How to Find a Job in London as a US Expat

As a graduate student, knowing I wanted to start making money after I graduated, I began my job search about eight months before I could feasibly start. This might be a little early for some industries and late for others. I knew I wanted to work in museums or events, with marketing as my fall back, which meant most jobs I wouldn’t need to apply for more than four months out from my start date. However, there are some jobs, especially grad schemes, that require you to apply almost a year in advance. So this advice may not be for everyone, but I am hoping it can help some.

First, I narrowed down the career paths I would be happy with – museums and events, ideally events in museums. My two degrees also helped narrow down this field, but there are many people who get jobs in areas that have nothing to do with their college degrees, just depends. Once I had an idea of what type of jobs I wanted and companies I was interested in, I got on Indeed and LinkedIn for some cursory searches of jobs available and what I could be qualified for. I started this quite early, seeing what was coming up, how competitive jobs were, and thinking about the job titles I would be most interested in. Surprisingly, development positions in museums were what I ended up applying to most, which I wasn’t expecting when I first started my job search. Don’t be nervous to branch out and explore positions you hadn’t thought of before. Also, don’t narrow yourself too much too soon, since most industries are extremely competitive these days.

During my actual cycle of applications, I was pumping out at least five a day, and this was on top of classes and my dissertation. It was intense and my advisor said I spent too much time focusing on applications rather than my coursework. Well, I wanted to be employed by the time I graduated so 🙂 I sent a lot of applications through the easy apply features on LinkedIn and Indeed. I was rejected from every single one of those. BUT, they took less than a minute to complete so I figured I might as well throw as many fishhooks into the sea as I could. Most of my time was spent on online application portals, refilling all of my resume details into online systems (I basically have my resume memorized word for word now) and writing cover letters.

Ah yes, cover letters – everyone’s favorite part of applying for jobs. Cover letters can make or break you, especially if you’ve already met most of the qualifications listed on the job description. I spent a lot of time on cover letters for some jobs, and not so much on others. It all depends on the company and the position. However, I wrote a new cover letter for each job – always personalize! Of course, I copy and pasted a lot of the information about myself and my skills, but I specifically tailored my cover letters to the job description. I literally listed out the bullet point qualifications from the job description and then described my skills and experience under each one – that way they know I definitely meet the requirements. I also added in information about why I wanted the job with the specific company in a beginning or ending paragraph. This means research – reading the website, mission statements, past reports, and bios of people in the department you’re applying to. In all, a really good application could take me about two hours. In one day, I was able to do two, maybe three on the weekend, plus any new easy applies.

Additionally, I registered with a lot of graduate agencies. These are people who find jobs for you, which is dope. They took my resume and asked a few questions about what type of job I wanted, salary range, and location. If a job came across their desk that I was a good fit for, they would call me and see if I was interested. This was another easy way to be throwing as many fishhooks out as possible. And interesting enough, this is how I found my job.

Interviewing was a whole other beast that I will write a separate post on, but I will summarize here. Be proud of yourself for just getting an interview, even if you don’t get the job. There’s some statistic out there that most people interview twelve times before they get their first offer. So stay strong. And always ask for feedback! I interviewed at four different museums for similar positions. Each time I was rejected I asked for feedback. Most of the time, I just wasn’t as qualified, but there was one interviewer who emailed me a massive email about my interview and specific things I could do better, giving me links to the STAR method. It was really great advice and the next interview I had I used the feedback to do better. In the end, I got my first offer after my fourth interview. Doing serious prep for the interviews really helped me shine in the interviews. This means more research – going deeper on the goals and aims of the company overall (most have reports about this), knowing who is in the department, how your role fits into the company and its overall aims. As well, know your resume and know how to explain all the incredible things you have done. Then connect them to the skills needed for the position. How does your role as treasurer for your May Ball relate to the advertising position? Transferrable skills! It’s a lot to remember and get a handle on. It definitely took me a few interviews before I felt super confident in explaining how my experience would transfer to the role.

It is not an easy process and there were quite a few times I cried after getting the rejection email. The job market right now for graduating students is TOUGH. There aren’t enough jobs for the number of grads, and definitely not enough that pay well enough to sustain a living in cities like London. But there are jobs out there, so keep your head up!

Dana’s DOs:

  1. Keep a positive attitude and be proud of yourself for getting through!
  2. Always personalize the cover letter.
  3. Do serious prep for the interview, it pays off.

In the spirit of transparency and because money is never talked about enough with regards to jobs, my current role as Production Assistant pays 28k. I negotiated through the agency for this salary, so I can’t give advice about salary negotiation, but can advise that you do research about the average salary someone in that position would be making so you can negotiate with the stats to back you up. Glassdoor is one great website for this.

Grad School Abroad- What I Didn’t Expect

I moved to England 38 days ago. It feels like years ago. I have nestled in to my one bedroom apartment above the famous Fitzbillies across the street from Pembroke College, my new home. Pictures hanging from string lights adorn my walls and the softest velour throw pillow lays haphazardly on my bed. My planner is filled with notes from each day, quickly scribbled as not to forget the memories as time flies by here.

