Get a Haircut and Get a Real Job

Okay, I know I promised somewhere that this would be a “life after college” blog. Here’s my first real chapter in “life after college”. It’s been a while since my last post because shit basically hit the fan. I sacrificed my B.S. degree to take a paid internship, and now have a B.A. in Geology. I moved from California to Michigan. I am now living in a state that I’ve never been to, let alone the time zone. I have no friends here. I have no connections. No networking opportunities. I have since had a BBQ blow up in my face, got rid of half of my belongings, and I am currently a part-time cashier at a grocery store.I am so desperate for friends, I made a missed connection post on Craigslist with a person who I asked where they got their shirt. No reply yet. sad face

So. I have complied a list of steps of what I have done, and what I expect to do, with some major venting in between. I hope that it works out in my favor, because that means it may help out someone else in the same position. Maybe they can learn from my mistakes. This is what I hope for. Ready for Step 1?

Step 1: Accept that the university you attended isn’t getting you in the place you wanted to be.

Yeah yeah, I know it totally sounds like I’m trying to place blame on anything but myself, but I’m really just looking at the facts here. The university I attended was very heavy on the “Just look for our alumni! They are all across America, you won’t have a problem!” Well, here I am. All the way across America, about 9 states away. Guess what? Nobody has ever heard of my university, and nor do they care about that university because guess what again? Nobody cares unless you have oil related classes, and mine didn’t have a single one. In fact, the university wanted us to sign something saying we would never involve ourselves in environment-destroying jobs.

Really though, you actually want me to hold off on paying for $50,000 worth of debt because it makes you look more environmentally friendly than other universities? Fuck off.

Also, I’m realizing that the department is more set up for pushing out “basic” geologists and funneling them into grad schools so that those schools can deal with giving us the experience we need to move up in the world. The professors, I eventually noticed, only went out of their way for students who also wanted to go into academia. Forget the ones who actually want to work after school. So at this point, I am going to be forced to go to grad school. Not that I have anything against grad school mind you, this is just what’s going to happen instead of finding even a mildly related job in my field. Unless I volunteer. Which brings me to Step 3.

But first…

Step 2: Take any god damned job you can get your hands on. Even if they are just place holders until you get that career you’re hoping for.

This is the place I’m at now. Say hello to your newest (and cutest!?) part-time cashier at your local grocery store. AWESOME use of my degree, right?

This is my life right now. Part-time cashiering at a very expensive, but large and REALLY SLOW, grocery store. Grasping at any opportunity to do anything productive. Anything but stand there. Anything but play with a rubber band for an hour, waiting for the next customer. Can I at least straighten the candy? Come on, let me leave my post!

Okay I’ll stop whining…here’s my point: This step sucks. This is the arguably the worst step. This part is so un-fulfilling and depressing. The part where everyone around you seems to be doing exactly what they went to school for. Universally…this part really sucks. This is the step that starts to make you feel worthless, your degree worthless, your rock collection doesn’t mean anything to you anymore…it’s gets sad. You get sad. But you just have to remember, don’t stop applying. Don’t be afraid to take a part time job or three just to get by. Don’t be afraid to drop those part time job like flies if anything better pops up (but don’t let them catch on to that…).

I’m going to side step real quickly and elaborate something about step 2.

Step 2 is dangerous. Step 2 is what scares me the most, because I am currently stuck on step 2. I really think Step 2 is where you can really get stuck in an endless cycle of shitty retail jobs for the rest of your life. This honestly applies to anyone, not just geology people of course. I am a good cashier, okay? I’ve done almost nothing but cashier jobs since I was 15. I worked through high school, and I worked after high school, and I worked through community college clear up until I went to university. I have almost 12 years of retail under my belt. Do you know what that gets me? Endless retail jobs. Not geology jobs.

