A Dear in Job-Hunting Lights

Dear Inadequate Graduate.

I’m finishing my postdoc and in the thick of job hunting. While I feel like I’ve waited forever to get to this point, in a nutshell, it sucks. I’ve interviewed a few times but don’t have any job offers as of yet, and I’m getting worried about being employed by the end of my residency. I have rent and student loans to pay, so I can’t afford go without income for very long. Ideally I’d like to work in a hospital but I have a good amount of experience in substance abuse, personality disorders, and health psychology which I feel should translate to a wide variety settings. Yet, the lack of prospective job opportunities is really frustrating and I’m starting to get discouraged. To make matters worse, many of my colleagues from graduate school, who are now spread all over the USA, are boasting about their exciting and high paying job opportunities.

Is there anything you can suggest to help me in the job hunt?

-OverIt

Dear OverIt,

Ah yes – the time has come for early career disillusionment. Fear not, my fellow warrior! This is very common and although the struggle is real, there are a few things I suggest while in the job-hunting headlights:

1) If you haven’t already, sign up for job alerts on sites like Indeed, LinkedIn, and PsycCareers, where you can specify a job title and geographic area. Reach out to your school alumni association and list serves. Post on Facebook or other social media sites, and advertise your interests to peers and colleagues. If someone doesn’t know about an opportunity when you contact them, they might at least keep you in mind should they hear of future openings. Networking is key. 

2) If you are applying to jobs in a state different from where you live, make it clear in your cover letter than you are planning to move. Many potential employers will favor candidates who are geographically closer and who are committed to staying in that area. Additionally, becoming licensed in a new state can take up to several months, so if you haven’t already, make sure you know the licensing requirements for the states where you apply.

3) Do not let the salary be the only factor you consider. While disposable income is important for expenses such as rent and student loans, ask yourself: How much do you feel you’re worth and how much do you need to live?  Starting salaries for early career psychologists can vary widely, so it is important to also consider paid time off, retirement plans, and health insurance benefits. I also recommend to ALWAYS negotiate. If salary is non-negotiable, ask about more vacation or flexibility in your schedule. Focus on what you might gain as opposed to lose when your reality doesn’t meet the fantasy.

4) Maintain perspective. Most early-career job hunters, be it in the mental health field or otherwise, do not immediately achieve their dream job. You will likely find opportunities that are not as interesting or in sub-optimal salary bracket that are worth considering. Speaking from experience, employers might look for several years of post-licensure experience before you appear more competitive for your dream job. That said, there is always something to gain from a non-ideal experience, and while it is important to be thoughtful about any decision before signing the dotted line, you might look at said opportunity as a spring broad to something great that you would never anticipate. We usually can’t predict what will be a great stepping stone, but we can be mindful about potential benefits of keeping options open.

5) Make sure you follow up with applications you’ve submitted, when possible, and keep track of them in a spreadsheet with the date of submission and what contact information you can find. Getting a job is sometimes a numbers game, sometimes who you know, and although it is often arduous and stressful, you have to continue to play to win. Persistence pays – sometimes literally. 

I completely understand being Over It, but hang in there, try these steps and remember 

You. Are. Enough.

Signed,

The Inadequate Graduate

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