So I know it's been forever and a day since I blogged here. Sorry about that, readers.
If it's any consolation... my process is pretty much in the stand still it was last time you heard from me! (groan)
I had a lot of great things happen to me this year. I was part of a wonderful staff (I work in housing/residence life) where I learned an immeasurable amount of things about student development (and about myself!). I passed both my final presentations with flying colors and officially completed my graduate program, which I am STOKED about, let me tell you. And to top it all off, I went on an amazing vacation and relaxed for two long & blissful weeks. Is there something missing...?
Oh, right! I still don't have a job!
To be honest with you readers, I have been getting pretty down on myself lately. I feel like the only person in my program with no career options after graduation (not true, I know), I feel foolish-slash-irritated answering "how's the search coming?" questions because I feel like I'm failing either myself or somebody else (mentors, my family, my peers) in some aspect (not true, I know), and on a bigger scale, I feel like the only person in the student affairs world who may not have a job come fall 2009 (definitely not true). And I think these things all culminating together just make me feel ashamed, to be very very honest.
But, I keep applying. Though I'm passionate about residence life, I know the lure of free rent in this wonderful economy has attracted more than one seasoned veteran out of other aspects of student affairs, and I know I can't compete with 3,4,5,6+ years of professional experience. I've expanded into other student affairs areas I've interest in, hoping to be a part of a smaller pool of applicants and hoping that departments are looking for the fresh-faced (read: inexperienced) and permeable (read: bewildered) recent master's recipient to diversify their staff (read: take a chance on someone green!!!).
Till next time...
The Final Installment.
A few days of silence passed after my campus interview up in the Pacific Northwest.
I was still unsure how I felt about the university when I got a call a few days later from a different college, this one a small, private liberal arts school in the Midwest. They wanted an interview.
"Oh, yeah! Get off the phone with us and take the call!"
This weird setup made me especially nervous and anxious, my nerves were reduced to shreds. It didn't help that every group seemed to describe the current position as "extremely challenging," "fast-paced" and "stressful." At one point, I asked the director of the department why the job was only a 10-month appointment.
from the desk of... candidate 1
It has been a while since I have last posted. Sadly, I have not been able to keep up with blogging as much as I would like to. And at this point I am moderately disenchanted with the job search process. After on campus interviews and even a few offers, I am still jobless.
It is crazy to think that this process began in February and I am still in it. Many have questioned my decision to turn down three offers in this economy; they boast that I am lucky to get an offer considering the state of things. I disagree. Others have shared with me that it is “my first job” and it won’t be perfect. These folks tend to forget that I had a “first job” experience already, and I am not trying to repeat that again.
Needless to say, I have graduated from my masters program and am officially unemployed. I have decided to stay in my current apartment through June as the rent was cheaper than moving home. And the thought of moving home frightens me a lot. So, now my time is spent submitting applications and doing random phone interviews. Any iron I have in the fire, I am trying hard to keep hot.
The time on my hands kills me a little. I am learning that I am either 0 or 60; there is not much room for me to function at half-speed. With that, my apartment is a mess, I need to grocery shop, and I think I have worn the same jeans a couple days in a row.
I am hopeful that something will develop soon. I really want to move on and feel grounded. Despite the fact, that this is likely the last time in my life (until retirement maybe) when I will have such an abundance of free time. I really should enjoy it, though I am struggling in that department. We’ll see, and until them twiddling my thumbs is my profession.
from the desk of... Candidate 4
Days after my Austin trip with the girlfriend, I was on another trip, albeit one for business rather than pleasure, this time to the Pacific Northwest for a job interview.
It was my first face-to-face interview since the TPE conference two months ago.
I remember being disappointed at TPE in March. I wasn’t getting the interviews I wanted. Very few people were talking to me. Interviews were lackluster. I felt I was just another face in the crowd, drowning in the sea of applicants.
As the weekend died down, I had only a few more chances left to talk with schools. I had already talked to or been turned away from the schools I liked.
