Trying on the Mitten: An Employment Saga

Greetings from Michigan!


I am so very pleased to be writing this blog post, instead of the much sadder one I originally had drafted. Michigan’s economy might be as terrible as the media has led us to believe, and my previous post bemoaned the state of things for a young humanities grad (making it utterly redundant on the internet in 2013.) This blog post, however, is celebratory, grateful, and full of hope.

After applying for around 40 jobs between April and August (some academic, some clerical, some retail,) I was offered an underwhelming two interviews. To my credit, I was offered both of these jobs (and another for which I did not interview.) Let this be a cautionary tale for those of you entering the market: apply to every job you think you can live with.

My timeline went something like this:
April – Apply to jobs, defend thesis
May – Apply to jobs, graduate with M.A., begin teaching summer class
June – Apply to jobs, finish summer class, pack and move across the country
July – Apply to jobs, unpack, accrue debt furnishing new apartment
August – Apply to jobs, EVERYTHING HAPPENS

Early in August, when I had all but given up on teaching this semester, Saginaw Valley State University called me for an interview. Delighted, I interviewed for a Composition I course, but was then to my surprise, was offered either the Comp. I course or an extremely flexible course called “Thematic Approaches to Literature” from the literature faculty member who sat in on our interview. To my delight, I was encouraged to base the class off of the Women Writers course I shadowed this Spring. This position pays less, but will broaden my experience considerably.  This single class pays 1/6 of my T.A. salary, making my job search far from over. I cannot describe the strange feeling of achieving one of my greatest goals in life (teaching a Women Writers course of my very own,) but still searching for entry-level work elsewhere.

The second interview I received was from JC Penney. No, I did not plan on working in retail after earning my M.A., but JC Penney is a company I respect, and the managers and employees of this particular store are wonderful people. I love folding clothes and tidying spaces, so the work is natural and enjoyable for me. I work in Men’s and Kid’s, where I am able to use my skills of color coordination and flattery to my advantage. A 25% discount on professional attire certainly sweetened the deal. As much as I enjoyed the job, it still did not fill the gap I needed to make a comfortable wage. Looking for other flexible schedule jobs seemed daunting, and all of the work from home jobs I found sounded like scams. I had all but resigned myself to the underpaid struggle most Michiganders live with.

Five days into my employment with JCP and two days before college classes resume, I received an email from CMU’s English Language Institute asking if I was still available for part- or full-time employment with their intensive English program.  Naturally, I could not pass up this offer, and I graciously received two ELL courses I have never taught: Speaking and Listening (Level 2) and Grammar (Level 3.) As intimidating as this was, I was thrown into this last minute collection of adjuncts with instructors who had comparable experience/comfort with the courses assigned. Although scary, the sense of community makes the leap much more palatable.

In a matter of weeks I went from woefully unemployed to overwhelmingly over-employed. I hope to continue working at JCP while I teach, and am so excited about this new chapter in my professional life. I’ll write a separate blog post about the joys of each of these jobs in action soon, but for now this is a fairly comprehensive update on my life.

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