Help Wanted: From graduation to gainful employment


Forbes: Best places to begin a career by ahoffstrom
August 4, 2009, 8:50 pm
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Amanda Hoffstrom

Amanda Hoffstrom

This weekend, my parents are coming to Madison, Wis., to help me move out of my college apartment. Each time I put a book, magazine or article of clothing in a box, I can’t help wondering if my parents’ house in a Twin Cities suburb is really the next place I’ll see it again.

Am I really moving back home? Is my newfound independence really coming to an end?

According to Forbes, it may be better for me to stay in Madison—the city ranked second among cities with fewer than one million people in a list of best cities for recent grads and first-time job seekers.

The magazine, which released the list in mid-July, examined cost-of-living data, the quality of jobs in each city and alumni data from Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, Northwestern, Duke and Rice universities to compile its ranking.

While I grew to love Madison as a student, I’m not convinced it’s one of the best cities to start a career. Well, not a career in journalism at least. The University of Wisconsin creates bioscience and medical opportunities, which I suppose creates public relations positions, but I think it lacks in journalism jobs.

To my delight, Minneapolis, a.k.a. the largest city near my parents’ home, ranked ninth among metropolitan areas for the best place to start a career. There are companies that I want to work for in the city, so I’m hopeful a move to Plymouth, Minn., will soon translate to a move downtown.

One of my friends is moving to New York (No. 7 among metro areas) at the beginning of September, and several of my friends recently moved to Chicago (No. 12 among metro areas). The last I checked, these friends were planning to move without a job secured. They were just hoping to find something once they relocate.

Hearing their plans makes me wonder about my own. Should I take an equal risk and move somewhere new? Is it best to save money in a place that’s comfortable, or take a chance on a life-changing experience?

Looking to move? Forbes suggests these places:

Metropolitan areas (population greater than one million)

  1. San Jose, Calif.
  2. Cambridge, Mass.
  3. Houston, Texas
  4. San Francisco, Calif.
  5. Washington, D.C.
  6. Boston, Mass.
  7. New York
  8. Philadelphia, Pa.
  9. Minneapolis, Minn.
  10. Dallas, Texas
  11. Seattle, Wash.
  12. Chicago, Ill.
  13. Nashville, Tenn.
  14. Orange County, Calif.
  15. St. Louis, Mo.
  16. Charlotte, N.C.
  17. Baltimore, Md.
  18. Denver, Colo.
  19. San Diego, Calif.
  20. Milwaukee, Wis.

Cities with fewer than one million:

  1. Bridgeport, Conn.
  2. Madison, Wis.
  3. Greensboro, N.C.
  4. Winston-Salem, N.C.
  5. Raleigh, N.C.

Cities with fewer than 500,000:

  1. Ann Arbor, Mich.
  2. Boulder, Colo.
  3. Santa Barbara, Calif.
  4. Burlington, N.C.
  5. Iowa City, Iowa


Feeling the deadline pressure by ahoffstrom
July 30, 2009, 7:47 pm
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Amanda Hoffstrom

Amanda Hoffstrom

The past two and a half weeks have been full of deadlines, and they’ve distracted from my original goal of finding my first post-grad, full-time job.

After I completed my first freelance fact-checking assignment in early July, both of my former intern supervisors at MSP Communications reached out to me about working on more.

It seems that once I turn a fact-checking assignment in, another one comes to my e-mail inbox. I’m not complaining, as I love working for Delta Sky magazine and parent MSP Communications, but it keeps me away from job boards, Twitter feeds and Facebook—though the latter is probably for the best.

Since my last blog post, I’ve verified facts in 11 articles ranging from small sidebars to features about major media moguls. I have two assignments that I’ll turn in by Friday and more coming my way over the weekend.

The pace that I’ve been working this month is faster than I’ve worked in awhile. Finishing a 600-fact article in a little more than two days is no easy feat, especially while you have other articles to work on.

The somewhat frustrating thing about having deadlines again is the reminder that no one in the media world is on the same schedule. Just because I have to have a celebrity interview back to the editor by the end of this week doesn’t mean the person’s publicist can or will have time to go over each fact with me.

However tedious my current service, I am happy that MSP is able to afford the freelancers whose work I check, the editors who assign it out, and me: the former intern turned freelance fact-checker.

Of course, I volunteer in the hopes that it will lead to something bigger with the company, that my talent will be remembered and will help me land a job so I don’t miss the biggest deadline of all—having a job by the end of the summer to avoid moving back to my suburban Minnesota home.

My apartment lease in Madison ends Aug. 14, which is approaching much faster than I’d like. I expect that the next couple of weeks will be a period of confusion, sadness and self-discovery. I’m already preparing for a week full of tears.



Possible lead on a summer position by ahoffstrom
June 19, 2009, 4:00 pm
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Amanda Hoffstrom

Amanda Hoffstrom

As I mentioned in my last post, I saw a part-time writer and editor position open at a real estate company in Madison that I was thinking of applying to. After sending in my application materials on Sunday, I got a call to schedule an interview!

It took me a minute to remember what the position was since I’ve been applying to other positions, both full-time and part-time, and placing calls to sources for an article I’m writing about smoking bans. My mind was a bit distracted when I answered the phone, and hopefully, the time it took me to remember won’t cost me the job.

Once I realized who was talking to, I got really excited and scheduled the interview for the first available time slot: Tuesday at 1 p.m. I will use it as my time to shine, selling my skills and talent.

The company is “seeking someone who can give 15 to 20 hours per week (check), for at least 10 weeks (check, though I think my lease ends before that, but I’m sure something could be worked out). Very flexible on hours worked (Great, so am I!) Organization is creating a real estate-related Web site with an emphasis on the Dane County Area. It is not imperative that the person have a strong understanding of real estate (cool) … This person needs excellent grammar skills and comfort with editing (check). Employee will be working with text for multiple Web pages … skills in Web coding or programming not necessary, as writing and editing are primary” (awesome, writing and editing are my primary passions).

I’m not sure how many candidates I’m competing against for the position, but the job sounds ideal for my wish to stay in Madison for the summer, write, edit and make some money in the process. It will also give me a chance to get out of my apartment on a regular basis, something I desperately feel I need to do for my sanity.

Yes, my goal still is to find a more permanent, full-time job after August, but the job posting indicates there is a possibility that the person hired could eventually become part of the Web site staff. I really hope the interview goes well and I can write a post announcing my hire next week.