There was one school in the PNW that I never heard of but asked for an interview regardless, hey, I was feeling desperate.
The school sent a note back to me at the conference saying they were interested in talking to me. I should have jumped at the chance to talk with anyone at the point. But something kept me from replying immediately. Maybe it was interview burnout, or depression, or a strong growing sense of apathy. After so much stress and anxiety over the job hunt, I just didn’t care anymore.
That Sunday morning came around, the last day of the conference, and all the positions were filling up. I still hadn’t replied to this school. But something told me I needed to try, even if the school didn’t necessarily excite me. “It would be good interview practice,” I thought. “What have I got to lose?”
While most professionals were starting to leave the conference, I tried to set up one last interview with the obscure school in the PNW. Luckily, the last slot of the day was available, minutes before I had to jump in a taxi to the airport to catch my flight.
So, I talked with the representatives of the school, in an empty auditorium, while TPE shut down. It was their last interview of the conference, and my last ditch effort.
The talk was pleasant, they sparked my interest in their school’s residence life program and the gorgeous natural soundings of their campus. I think I did an adequate job selling myself and my experience. It was over soon enough, and we left. TPE was over and I had completed 8 interviews.
For the next two months, I heard nothing back from any of the schools.
But then last week, I got the call from the director from my last ditch effort. “Still interested in the job?”
“Absolutely,” I said. What have I got to lose?
I was only hours away from finding out.
A Chorus of Crickets
Such is the sound coming from my voicemail and email inboxes...
Yesterday morning I heard from my top choice school that they wouldn't be offering me a position, and within an hour had to be upbeat and smiley to defend my graduate work so that I could graduate in two weeks. That was tough. The two aforementioned on-campus interviews I went on did not pan out. So, essentially, I'm back at square one.
I'm not understanding what went wrong. My nature is to blame it on myself and ask the questions like, What could I have done differently? Did I say something wrong?
My graduate advisor knows me very well and encouraged me to press on. "This market is very unpredictable right now," he'd said. "You are going up against people with years of professional experience, and you are just fresh out of grad school. Keep trying. You are meant to be in this field."
Just an hour earlier I'd been researching other options. Teaching English abroad was something I'd always wanted to do, and after two punches to the gut in the form of rejection calls, it started to look promising. I told my advisor his advice came at a good time.
So in the meantime, I'm constantly checking all the right websites for listings, again. Re-doing cover letters and resumes, again.
It's frustrating. But I've got to keep pressing on. In the meantime, I'll just listen to the chorus of crickets from my inboxes...
I’ve been living with the parents ever since being laid off from my job last year.
It hasn’t been nearly as bad living with them as I thought it might be. We don’t get on each others nerves, we have positive interactions, they don’t nag or pester me about my job prospects, for the most part they understand that looking for a job these days is damn difficult.
But I’m sure that after 6 months, they expected to have a job again, living out on my own, rather than still joining them for a nightly ritual of a healthy dinner followed by unhealthy reality TV shows. Maybe they even started to think I’m not trying hard enough in my job pursuits, after all, I haven’t been on an interview in two months.
So they started taking matters into their own hands.
I noticed the bolded number “3” next to my email inbox last Tuesday morning. They signaled the first emails I’ve had in awhile. Maybe they’re from employers responding to my applications, I thought. Maybe someone wants to set up an interview.
But when I clicked on the link I saw that they were from my mom. They were job postings she found for hall directors while looking online. Ah, that’s sweet, I thought, but also kind of annoying. This was my duty, my job, my responsibility. Not theirs. I felt the same way when I came home one day and my guest bedroom where I’m staying was all cleaned up, my laundry was done and folded, and my bed was made up. Ah, that’s sweet. But also kind of annoying. I’m already emasculated enough having to live with my parents and not being able to support myself. For them to continue to pick up my slack and treat me like a slovenly, slothful child is just depressing.
