Greetings colleagues, friends, and new visitors! It has been too long since my last post, but I assure you that my life has not been idle. In the months leading up to and immediately after graduation I was engaged in my first professional job search. I was searching across the nation for a role that synced with both my professional and personal persona. Although this post is not focused on the result of my job search I would find it remiss to not share with my readers that I accepted a job as a Hall Director at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. I am very excited to gain some additional experiences in University Housing to bolster my professional abilities.
The purpose of this post is to offer advice, reflection, and general thoughts on my own journey through “The Search” as well as several sprinkles of anecdotal evidence from my own peers. I lost count of how many positions I applied for but my search began in December only to end in late June. It was a taxing six months of trying to plan my future while not knowing what my future could hold. Would I live in the far reaches of Alaska? Perhaps the coast of the Pacific? I applied to many different institutions, but many different institution types as well. If there is a combination of institutional characteristics I applied for a position. This, perhaps, was a mistake.
I was willing to go anywhere and do anything. In hindsight, I may have benefited from filtering my pool of possibilities more. For example, my HigherEdJobs job agent would email me a list of positions daily ranging from six to 106 positions. For some odd reason, I felt compelled to apply to nearly every single job on these lists that sounded remotely like something I wanted to do. As many of you may be aware, there is only so much time in a week whilst balancing coursework, class, work, and any semblance of a personal life. I felt behind every single moment. See image below of me exhausted from applying to all the jobs.
If there was some advice I would offer future or current job seekers, it is to narrow their search parameters even if just a little. It was not helpful for me to think about all the jobs that I thought I had to apply to while I was sitting in my capstone class. Consider limited institutional type or look for very specific opportunities. Do not, I repeat, do not just apply to a job because it is a job. The temptation is there; I know that it is. When you get to the point of applying solely because there is an opening you will struggle with the very first question in every single interview: “Why do you want work here?” Your answers will seem robotic, disingenuous and they probably are. Search committee members will sense this and could critique the rest of your answers more stringently than if they felt that you have a genuine interest.
Quality over Quantity is key in your #SAsearch
The Mental and Emotional
The fact that I was applying for every single job set me up for what I would describe as an “emotional roller coaster.” I experienced a range of positive and negative emotions during my job search. I will admit that at one point I questioned whether student affairs was for me because it just seemed like no matter what I did I was not making the cut. It was a particularly stressful semester with my capstone and a challenging assessment course. But, I survived and the next generation of student affairs professionals can too!
Job searchers are not going to be the perfect candidate to every position out there. Remember what I said earlier about the “Why do you want to work here” question? As a species, humans tend to want to surround themselves with similar persons. Remember that co-worker at your assistantship that you just could not understand why they were still in their current role? If they (or a person like them) was a hiring manager, would you want to work in that role? Conversely, would you be someone that they want to hire? Institutions, departments, offices, etc… ultimately want to hire similar persons, persons that share similar ideals such as student centeredness or a dedication to improvement. I suspect that most job searchers would want to work at an institution that shared their ideals.
Not every position you apply to is going to fit your values, goals, or ideals and that is okay.
When I vented my frustrations to my supervisors and colleagues about my search process, the one thing that they always said was “You’ll definitely find a job.” Although I scoffed at the idea of some eventuality that seemed unlikely at the time, the advice rang true. Of course, I will find a job as long as I am still searching. There may be times when one feels like giving up, but just because the search is arduous, mentally taxing, and difficult to balance with coursework does not mean that it is not worth it. The paycheck I am getting at the end of the month will be the best paycheck I ever receive because it demonstrates to me that I made it.
“You’ll definitely find a job.” Of course, you will because you will not stop until you do.
I feel like this post is getting a little too long therefore this section will be bullet pointed with some practical advice.
- Use your peers, supervisors, and colleagues to review application materials [especially if they are in a similar position to what you are applying to]
- Stay organized: Know where and when you applied, especially if you are willing to reach out to employers to check on application status
- Have more than 3 references and interchange them when needed
- TPE, OPE, etc… consider going to them and staying for the conference afterward too!
- Go to, present at, all the things at conferences and network (obviously)
- Keep your vehicle maintained for potential on-campus interviews
- Think about job search clothing in advance: either save up now or purchase an item here and there
- Update your resume regularly: if you have even one new responsibility, add it!
- If possible: Tailor your resume and cover letter to each specific position [I recognize that this step is very difficult, but it is worth it]
- Have a life outside of the job search! Go see friends, play board games, or take a nap.