There were so many images that filled my head when I thought about grad life before moving here. I pictured lonely nights in my room because friends would be hard to make in the graduate program. I pictured endless hours in the library with no reprieve because graduate school is incredibly difficult. I pictured a previously very involved student becoming solely focused on her program because there would be no time for anything besides books. I had built up these expectations of grad school being scary and hard and nothing like my undergrad because that’s all I had been told by mentors and friends.

Well, they were wrong. All of it was wrong…sort of.

I am at home here. In my month of being here, I have forged some of the strongest friendships I have ever known. I joined the university women’s football team and my college’s May Ball committee. I don’t spend countless hours in the library. Not because my program isn’t hard and doesn’t require work, but because I only have one class a day and a lot of time to prioritize. I’ve had many sleepless nights, due mostly to friends and club nights, rather than studying and stress-induced insomnia. In fact, I’ve only cried twice since being here, and one of those times was listening to the cast of Wicked sing “For Good”. Don’t get me wrong, I do get homesick quite often. The amount of times I have looked at my phone screen and quietly whispered to myself “I miss my dog” is too many to count. But I also have created this incredible support system here, fostered through shared experiences and the art of listening. And this is just the beginning.

As a graduate fresher I am constantly asked how I like it here so far. Sometimes it feels a little arrogant to say that I absolutely love it here and there isn’t anything I don’t like because I know that is not the case for everyone. Maybe I am still in the honeymoon phase and the homesickness hasn’t fully hit me. But I would like to think that these feelings are real and they are here to stay.

I truly love grad school, and that was not a sentence I ever thought I would utter.

IMG_8619

Moving to a New Country

Here I am, sitting at the Oakland International Airport, waiting for my flight to London. Of course I am here a full two hours early so I have plenty of time to reflect on my move and maybe watch an episode of NCIS.

I couldn’t help but smile as I walked through the security line. I’ve never bought a one-way ticket before. It is a little exhilarating knowing I have no plans set in stone of when I will return to my home country. I wonder how long it will take for me to start referencing Cambridge as “home”.

I am sure moving to a new country will not be easy. There is a whole new culture I have to learn, different customs and practices, and a new language practically. I have to figure out a new monetary system, a new town, a new apartment, new classes. Everything I do from here on out is…new. And that is the most exciting part. I truly believe I was meant for travel. My soul is restless when it is resting.

Every person who knows that I am moving to England has asked me the inevitable question- Are you excited? I think what they are really asking is- Are you scared? I used to think I was terrified, about the unknown, starting over, knowing no one. But as the date drew closer and closer, I realized I’m not afraid at all. Am I stressed? Yes. Scared? No. I know in my heart of hearts I am meant for this adventure. I am meant to conquer this goal. I am nothing but hopeful of my new future.

When dropping me off at the airport, my brother said, “I’m sure you will do great.” and I started to respond with, “I hope so,” but I stopped, because I am not “hoping” anything. My future and my time at Cambridge is what I make of it. I don’t have to hope for a good time and an easy transition- I will make it so.

Moving Home After College?

Moving home after college? Don’t.

Kidding.

Sort of.

Here’s my take on moving home after college and what people don’t tell you about it:

1. The Honeymoon Phase

You are going to love being at home because of all the things you missed– your parents, your pets, that mom and pop donut shop down the street. This nostalgic driven love for your home will last approximately one week. Then you are hit with the fact that you may or may not know when you are moving out, but it is not soon enough.

2. Back in Time

All of sudden you go from no curfews, no rules, no supervision in college to asking your parents if you can borrow the car or them asking you who you are hanging out with. Telling your parents that you are about to go meet up with a stranger you met off Tinder for drinks who you will most likely never see again can be a bit awkward, depending on your relationship with your parents. So you lie, or you don’t. I still haven’t figured out which is the better option. And just like that, living at home sends you back five years to when you were a little high school girl with more rules than colored pens.

3. Your parents become your best friends

This one rocks. I honestly don’t know who is more excited for me to move out, me or my parents. As much as they love me, I’m sure spending every waking moment with me talking to them, wanting something from them, or interrupting them has gotten old. But at the same time, I have never been closer to my parents, which makes moving out that much harder.

4. Your pet also becomes your best friend.

Don’t get me wrong, I have real live friends, but they live thousands of miles away or are working a full time job in the city. Once you leave college have 24/7 friends becomes have 1 hour every month friends. This is why your pet becomes your best friend. They love you unconditionally, are always happy to see you, and can’t get rid of you no matter how many times they get up and move across the couch from you. Leaving my little pup in the fall is going to suck, too bad I can’t bring her to grad school in England but the rest of my family might hurt me if I tried.