I had already seen the first two job posts my mother sent on other higher education job sites. But the last email was one that was not advertised. It was for a tiny community college in East Texas. The only way my mom had known about it was that my aunt was the Music and Vocal director there. Use your connections, they said.
My first reaction was that I wasn’t really interested in living in East Texas at a small community college that paid very little. But then again, it didn’t look like I had any other options.
“You should give your aunt a call,” my dad told me that evening over our chicken and squash casserole dinner, minutes before “Survivor” started. “She’ll hook you up, she’ll talk to the right people.”
“You know,” my mom started. “I read somewhere that 60 to 70% of all applicants get a job because they know someone who already works there. Connections is the key.”
“I’ll look into it,” I told them, picking at the chicken on my plate with a fork. That was the end of the conversation.
After dinner, I washed my dish and put it into the dishwasher, then I plopped down in the overstuffed recliner in the living room, turned on the TV and waited for “Survivor” to kick on. I don’t even like “Survivor,” which is indication to me that my life is in a rut when I have nothing better to do than watch bad TV about Machiavellian-schemers with toned, tanned, emaciated bodies run around in loin clothes for money.
But I digress.
I was waiting for said show when my dad walked into the room and tossed a phone in my lap.
“It’s your aunt on the phone,” he said. “Tell her that you’re applying for that job at her school.”
He walked away before giving any answer. I put the phone slowly to my ears and said hello meekly.
“Hey there, how are you?” my aunt said. “So, uh, what’s going on? What can I do for you?”
“We were just thinking about you,” I improvised. “I’ve been looking for hall director jobs and noticed an open position at your school…”
We talked about the job, she said she would see what she could do, I sent her my resume, filled out a lengthy application for the job and mailed it to the school’s human resources. Done.
Sadly, I haven't been keeping up with blogging like I should. To my surprise it has become less fun for me to do. Instead, both blogging and the job search process has become extremely anxiety producing for me. Schools aren't calling when they say they would, schools are extending offers but not closing their process. Needless to say, it isn't exactly what I expected. And to further it, there seems to be a high level of dissonance between what I cognitively know and how I feel. Moreover, this experience has been one to teach me how to manage my emotions. As I type, I recognize all of these things would be great to blog about. I am just not sure I can. My nervousness and anxiety has pushed me to a place of anger and frustration, and shows a side of me that I don't like.
I apologize. I was extremely excited to blog. It seemed like the perfect way to talk about my experience. And at the beginning it was. However, now I am at a place where my expectations are not being matched by the experience and I am not reacting in a way that makes me proud.
The funny part is that I imagine my outlook to change if I were offered my #1 job today. However, what does that mean about how I responded in the interim. That's the part that scares me. This is not going to be my last job search, nor the last experience that causes me to feel this way. And getting what I want isn't the magic answer. Simply, what do I do with the space in between?
from the desk of...candidate 4
The night was warm and nearly over and I didn’t want to leave her yet. S, my girlfriend, had spent the evening running around with her friend’s four children and was exhausted by all the action, noise, and activity. I came over to spend some time with her, but ended up spending more time watching the kids with her.
“I’m over-stimulated,” she sighed after we left the house.
Her back was throbbing from an inflamed disc. She needed to sleep, but she wanted just a few minutes with me, alone.
We drove to a nearby steakhouse and bar, the only place in town that looked open at 9:45 on a Thursday. But we found out that it too would be closed at the stroke of 10. So we walked around the building and found a small grassy grotto with a fountain in the middle. We found some rocking chairs on the back porch of the restaurant. I gave her the seat with the best back support and dragged another chair over for her to put her feet on. I sat next to her and we looked out at the spouting fountain, listening to the calm gurgling sounds of water.
“I wanted to talk to you a little more about something,” I said.
“You’ve said before that if I were to get a job in another state that you would come with me, right?”
She nodded her head.
