I wrote yesterday in a paper journal that it’s hard to remain optimistic when your future is so uncertain. I also decided, after this weekend, that it’s almost impossible when you are obsessing. I took time away from Craig’s List and the other job search places I’ve used to take a break. I didn’t job search for half a day Saturday, and I needed it more than I realized. I saw a movie and hung out with my significant other.

Yesterday, I called my undergraduate career development office; I chose them, seeing as how they’re more local than my graduate one. The person unfortunately wasn’t too helpful; while he did re-affirm what I’m doing is correct (custom cover letters, not being picky, good interview answers, etc.), his best solutions is keep up the work and wait it out. Essentially, “it’s not you, it’s the economy.” In principle, that is a relief. In practice, when you have bills to pay and no one to support you, you want something better. I almost hoped that he would say, “Aleksie, you are certainly qualified and will get a job if you do x, y, and z.” I wanted a viable solution that was guaranteed.

I have been getting interviews, but I honestly don’t meet their exact criteria. I learn quickly, though, and I can learn almost anything I put my mind to; I taught my 4’10 self in one afternoon how to shoot a basketball from the foul line for 7th grade gym. I was tired of not getting it at all, so I took time to teach myself. I take pride in my work and can enjoy most tasks for a job. Even if I’m not the real life version of their ad, I think I definitely have qualities going for me.

Weathering the unemployment market seems to be the only solution. But man, it’s hard out there.

In some areas, a lot, in some, not some much. I have managed to do the following this past week or two:

  • I switched over from a resume to a CV. I don’t know if it’ll make a huge difference in my life, but I figured that I may as well go for it. A CV is more specialized, from what I understand, and has more clear markings of what goes where.
  • I’ve looked and applied for some jobs, mainly for the summer. The physics job market is rough. It was bad when I looked 2-3 years ago with just a BA. I think it’s even worse in Boston than it was when I last looked. From what I understand, most universities (which is really the backbone of Boston) are suffering from the economic situation in this country. I wish I had double majored in biology; I’m not particularly interested in biology, but I would have a great chance of getting a job.
  • My boss cannot tell me if I’m hired to TA yet for the summer. It is not her fault; she is waiting to hear back from the dean. I hope she can tell me soon, so I can either stop searching for a summer job or get myself in high gear.
  • The problem with finding a summer job is I have to be somewhat picky. I want something that is flexible and part-time (because of my thesis), which seems to be hard to find.
  • I’m thinking about the long-term as well, and I think I maybe should do something other than physics. I had a good talk with one of my friends, who is picking his career path not only by what he likes but also by the prospect of getting a job. I talked with my chemistry professor the other night, too; he said that getting a job with a PhD in a pure science is getting increasingly difficult (he has a lot of family in other facets of science). Even though I have said things about not liking engineering, I’m thinking about that now. Why? There is more job opportunity, I think, in engineering and my professor said that a lot of times, jobs demand that you have a degree in engineering when you’re just doing what physicist or chemist is able to do. Although I don’t understand the logic of that (why a place would be so picky, if another person could fulfill the job duties), I can believe it. I know there have been jobs I had in the past that require a BA, when I think I could have been fine doing them fresh out of high school. When I think about my job future, what’s important to me is getting a job in research. I don’t care what my title technically is.

Keeping your “normal” life separate from your dance life is a topic that comes up from time to time. Middle Eastern dance, AKA belly dancing, unfortunately has bad connotations for some people, which is why one must use discretion when it comes to work. I haven’t experience any backlash in physics, but again, I also am a student. Here’s briefly how I keep anonyminity.

I use a pseudonym predominantly for my privacy. It’s a safety filter, as well as a professional filter. I would like to think any job I want wouldn’t care that I dance in my spare time, but it may not be true. Even if I don’t bring up the topic, there are other means of finding out info on an employee. The story about employers Googling? One of my past employers told me that she did that with someone and was displeased what came up.

Speaking of the internet, in addition to a pseudonym, I try to keep the topics and my identity fairly vague. I don’t cite what school I attend now. I won’t write my specific thesis title, name specific people in my life (my advisor, my S.O., etc.) I don’t mind naming my dance teachers, because the opposite won’t be true (dance teachers questioning me because of the physics connection).

In interviews and on my resume, I don’t address the issue, unless it’s completely relevant. For science, it really is not, unless I think it’s necessary to show some kind of outgoing personality or willing to deal with crowds. I included it once on my resume, because I applied for a dance research job.

When I do bring it up, I tend to refer to things as Middle Eastern dance rather than belly dancing. The term “belly dance” can sadly conjure a myriad of misinformed thoughts; I’ve had acquaintances think it was something similar to stripping (it is not) to being easy and not involving any skill (it does). On a more personal level, people have believed it’s something I do to appear more attractive to men; I would never do that ever (oddly enough, some friends have thought that, who should know better). “Middle Eastern dance”
doesn’t seem to conjure up the same ideas. I don’t really dance from the belly predominantly, anyway; I’m more likely to use my hips, chest, or arms.

In an ideal world, I wouldn’t have to be so careful in mentioning this hobby. The classical Indian that I used to do did not receive the same reactions that. However, such is life. At least I know and I think I’ve done a decent job in preparing myself.

I came across this thread on Tribe this morning about when and how you should name teachers under whom you studied or with whom you worked.

I can’t attest to everyone, but I linked up everyone I took at least a season’s worth (3 months) of classes with on my links section because I liked these people and hope that maybe others will check them out. I don’t do it to brag or to look like a better dancer. I simply wish to pay respect to my teacher. I don’t wish to name drop.

The teachers who I claim are influential are ones I studied under for a longer time (about a year normally) and/or I feel I gained a lot out of it. Their styles meshed with me more or perhaps it is because I studied under them for a long time. I feel that those people have had a bigger influence on me and my style of dance.

I don’t consider videos/DVDs or workshops really studying under someone. The former can be useful for some people, but the instructor on the DVD has no say in whether you’re truly getting his/her style or can correct you… It would be like if I told people I studied at MIT, because I use their OpenCourseware (lecture notes and other goodies posted online). I think workshops are a big step above learning from a DVD and one can gain a lot, but I’m not convinced that it’s enough to say you truly studied under someone. You can get a lot of useful things out of it, but I can’t say that you get nuances and an entire effect in a day or a weekend.

For my own benefit and perhaps for use in the future, I have a dance resume with everything on it. I don’t think it’s professional to misrepresent yourself. It’s setup like a combination of an actor’s resume and my ‘normal’ resume. The normal aspect of it clearly states under whom I studied, what kind of study (class, private lesson, workshop), and for how long. I think it’s important, because there’s a huge difference among those three. To make an analogy using my normal resume, I once had an internship at a nuclear physics laboratory. I state that I had an internship, not that I worked there. To me, if I were to state that I worked there, it sounds like I had a 40 hr/week job for a while, not a summer internship with somewhat flexible hours.

I can’t comment on other people’s motivations, because I don’t know what they are. Perhaps they have no motivations regarding this matter and don’t think hard about the wording. Perhaps they realize they are intentionally misrepresenting things. I have no clue. At the end of the day, I do strongly believe that it is important to be as honest as possible when representing yourself. I worked as a contract employee for a book publishing company last year, and every place I went to expected my skills as is. The same with physics jobs. You don’t have write dryly, but certainly don’t exaggerate your skills. It may come back to haunt you.

As for dance, someone on Tribe put it best (paraphrasing): a good video of your dancing speaks more volumes about you than under whom you studied.