I graduated last June (2105) with a BS in English with an emphasis on Creative Writing. My long-term goal is to be a higher up at an awesome nonprofit that deals with human rights and to publish a book. So here is the story of how I’m trying to get here.
I graduated college without much of a plan, besides:
- Graduate college and work for a few (2-3) years and then go back graduate school.
- Make as much money as possible in those 2-3 years, afford rent, have a savings account, and travel a bit.
- Write during those 2-3 years.
The moment I graduated, I needed to find work. During the last quarter of my undergraduate I was applying to be a teacher in AmeriCorps. I was offered the position, and a teaching gig out in California’s Bay Area. Ultimately, I decided to turn down the job. My family is not well-off financially, and the 23K stipend the program gives its teachers was just not a livable wage for me at the time. I also realized that while I wanted to work for a nonprofit, I wanted to do so at the administrative and planning stage, not on the ground level, teaching and working with kids. It just wasn’t my ideal.
Having turned down my only job opportunity, I needed to find something fast. Here, I will go into a lot of detail about my pay and hours and work and feel free to skip ahead if you so desire. I just feel that sometimes when I was looking for information or first-hand experiences of post-grad life, people were vague and it was less than helpful to me.
So I turned to Care.com to find a temporary job in my area so I could make rent. And I was quick to see that I could make more than $20/hr if I found the right job. I highly recommend anyone looking for a temporary (or long-term) job as a nanny or babysitter to research the going rate in your neighborhood. It pains me to see friends or acquaintances working for minimum wage or even $14/hr when the going rate in Napa County and the surrounding area is closer to $18/hr. So, do your research. I knew that I needed a job, but I set my search parameters to view nothing that paid less than $18 an hour.
Then, I found my current job. They were offering $20/hr, and I negotiated it up to $22/hr. And let me just tell you, negotiating did not come easy to me. But I knew that it was important that I get the most out of my job in order to not struggle over finances, and to not feel trapped and cornered. So I read a bunch of articles online about how women tend to undersell themselves in the negotiation phase of a job and how to be confident in myself when asking for more money. I practiced asking my future employer for the additional pay over and over again. I read tips on how to phrase the question. I practiced and in the end, I got what I asked for. And to anyone thinking that a $2 raise isn’t much, with the hours I work, that comes out to at least $3,000 extra dollars a year. It’s a lot and it taught me to be stronger and know what I want and need out of a job. Any raise is going to help you.
So. It’s August and I’ve started my new job as a nanny. I was renting one bedroom out of a house for $600/month (very cheap for my neighborhood) and I was working 28hrs/week at my job.
Now that I had 28 hours of work/week, my bills covered, and an amble amount of free time, it was time to figure out a way to start my career. So I started to job hunt. I looked for internships anywhere close to where I lived. Now this may have just been my luck continuing, but after two interviews, I was offered my first-choice at a nonprofit in Silicon Valley that works with children under the poverty line in helping them achieve college readiness. Let me just say I love my job there. I work about 12 hours/week and besides the fact that it is adding to my resume and giving me great experience, it is really rewarding. I was brought on to their team in October of 2015, and I have been working there until now.
There are a lot of people who are able to take internships after college and have their parents help them with finances. I am not one of those people. I had to find a way to work for little or no pay at a job I loved and one that would help my career, while also making money. I was able to do so through my well-paying part-time nanny job and my part-time role as a Coordinator at my nonprofit. It is doable. It takes a little luck, dedication, lots of research, and a killer resume, but it is totally doable.
So that is where I am now. Part-time Nanny. Part-time Volunteer Coordinator for a nonprofit. This October I will be completing a year of this dual work thing. My next goal is to find a full-time job in October that is at a nonprofit and in the realm of my current position of Volunteer Coordinator. More on that, and the steps I’ve take, next week.
Now for some “Quick” Tips:
- Don’t be afraid to turn down jobs. I’ll touch on the other jobs I’ve turned down next week. But I am so so SO happy that I turned down the Americorps job and the other nannying jobs that offered too little pay or that appeared to entail dealing with difficult bosses. I know that the job market can suck but what also sucks is getting stuck in a job that you hate. I have had depression that has gotten worse while working for a job that I hate, and I have learned to avoid that whenever possible.
- Check going rates for jobs in your neighborhood and don’t sell yourself short.
- Interviews are a chance for BOTH PARTIES to figure out if the job/applicant is right. Always ask the person you are interviewing with question. One, it makes you look prepared and assertive. Two, it helps you figure out if you want to accept the job if it’s offered to you.
- And lastly, if you are wanting to work at a nonprofit, I suggest you start developing skills now. If you’re in college, take a leadership role in a human rights organization. My time at my college’s local Amnesty International is basically what landed me my job at my nonprofit. I had a track record of caring about the rights of others. I was also editor-in-chief of my college’s lit mag, I had a history of having my writing published, and I had public speaking experience. When trying to break into nonprofit work, most small to medium sized nonprofits want people with a wide variety of skills and experiences in leadership, fundraising, writing, etc. So the more you can do in college, the better off you will be.
Also, if you can add Excel and Salesforce knowledge to your resume, you’re chances of getting hired increase SO UNBELIEVABLY much. Develop those skills now. Salesforce has a really good online tutorial and you can download a free copy of their program to practice. More tips to come.
Bye for now!