“I’ve applied to every school in the area, and I’ve been rejected by almost every single one,” I said. “It seems lately, I’ve only been applying only to places out of state. If I do get a job, chances are I’ll have to move. How do you feel about that?”
She took in those words and thought a moment. She sighed and looked into my eyes.
“I can’t live without you,” she said. “I want to be where you are.”
“And I want to be with you,” I said. “I’m doing this so I can be in a position to support you and we can be together.”
“I know,” she said. “And to be honest, it scares me to think about moving. But I don’t dwell on it much, since nothing is concrete and we don’t know what’s going to happen.”
“Let’s play pretend,” I said. “Let’s say, I get a job at this school I applied to today in Northern California…”
“We would be up in the mountains, and close to the ocean…”
“…and you would be out of your comfort zone because we’d be living around all these liberal hippies! ”
She starts to laugh.
“Or I might get the job in the rolling hills of Pennsylvania, where it’s beautiful and wooded, and we’d be outdoors all the time,” I said.
“That sounds nice too,” she said. “But I would want to get married before I ever moved in with you.”
Admittedly, I’m still a little squeamish at the “m” word. It’s like the feeling some people get by watching a live operation on TV, all the blood and exposed organs is a little overwhelming and I want to put my head down between my knees. But I suck it up. Because deep down, I think I would like the “m” word with her.
“Well, we might be able to arrange something,” I said, smiling. “But don’t call this a proposal!”
She laughs and leans her head back. I squeeze her hand.
“It’s just that if I get a job within the next month, that’s really quick and we wouldn’t really have time to plan anything,” I said.
“What if…what if I got a job in another state and I went out there for a semester, just six months, and got settled in, got on my feet, and I came out to see you once a month, and we talked every day, and if things work out, we plan on getting married at the end of that time, and you come move out to be with me? Although, I know you said you couldn’t do a long distance relationship.”
“No, I couldn’t do a long distance relationship if I didn’t know where it was going,” she said. “But being apart for a few months and knowing that it was going to end with us being married, that’s different. No, I think that would be a good idea. I think I could handle that.”
We continued to watch the fountain shoot water from its spout, and enjoy the peaceful serenity of the moment. It was getting late. She needed to go back to her place. I needed to get back to mine. We would be apart for awhile. But I would be back with her again soon.
So was that a positive or negative email? Is it one of those messages that how you interpret it shows your outlook on life? If you perceive it as a subtle rejection note does that make you a cynical pessimist? Or if you see the note as hopeful, does that make you a delusional optimist?
Either way you look at it, it comes down to two things: a) the University has invited candidates to campus to interview for an interview and b) I'm not one of them.
Anyway, time to stop bitching and get back to applying to every job that comes along - regardless of location, compensation, and what I might think of the school. I've often thought this search is a numbers game. You have to applying to as many places as possible to help my chances. So, forgive me, I must go now and apply to some schools on the other side of the country that 99% of the population has never heard of before.
Post-TPE, the on-campus extravaganzas!
So I only have two on-campus interviews, which is good. Hey, I'm happy to have one! Especially since one of them... is my top choice! I'm so pumped.
But the other... is my back up school. I had not intended to interview on-campus there; as a matter of fact they were the institution that had offered an on-campus before I even left the table from my second interview at TPE. And I know I will make some enemies saying this but to be very honest... I was actually bummed.
Some recent family issues are forcing me to look local for jobs. Okay, not forcing. But, it is heavily heavily heavily weighing on me deciding what to do for next year. School #1 is very local and I would love to work there. School #2? Completely across the country.
My mom has always supported me but when I told her I was applying with them at TPE her reaction was "Wow, sounds like a great campus!"
When I told her I got a second interview, her reaction was, "Wow... sounds like they're really interested."
When I told her I got an on-campus interview, her reaction was, "Wow... do you think you'll go?"
And when I told her of course, I had to go; I had no other official offers at the time and was worried I'd end up with no job come next year, her reaction was, "Are you sure you want to go so far away?"