5. You will be sad.

Maybe not all of the time, or right away, but it will hit you. Your friends are miles away, your life is on temporary hold, and your family members have lives of their own. Fast forward to me scheduling time to see my sister because her days were already booked with fun girl trips, boyfriend time, Bachelor in Paradise girls night, etc. One time I picked her up from a friends house and we got ice cream, it was awesome. Another time, she cut our girls night short because she was “tired”, which I found out later was code for “my boyfriend texted me and wants to go get ice cream so how do I get rid of Dana.”

6. You will grow, a lot.

Due to this loneliness that my puppy could cure only so much of, I grew even more independent than I already was. I became a morning person, mostly because Bailey wakes up at 6:30 and someone has to feed her. I read more than when I was in school. I got really tan (even my sister’s friends noticed something different about me). I became a Starbucks Gold Member (my addiction for chocolate croissants knows no bounds). I ate healthier and exercised more because there’s no excuse not to when all that you can think is “I’m bored” (which I thought a lot this summer). I became a blog reader because why not I have the time. And I actually began to accept a lot of parts about myself that I didn’t like very much. This summer I had the epiphany that I actually really like my small boobs, even though for the past decade I have been at war with them, that was liberating.

So, give yourself the space to grow and be happy and sad and stressed and confused. Be kind to yourself, it’s not every summer you go through one of the biggest transitions of your life. You are lucky to be home, surrounded by people who have to love and support you (hopefully). Use this time to truly assess who you are and where you want to be, then get going- life waits for no one.

IMG_7997

7 Tips for the GRE

The GRE is a standardized test that wrecked my summer in DC. Kidding, sort of.

When applying for grad school, the GRE is something you have to take if you want to attend a U.S. university. Sucks, but that’s the chops, so to make it suck less here is my guide to SLAYING the GRE!

IMG_26241. Start studying early.

This one might seem obvious, but how early should you start studying? I suggest about 3-4 months before your test date. This will give you ample time to make it through all the study material and subject matter and still have time for multiple reviews and practice tests leading up to the test. This timeline also allows you to only needing to devote about an hour or two each night to studying. This means you can study and have a full time job, or be a full time student. For me, it meant I could have a full time internship the summer before senior and still take the GRE before the first day of classes in the fall.

2. Your study materials don’t have to cost an arm and a leg.

There are so many free online resources you can use! Personally, I bought two study books, one from the Princeton Review and one from Kaplan after I accidentally mailed the Princeton Review one to my home address instead of my D.C. address, as well as the Kaplan GRE vocabulary flashcards, which come with an app for your phone. In all it cost me under $50. Other than that, I used the free resources I found online. With just a quick Google search, you can find study schedules, flash cards, practice tests, and prep advice. I suggest trying a few different things and see what works for you. I was able to study my vocabulary on the Metro to and from work, so when I was at home I devoted my study time to the study books.

3. Track your progress

It is important to understand your strengths and weaknesses early, so you can prioritize your studying. Take a practice test before you start studying. Take it like you would the real exam, no notes, no phone, no computer, no calculator. This is your baseline. The GRE scoring guidelines should be in your practice book or you can find them online. After each section in my book, there was a mini practice test, which I scored. At the end of the Math part, there was another practice test, which I scored as well. I looked back to see if the questions I got wrong at the end of the Math section were part of the smaller sections I struggled with. I used these to note which sections needed more help than others and found other resources online to help me. I did this with the Reading and Writing portions too.

4. Take lots of practice tests.

The more you practice like it is the real test, the better you will do and the better you will understand what you need to work on. The practice tests are long, so make sure you block enough time out of your day to do the whole thing at once.

5. Understand what the essays want.

The two essays on the GRE are different than previous standardized tests. They are looking for more than a cookie cutter five paragraph essay, but they are not overly complex. The two different types require different writing skills. There are many free online resources that can help you and your study book should have practice essay questions and reviews.

6. Prepare for the week leading up to the test.

At this point, you should mostly be completing practice tests, reviewing vocab, and checking on a few key areas for review. Two days prior to your test should be your last study day. I do not suggest studying the day before or the day of the test. Give your brain and mind some rest. Eat well, load up on carbs like an athlete would and protein. Your brain needs fuel so it can remember all that you have learned and make it through the long test. The day before your test, try to relax, maybe have a movie night, or do yoga, something that calms you.

IMG_1668For the day of the test, you should have picked a time that will allow you ample time to get to your testing center and a time of day during which you work well. For me, it was late afternoon. This allowed me the morning and early afternoon to make sure I was well rested, well fed, and at the testing center with enough time before my test. In addition, I packed snacks and water.

7. Finally, make sure you are prepared for the test day of.

The testing center is required to take certain security measures, so make it easy on yourself. Dress accordingly, it can get cold in testing centers. Don’t bring too much extra stuff, just your snacks and water (left outside the testing room), and any materials you need in the testing room.

Now, breathe, relax. You know more than you could possibly regurgitate in a three hour test. You got this! Go kick the GRE’s butt.