaching I’m watching people deal with this in lots of different ways. Some are in denial, some have realised they want to take a whole new track in life, some want careers, some want babies, some are still so deep into their PhD they can’t even think about the future.

I like my PhD but I don’t believe I should have to work for free. I filled in my first job application before Christmas and have stepped in the pace since the start of 2013. One of the little resolutions I made myself was ‘an application a week until I find a job’.

This may only be the third week of this resolution, but so far it’s working out well for me. Here’s the benefits I’m seeing, let me know if you want to join the challenge or if you have any other suggestions for job hunting and motivation!

1. It makes you delve into the potential job market. To make sure I had a wide range of jobs to pick from I spent time to signing up to plenty of job mailing lists (www.jobs.ac.uk is great). If a business or university doesn’t have a job email alert I searched for an RSS feed. If it didn’t have an RSS feed I checked Twitter…and so on. Setting everything up is the hard bit – now I have daily/weekly updates of the job market right where I want them. Even if you don’t find a job via these means it still gives you a good feel for the current state of the market.

2. It makes you consider what you really want from a job. Opportunities can come where and when you least expect them. I don’t expect perfectly Emma-tailored jobs to come along every week, but knowing I have to get something out there makes me think about how I could apply my skills to new opportunities, and to push myself to try new things.

3. It makes you braver. I’ve heard it proposed as a reason for the men-women pay/success gap several times; men put themselves “out there” and apply for jobs even if they don’t quite meet the specifications, women don’t. I’m not one for generalisations, I know plenty of perfectly confident women and men who play themselves down. But I know this is true for me. If I don’t fit the specs exactly I won’t apply. Now I know the job market is tough and I know there may be people out there better qualified than me…but if I never try then I’ll never know. Having a quota to meet makes me step outside my comfort zone, and the more time you spend on your CV the more confident you become. Speaking of confidence…

4. It makes you more confident. Spending time each week working on your skills, CV and cover letters makes you realise what you can do. Hopefully this will be helpful when it comes to interviews.

5. You never know what might happen. The only place you’re not going to find a job is sat at home doing nothing. Even if you don’t get a job you might get to meet potential future collaborators or employees, or at least get your name in their mind.

6. It get’s easier every time. Sure, every application should be tailored specifically to the job in mind. But every job application I’ve applied for takes a little less time as I build up a stack of CVs, cover letters and application questions that I can alter to fit the latest form. Even little things like having the details of your references on hand makes the difference. An application is never going to take no time at all, but it does get easier. And even rejections (whether at application or interview stage) bring the potential to ask for feedback and improve your application for the next round.

7. It’s achievable. (And I can increase it if I need to.) An application a week still leaves me plenty of time to work on my thesis, go to the gym and see my friends. It’s a target I can meet, and if I haven’t found anything suitable in a month or so I can increase the rate and range for the jobs I’m applying and still fit it into my weekly routine.

What’s your job searching tactic?

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