Don't get me wrong... A part of me actually doesn't want to go so far away. I love where I live and while I would love to stretch my muscles and live in a bunch of different places while I'm young and unattached, I really see myself eventually coming back here to raise a family and settle down.
But how many people get the chance to completely start over in a new place? A new city, a new state, a brand new institution? And get paid to do it? I'd be exposed to an entirely new campus culture, new types of students, new norms and traditions and policies. While yes, it would be a huge challenge, it would be one that once I'd successful hurdled over, I would feel so proud of what I'd accomplished.
But could I leave my family so stranded like that?
My heart feels divided. Half dedicated to wanting to see myself succeed, and half tied to the inevitable future that is taking care of my family that needs me.
Creating the SUPER On-Campus Interview Schedule
So at this point, I have five on-campus interviews lined up. I am really excited about it. Most of them are on the west coast. I live on the east coast, so you can imagine that my challenge is to minimize the amount of cross country traveling that I will have to do. Since receiving my second on-campus interview offer, I have managed to build a schedule around the middle of April that has me traveling one day and interviewing the next. It’s rather intense. However, the great part is that when this tour is over so should the job search. I mean at least I’m hoping.
Somehow I have managed to get almost all institutions who, despite bad economic times, are covering travel experiences. I am so thankful. I think at this point I am out $60 for a one-way flight stringing together two interviews. How cool! I feel pretty lucky!
As I prepare I am both happy and nervous. One institution has asked that I prepare a presentation on any topic. I am almost done compiling the presentation. I think it is good, however, I am nervous that it will be two risky. The presentation deals with identity development and student leadership development.
After already completing one on-campus interview I feel like I know what questions to ask. I have a few that usually get some “ohhs, I didn’t think about that,” in response to what I am asking.
Well I am off, I need to pack. I mean 12 days away requires some intentional packing and a lot of undergarments. I am hopeful to post while I am away. I am sure something funny, peculiar, or great will happen while I travel. Wish me luck readers!
First On-Campus Interview…Expect the Unexpected
Last week I had my first on-campus interview for a Residence Director position. It was mind blowing. I was sent my schedule a few days before and found that there were 4 interview time blocks set aside for different groups to meet with me. My day was jammed pack, each hour chock full of conversation, new names, and tough questions.
My first meeting of the day was with the director of Residence Education. At first, I was nervous I wasn’t sure what to expect. On my schedule it said “meeting” instead of “interview” and it was only slotted for 30 minutes. To myself, I thought: “what could this meeting really be about. Was it code for interview?” Turns out that the meeting was great. The director shared with me the 30,000 foot view of the department and talked about the initiatives and the accomplishments of the department during his leadership.
After meeting with the director, I had an interview with the Assistant Directors of the department. There were five of them. This interview was FUN. They asked great questions and they seemed really engaged. On several occasions they asked questions that were not on their question sheet, but rather questions that were related to the pieces of information I was sharing with them. We even managed to laugh together during our hour.
Next up was one my one-hour interview with some of the current Residence Directors. This interview was AWKWARD. They didn’t seem like they were on the same page, and they didn’t seem like they wanted to be there. The group asked questions in a round robin style, one person to the next. Most questions seemed relevant and I was able to answer them confidently. At the end I was given time to ask questions. One of my first questions was: “What’s the community like among the Residence Directors?” In response, one person smirked, and a second replied with a question, asking me what I meant. For me, this was not a good sign. I really didn’t think the question required much explanation.
My day included two more interviews. One with campus partners and another with current Resident Advisors. Both of which went well. By time the day ended, I was pooped and very ready to return home. Going in, I thought this on-campus interview was going to SUPERCOOL. I anticipated that the school would rise to the top of my choices for a job. Not so much. Being on-campus, meeting with people, and walking around really gave me a different perspective. Needless to say, I now think of the on-campus interview as a fresh start for any institution. I think you should think of it that way too.