Posted by: CJ | January 9, 2011

Job Anxiety

In the middle of grad school, so in a sense I shouldn’t even really be thinking about jobs. But for some reason it’s really been on my mind the past week. The past month, really. I think there are a couple of big reasons for this.

One is it’s a lot easier to drive myself crazy worrying about if I’ll be able to get a job than it is to get research done.

Two is that I was rejected from a couple of summer internship programs that looked really good to me. Both of them were incredibly selective and I wasn’t really what they were looking for, but I don’t take well to rejection. This isn’t news to anyone that’s known me for long enough.

So I’ve been worrying a lot about jobs. Part of it has been figuring out what sort of place I would like to work. I’m not interested in working in academia after graduating. And the big industries outside academia that tend to hire highly trained people seem to be healthcare, finance, government, and the tech sector. Of those areas, the tech sector appeals to me most. The healthcare and financial industries have a long history of not really delivering anything of particular importance, while the tech industry has a long history of actually making stuff.

But good tech industry jobs aren’t particularly easy to get. Even entry level ones. The interviews tend to emphasize coding and puzzle questions. As an academic I’m not  a particularly good coder (no academic is since we don’t have to make our code past alpha level, usually). And I have relatively little experience with puzzles. Some of my friends in college loved them, and seemed to consider the ability to solve them as a better (i.e. more discriminating) test of intelligence than the mere standardized tests that everyone around my college aced. I disliked the puzzles because I didn’t want to do anymore testing of intelligence. Particularly tests I didn’t feel like I had a decent chance of doing well at, since I never looked at those puzzle questions on my own.

(Puzzle questions like the following: You’re given 8 balls, 7 equal weight and one heavier than the rest. And a scale, a non-electronic one like the statues of justice at court halls are holding. The scale has two pans, and all you can do is put one group of balls on one side and the other group on the other, and the scale tells you which group is heavier. So, for example, You could put 4 balls on one scale, and 4 on the other, and the scale would say which group of 4 weighed more. The problem is to locate the heavier ball in less than 3 uses of the scale. Many more problems of a similar sort exist, and the one give is considered of medium difficulty.)

So now I feel like I need to start learning how to do those puzzle and algorithm and coding questions periodically to get better at them. The time commitment and uncertain payoff that entails scares me. It feels like the whole applying to college and applying to graduate school process all over again. And both of those were absolutely harrowing experiences that helped kickstart my two previous long-term depressive episodes. Which doesn’t help my anxiety…

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