The Professional Job Search 1.5

With NASPA and The Placement Exchange (TPE) less than a month away, the job search hustle is alive and well. For my non-Student Affairs readers, TPE (along with other placement exchanges around the nation) is an opportunity for Student Affairs professionals from entry-level to director-level to come to one place and interview with a plethora of schools over a three day period. This March, I’ll be attended TPE for the first time, but two years ago, I attended the Oshkosh Placement Exchange in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, which landed me my current position at Texas Tech.

The reason I call this my job search “1.5” is because when I went to OPE two years ago, I was sure I wanted to go directly into a professional position. At Syracuse, we had professional, bachelor’s level positions, and since that was all I knew, I thought that was the path for me. I also had no want to take the GRE–I am a God awful test taker–so professional just seemed like the right fit. In fact, Of the 18 interviews I had at OPE, only two were for graduate assistantships.

As y’all probably guessed, I ended up accepting an assistantship position with Texas Tech, and I’m so so glad I did. As much as I thought I wanted to work professionally and go to grad school part-time, I would have hated it. I have friends and former colleagues as Syracuse who are still working on their degrees while I’m about to have that “M. Ed.” behind my name in a few short months. I know some people need a break between undergrad and grad school, and I can completely respect that, but for this chick, this was the best possible choice.

Anyway, with grad school coming to a close, it’s time to find my happy rear end a new job. Our department is immensely supportive in that we’re allowed to use our professional development funds to help us job search, and as such, some of my peers and I will be attending TPE in March in Baltimore. As we near the big shebang here, it seems like EVERYONE has some piece of fool-proof advice that landed him/her their job. While that’s all well and good, there’s no one-size-fits-all job search advice, so here I’m going to debunk two points that I don’t find to be true, followed by two pieces of advice that have worked well for me.

Don’t Schedule More than 10-12 Interviews

I should preface this by saying that I am an extrovert in the truest sense of the word. However, extrovert, introvert, or otherwise, you shouldn’t let anyone tell you how many interviews you can be scheduling. Some of us are traveling from across the country for three days of interviewing–I couldn’t fathom only doing 10 interviews over that timeframe. I will agree that you shouldn’t pre-schedule so many interviews that you don’t leave yourself the opportunity to schedule with schools once you’re there; these can end up being some of your top choice schools. Even for people who haven’t been to a placement exchange, you most likely know your own limits. If 10-12 is what will max you out, stick to that number, but don’t let someone tell you that’s all you should do. I want to end this with a sassy “YOU DON’T KNOW ME!” lol

You Must Wear a Power Suit

To this I say bull.shit. Can some women rock the power suit and look fabulous? Yes. But this doesn’t mean that you absolutely must wear one. Personally, I like a suit, but I know I won’t be wearing one for everyday of TPE because I’m not comfortable in them. Like I noted in the previous paragraph, I stack my interviews, so I’m not going to be entirely uncomfortable the whole time for the sake of “professionalism.” If you look your best in a professional dress, go right ahead and rock that dress! Suit, dress, or otherwise, if you’re not comfortable, the interviewer is going to see that.

Now for the two that have helped me the most…

Keep an Open Mind

Had I not kept an open mind, I wouldn’t have ended up at Texas Tech at all. When I searched in undergrad, a group of us from Syracuse went together, and there were a few people who were searching with the mindset that they would only take job in 3-5 states. WHAT?! This is the time to go somewhere you might not ever travel otherwise. Now, I know it’s easy for me to say that, as I’m not tied down to anyone other than my family (who fully support my want to explore), but keeping an open mind is just essential. Sometimes those interviews you take as a “this-will-be-a-warmup” end up being the place you choose.

Know Your Non-Negotiables

This point did not come up as much in my undergrad search, as I was trying so hard to just get a job that I took interviews everywhere. No, really…I interviewed with schools in Washington, Colorado, Texas, Missouri, Kentucky, Arkansas…E-V-E-R-Y-W-H-E-R-E. As far as non-negotiables went, I needed a paycheck and a roof over my head…the rest I could figure out later.

In this search, I’ve had to work hard to stick to my guns on what isn’t negotiable for me. I know I need to be close to a big airport so that I can get home if/when it’s needed. I’ve also decided that, while Texas Tech has provided me with lots of experiences, I want to be closer to home. With that being said, it’s hard when you haven’t scheduled a ton of interviews and schools outside of your search area email you. As I type this, I realize it sounds counterintuitive to the point made above. You can keep an open mind and work within your non-negotiables, but you have to identify the latter before you can do the former.

As I said at the beginning of this post, when you start to job search, everyone and anyone has “advice” about what worked best for them. This advice shouldn’t totally be shrugged off, since it clearly worked for someone, but my biggest piece of advice would be to do a little soul searching before you start job searching. If you know who you are and what you want, the rest is going to fall into place. With that being said, I’d love to know what advice y’all have gotten that was great/not-so-great/helpful/etc.!

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