I honestly thought that having any work experience would really help with finding geo work, because I know that there are fresh students with absolutely no work experience under their belt. I thought for sure that would be my leg-up. I thought for sure that showing I was able to work 3 different jobs with no days off for 4 months straight showed that I had drive, and was willing to do just about anything to hold a job….but it’s not enough. Thanks to the gas price crash, geologists with years of geology experience under their belts are taking any job they can get, thus leaving people like me competing with people like them.

I know that what I have now is not enough, and I am no longer competitive.I have come to terms that I have to take a different approach to this.

Cue Step 3

Step 3: Volunteer

Here is the next step I’m taking to try to be competitive. I’m hoping that ANY work experience and good references in the geo job sector will get my a leg up, and help me find that career I’m looking for.

After talking to a few geologists in my new town, it sounds like I’m not even going to land a volunteer gig. My landlord’s oldest son is a geologist, and I finally got to speak to him last week. I told him many of my colleague’s were finding junior geologist jobs with consulting just months after graduation. These people were my good friends, and I know that they didn’t just use connections to find their positions. One hadn’t even graduated yet, and wasn’t the best student in the department, and landing a very awesome gig in the bay area. She said she just watched interview help videos on youtube and nailed the interview. Yeah but…how did you even get an interview? What the fuck am I doing wrong? Anyways…He didn’t believe me. He actually didn’t believe that my colleagues were finding jobs so fast. He thought that I was just saying that to make myself look better….which I don’t know how that works. Running into him is going to be awkward at the least. “Oh yeah, remember me? The desperate lying recent graduate who will say anything to get a job.” Uuuggghhh.


I did not let him get me down. I got dressed up today. I dressed up my resume. I did some major google-fu and found a couple of geology companies. I walked into the one that was my first choice and tried to talk to the geologist there about volunteering and just tagging along. I only talked to the receptionist, and she went up to the geologist’s office and was there for some time. She comes down and says he was about to leave for the day, but here is his card. Email him. He is great at responding quickly. Cool. Now I have his name. Commence Facebook search.

Step 3.1: Networking…kinda.

This is like a subsection of Step 3….because this is experimental on my part. Here’s how this is going to go in my head. I checked his facebook to make sure he drinks. Of course he drinks. He’s a geologist. But I’m in the Midwest and needed to double check and make sure he wasn’t one of the religious fanatics around here. USE FACEBOOK TO YOUR ADVANTAGE PEOPLE! Anyways, I shoot him an email. I tell him I don’t know how to say I want to volunteer without making it sound like I am desperate. I really just want to tag a long and see what kind of work  this sector entails, as it is really different from the area that I am coming from.

After shooting off professional yada’yada’yada, I leave another paragraph: “On a less professional note, I am very new to the area and have no friends or colleagues. It would be really nice if we could get together over a beer and talk geology, if nothing else.”  I bet he sees right through that bullshit. I don’t want it to be bullshit, though. I REALLY DO want to have a beer with him if nothing else.

Honestly, I”m not at my “desperate for a job” point yet. I am, however “desperate for friends” point. I would be just as ecstatic over making a new geology friend over a geology job. Kinda.

Okay. I will leave it at this, because this is as far as I’ve gotten. No reply from geo guy. No landed geo interviews. No new geo connections.

Stay lovely, my WordPress strangers. Cheers.


2 thoughts on “Get a Haircut and Get a Real Job

  1. Yo sistah!! I have become a sort of an expert at meeting new people and making connections in new places. If I may share, my simple formula is to try as many new things as I can and ask people about themselves and what they do. Cooking classes, rock climbing gyms, sports leagues, community events, farmers markets, etc. Wherever humans gather, go there and talk to people interested in similar stuff. Or even stuff that you’re NOT interested in. BECOME interested and they’ll love you. From here there are COUNTLESS things that present themselves, oftentimes just through casual conversation. I know you know these things but I just felt like sharing. : ) Good luck and keep on keepin’ on!! Miss you guys!


