Job Hunting Across the U.S.

Job hunting engenders a fascinating array of emotions—fear, surprise, sadness, embarrassment, excitement, joy, etc. It’s amazing how the pursuit of gainful employment holds so much power over our lives. Looking for work can be exhilarating and uplifting as well as totally and completely soul-crushing.

I’m on a cross-country road trip with the Significant Other, traveling from D.C. to San Francisco and back. Throughout the trip, I’ve been applying for jobs: typing follow-up emails in the car, practicing for interviews in 7-11 bathroom mirrors and penning cover letters in tents. But I don’t just want a job, I want the job. When you’re spending the majority of your life moving heaven and earth on a boss’s whim, it better damn well be worth it.

So how do I go about finding that elusive gig? You know, the one that makes working late nights and weekends oddly satisfying? I did what any journo would do when seeking answers—I interviewed people across America.

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Give Back

Rena Bob, a Grand Canyon National Park Interpretive Park Ranger, on the importance of giving back with your work:parkrangerI’m a park ranger. I have a cultural background as a Navajo. That’s what’s unique about me and any native working in the park. I have knowledge about the plants and the earth. I am a liaison between the native people and visitors. I educate the public about what is special to us as native people so these histories can be passed on to new generations and respected.
We educate kids to protect these places. It’s such a good feeling that the kids are interested in the history of the park, in the history of the Navajo. There’s hope for the future.
This interview has been lightly edited and paraphrased.

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Don’t Sell Out

Here’s advice from Kat Flanigan, a cannabis property acquisitions specialist:

cannabis, marijuana, portland, oregon

PORTLAND—I’m a commercial broker, and I help people lease property to be used for medicinal and recreational marijuana. I got into it by accident. I was in real estate for years, and the market crashed. Then I found people who needed help. My job is a job—it segued into activism.

Don’t live to work. If you’re starting out and looking for the surest thing, it’s find your passion. I used to be an artist. Don’t sell out because I did.

This interview has been lightly edited and paraphrased.

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Prevent Brain Mush

Timshel Purdum, director of education and lifelong learning at The Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, on the importance of a career that challenges and intrigues:

dinosaur dig, women in science, science education, science educators, wyoming

WYOMING—I was doing research on heat shock proteins in water, which is really important but didn’t involve humans. I like talking to people about science. So I went back to school for science education and went to work at the academy. My job is helping people understand the world and their place in it.

The fun thing about being a science educator is I get to read ALL about science. Doesn’t your brain turn to mush if you don’t use it? Isn’t that a thing? I get to keep learning. There’s always something crazy going on. You’re never bored.

This interview has been lightly edited and paraphrased.

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Love What You Do

Tammy Eagle Hunter, youth programs director for the Cheyenne River Youth Project on the importance of love over money:

nonprofit, indian reservation, native american, youth project, rapid city, south dakota

RAPID CITY, SD—I’m not an artist. I work for the Cheyenne River Youth Project. We have a graffiti art park that we just opened.

It’s a non-profit so you don’t get paid very much, but I wouldn’t trade it because of the positive feelings. I wanted to help my community. I wanted to help the kids in my community.

I’m very happy. I couldn’t do anything else because of how much I love what I do. There’s so much in the world that’s unhappy and awful, and if you don’t have to be unhappy, why would you?

This interview has been lightly edited and paraphrased.

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Don’t Back Down

Kara Napule is a grad student studying elementary education, but she was formerly in the finance world. Here’s her advice on negotiating salaries:

how to negotiate, education, elementary educationSt. Paul,  MN—People go into interviews, and they’re not prepared. Do your research. Look up how to negotiate. Look through LinkedIn, and find someone in the company. If you hear a number and feel that there’s more that they can give you, don’t back down.

This interview has been lightly edited and paraphrased.

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Go for It

Erin Ulrich on opening your own business and being your own boss:

Telsaan, Mt. Horeb, Erin, Wisconsin

Mt. Horeb, WI—There’s only so much planning you can do. At some point you have to be willing to jump off the ledge, and go for it. And that’s really scary. I’m afraid of failure. I critique myself all the time. With something like this I have to realize that I’m not perfect, and I’m never going to be perfect. And that’s tough, but it’s worth it. It’s the best job ever.

This interview has been lightly edited and paraphrased.

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