Employment, Graduate School, and That Money Thing – Project Thankful: Reason #225

When I got out of the shower yesterday and dressed, I did what I normally do: I checked my phone in case I had missed a call or a text.  Now, normally if I do miss such things they are from my sister while she is out walking the dog or she is sending a picture of the dog while out on a walk.

Yesterday, however, I noticed I had a missed call from a local (as in where I used to live local) number as well as a voicemail from that number.  Turns out, it was the assistant principal at the middle school I was a paraprofessional at for the last part of the school year.  He said how he does have it in his notes that I am going to graduate school in September, but he wasn’t sure if things had changed or if I’m taking night classes, because there is a paraprofessional position at the middle school that he would be willing to offer me.

After listening to the message, the fact that I essentially uprooted my life for graduate school really started to hit me.  I spent the past three years in Education; during those years, I left an impression in the schools I worked at, so much so that they would be happy to see me returning there again.  As that feeling of being uprooted started to rise, I reminded myself why I left my employment situation: to advance.  I need graduate school in order to advance my career; with the fields I am interested in, you need at least a Masters degree in order to do so.

More than that, I needed to move on.  It was time.  Before I made my recent move, my employment situation was starting to feel like less than a possible career path and more of a safety net.  A safety net that provided me with a paycheck to pay off my undergraduate student loans, gave some money for retirement, and left some money for other expenses.  With graduate school, I will be taking on more loans that I will have to pay back; however, with graduate school, I will also be taking on new employment, satisfying employment.

For my Intro to Grad Study course, the professor has assigned us the following blog post “Working Classes” as part of our first week’s reading: http://jsench.wordpress.com/2011/07/28/working-classes/

In the blog post, the author mentions a type of thinking that is persistent among some: the “don’t go to grad school” attitude some people have based on the financial cost and overall uncertainty going to graduate school can leave a person and their career.  Before I made the commitment to  attend grad school, I admit, I had a strain of that “don’t go to grad school, will just bury self deeper into debt that might not even be worth it” thinking.  I am still saddled with my undergraduate loans and taking on more loans to help fund graduate school just seemed too overwhelming.  Plus, the “what ifs?”  What if I can’t afford to pay back my loans without going destitute?  What if I go broke just moving for grad school?  What if I can’t find a job after grad school and the schools I worked at won’t remember me?  What if I end up back where I started after I graduated, applying for hundreds of jobs with little success?

As the author of the blog post “Working Classes,” states, “I knew exactly what I was getting into.  When you grow up in a family of working people you get to know a thing or two about how employers are not the best representatives of your interests.”  With graduate school, I echo that statement.  I know what I’m getting myself into.  I know it’s going to be overwhelming and a lot of work, not just academically, but also personally and financially.  But I also know that it’s going to be worth it.  The author is right in saying “employers are not the best representatives of your interests.”  Even when I was working in Education, a field I found highly rewarding on a personal level (not so much on a financial level), there were times when I felt my employers were not the best representatives of my interests.  And chances were, I was right.  Many employers do not look at individuals; they look at the voids, the needs within their agency, and see how to fill them.  If an individual happens to be a solid fit for that need, then that individual is considered for a position.

In going to graduate school, I am taking back my career from the hands of uncertainty, from employers who might try to pigeon-hole me because of my experiences.  I am taking control of my career, deciding what position(s) I am not only right for, but that I want.  And being in control of your career, well, that’s what makes it all worth it.



Project Thankful: Reason #224

In a couple of weeks, I will start my journey as a graduate student as well as starting teaching.  The couple of weeks before a semester begins are always the most chaotic, leaving one feeling with a sense of “How is everything going to get done?”  Between student loans (or as I like to think of them, adding time to my debt sentence), homework (yes, even before classes officially start I have assignments due), lesson planning, and transitioning into a new living space, it’s overwhelming to begin to think about all that is on my To Do list.

Today was such an example.  First, I had to call the cable company about my service.  Next, I had to call Financial Aid about my Fall bill.  After that, I had to complete Entrance Counseling for my graduate loans which not only took away time, but also optimism about my financial situation.  To cap it all off, I had laundry I needed to do.

By the time I was finished with as much as I could do for today, the couch was beginning to look like my best friend.  I sat down, and I realized I had two choices: to wallow in the “Why me?” of how much I have going on right now; or, to keep moving forward.  Because when life gives us a challenge, or challenges, those are basically our two options: dwell on the negative; or, continue to go on, using an inner calm to put all that negative into perspective.

Whenever my worrying starts to creep into the Red Zone, I remind myself of the things that calm me down.  I like to think of them as my anchors, the things that cause me to pause.  Some are little, but hey, sometimes it’s the little things that can make the largest impact.

My family

My cat

Chocolate milk


Reading a book


Closing my eyes and forcing myself to listen to what’s outside my windows

Going outside

There are more (including more that involve chocolate).  For now, I think I’ve regrouped enough to tackle another item on that To Do list for today.


Networking – Project Thankful: Reason #223

The director of the graduate program recently organized a get-together for English professors, incoming graduate students, current graduate students, and former graduate students.  When she posted about the event on the department’s Facebook page, I knew I was going to attend the event.  I saw the event as a great way to meet new people as well as to network.  And I did exactly that.

I like to meet new people.  I used to not like people to truly meet me.  To know where I come from, what my professional and personal interests are, etc.  In short, I didn’t like to network with people.

Networking is a term that is often associated with the workplace and with career.  Yet, the concept of networking exists in every aspect of an individual’s life.  Networking is knowing people.  Networking is people knowing you.  Networking is key to survival.

At the event, I spoke with many of the professors who came.  I introduced myself, and when the opportunity presented itself, I spoke about my professional interests, including mentioning my achievements.  Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t say to them, “Hi, I’m Lauren.  Let me read you my resume.”  I did, however, talk about myself.

I wondered if I had said too much at the event.  I thought, “Did I talk about myself too much?”  I talked to my mom about it, and she said something that stuck with me.

“No one else is going to tout your horn, honey.  You have to tout your own horn.”

At the end of the day, everyone is responsible for marketing themselves.  We’re our own publicity, our own marketing team.  I think what’s important is to have a stellar image to pitch.

Still, a part of me was tempted to replay the evening over in my mind, focusing on any points where I might have been perceived as bragging or being self-centered in the conversation.  But as tempting as that part of me was, the larger part of me dismissed that idea.  I’m at a place in my life where I’m focusing on my career, and I refuse to apologize for my ambition.  So, yeah, I talk about myself, and I enjoy talking with others about their selves.  Because I like to know people, and I like people to know me.  Otherwise, it would be a very lonely life.

What techniques do you use when networking?

Project Thankful: Reason #222

And…I’m moved in!

When I was considering which graduate school to go to, moving was a consideration.  I knew it would be costly to move, but I had no realistic idea of just how costly moving is.  I also knew that expenses incurred going to a school which required me to move away from home would also be a consideration.

Yet, here I am.  Living away from home, on my own.  As I write this, I am sitting in my living room.  My living room.

I’m thankful I made the decision to move.  I needed this; not just for my career, but for my personal health as well.  It’s time to focus on me.