  2. Only came to this now (early 2016), missed it back in the summer. As a professor in a geology department, this hurts because it is the fear many of us have for our undergraduates, and this is probably far from a unique outcome. A year or so after one BA student went straight into a $100k+ a year job, our hundreds of majors are looking at a dismal environment for oil and gas jobs and presumably are competing with numerous geofolks recently laid off in other fields. Add in your displacement to Michigan (why Michigan, anyways?) and you have the kind of isolation and despair that nobody should have to suffer through. So here are some of my thoughts, probably more to readers of this blog than its author….

    First, recognize that most professors are only expert at becoming professors. When looking for advice on getting jobs, seek out those who really had jobs. Some professors do come in from outside academia. Many schools (like mine) have alumni boards; these alums can be your best path to get the connections that can lead to a job even in this tight market. I know our alumni board is always asking students to contact them–they want to help.

    Second, don’t sell yourself short. A geology degree should be worth something outside geology. Physicists sell themselves as problem solvers, but they never deal with the complexity of data and inherent uncertainty of geologic datasets that geoscientists do–and complex and uncertain data is what nearly all business decisions are rested upon. Wall Street, for instance, is constantly raiding Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory for talent. One of my former grad students ended up on that path. Try to separate your skills from your discipline–you know a lot more about how the world works in many ways than most other STEM degree recipients. Don’t let an employer pigeonhole you. Remember that the big move in tech has been towards geo-referenced data and big datasets. These are right up the old geoscience alley. If you know the difference between the NAD1927 datum and the 1984 WGS datum, you are miles ahead of competitors. Hone skills of use in the real world: coding is a rare skill despite the ubiquity of computers, for instance. Being able to write a real paragraph without emoticons or acronyms or misspellings or ugly grammar fails is a surprisingly valuable skill.

    Third, if you want to stay in geoscience, then be in geoscience. Volunteer at a museum with some earth science materials. Be in touch with the local geological survey, or the local college or university–or even the high school “rocks for jocks” teacher. (Most K-12 teachers teaching earth science have no such background; many are delighted to have help). See what local geoscience consulting firms are out there and find a way to be in touch with them. Play golf, perhaps [yeah, sounds stupid, but the Denver Geophysical Society might just revolve around golf]. If you can stomach it, see if you can write an occasional geology column for the local paper. If there is someplace where you can talk about geology on a hike, see if you can lead a geology walk for the local parks and rec department. If there is a community issue involving earth science (should the coal plant be shut down? Are my wells being tainted by drilling? Where should the new garbage dump be located? etc), get involved. Be a voice for rational outrage, if that is appropriate…

    Fourth, know that most geoscience professionals have an advanced degree. Sorry for the bad news. BA/BS grads can indeed work their way up in some environments from mud logger or some similarly joy-filled job, but it is usually easier to walk in with an advanced degree. One advantage those who have spent time outside the ivory tower is that they usually have a much clearer identity: they know what they want to pursue, and what they don’t. Frankly a cover letter/purpose statement that isn’t an attempt to update a college entrance essay but is instead a clear-eyed vision of a future you, noting your strengths and addressing how to correct your weaknesses, will set you apart. Many geoscience degree programs will provide financial support (the better schools provide complete support; we generally do not admit students unless we can support them), so at least the burden of undergraduate debt can be held at bay. Better GRE scores help get you heard, so try to get those scores in reputable terrain–one of the harder things for those out of school awhile is dealing with the testing environment.

    Fifth, find the joy you once found in geology. Not for getting a job or a mate or making a pile of money. All too often, schooling is starting out on a hilltop with a marvelous vista of all kinds of interesting things, followed by travels down tunnels into dark forests of minutae so that by the time you have a degree (PhD or MS, often seems similar), you might have forgotten anything but the tunnels. Geology is seeing landscapes as more than a static backdrop but part of a continuum of change; seeing other worlds that passers-by cannot is a special treat.

    Meantime, hang in there, and best of luck.

    Liked by 1 person

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