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.
So I started seeing this girl.
I wasn’t planning on seeing anyone during this time in my life. I was in “transition” as they call it, waiting for my career to kick start again, waiting to move back out of my parents house, waiting for a steady paycheck, waiting to have independence and a renewed sense of confidence. But let’s face it; I also thought I’d get a job in a few weeks. That was five months ago. There’s still no job lined up or even in sight. The only feedback I’m getting post-Placement Exchange is rejection letters.
And somehow, despite everything, this girl saw something in me that I couldn’t, she believed in me and predicted that I would eventually be successful. She liked the gentle way I treated her, and that I brought her flowers. She even found my neurosis charming.
I thought she looked stunning in the slinky mocha dress I first saw her in at our friend’s wedding. She was sincere and sensitive; two characteristics I longed for in a girlfriend but had somehow always eluded me. She’s a counselor and knows a thing or two about encouraging people to get their acts together. You could say she helped me get mine.
For the last month, I spent time with her and all the hormones and chemicals that newfound love produces in the body started elevating my spirits, my attitude, and my sense of purpose.
I wanted to get a job, but no longer just for me and my sense of self worth. I wanted to get a job so I could be stable for her. Who knows? Maybe there will be a time when I’ll want something more long term with the sincere, sensitive counselor. But if that happens, I would need to be gainfully employed.
So, I started my job search again this week with a renewed sense of purpose and vigor. There’s more at stake now than before.
from the desk of... candidate 4
The Placement Exchange started out scary. Really scary.
On my first morning of the conference, I went to my mailbox cubby, expecting to find a box full of invitations, like Christmas presents, waiting for me. I was excited to see a handful of notes from the Universities I requested to meet with the night before. But as I read them, my heart began to sink.
“After reviewing you resume, we have determined you are not qualified for this position and we are not interested in pursuing you as a candidacy.” A simple no would have sufficed.
I felt out of my league as all the confident, impeccably-dressed professionals strolled past me to their of job interviews. Some commented how they already had three so far this morning. I didn’t have any interviews this morning. I didn’t know if I would have any at all.
I talked with a few people that seemed to know the ropes. They had interviews already lined up in advance and had to reject other universities offers to interview them because their schedules were booked.
Teach me, I pleaded.
In a sense of panic, I started making notes to every school in attendance. “Please talk to me!” I seemed to scream in my messages.
By the end of the first day, after many more rejection notices, I had finally a few confirmed interviews lined up. By the end of the conference I had a tidy sum, maybe 7 different schools interviewed me. Not bad.
What blew my mind was how much the mood varied from interview to interview. I mean, they asked the same questions and I basically gave the same responses. Some interviews went fantastic: the mood and energy was high, there were laughs, rapport was built, and it was a fun experience. But others didn’t fare too well: awkward glances, miscommunication, low energy, and little connection, as if I was running into a wall. The morning interviews were terrible, grumpy, and sleepy, the afternoon ones were alert, responsive, and even-headed, and the evening ones were laid back, fun, sloppy, and always enjoyable.
I ended up with two second interviews. And I was invited to a nighttime social, an opportunity to “let your hair down.” But in reality it was still game on. That get-together was time to act like a politician; go around shaking hands, kissing babies, showing them how you interact, all that stuff.
All in all, I’m glad I had the experience. I realized there are a lot of people looking for these Hall Director jobs, more than I thought. A lot of them seem more experienced than me. I might not be at a point where I can just choose any university in the country I want to work for and expect to find a job. I might have to apply everywhere and take anything I can get. Even if it’s in the middle of nowhere, thousands of miles from home. As one candidate said to me while waiting for his last interview, “Brother needs a job.”
Life Post TPE
It’s hard to think that more than 2 weeks have passed since completing TPE. It was a whirlwind of an experience. Up until this point, I haven’t really shared it with my readers. And now that it is SUPER done, I figured I would share what it was like. So let’s dive right in.
I arrived to Seattle on Wednesday, March 4th. I wanted to make sure I had plenty of time to get settled and create my own “on-site” office. Quickly my hotel room was transformed into a job work station with resumes, cover letters, and business cards taking over the desk. I roomed with a great friend who is doing a very different job search which helped tremendously. I knew going in there would be few jobs that we would both be seeking.
During the first “official” day of TPE I attended orientation and saw many old friends and colleagues. It was refreshing. And without much lapse in time, I immediately went and checked my mailbox. Something I would do with a lot of frequency for the next couple days. My roommate and I didn’t stay around much longer after orientation. We both had a long night ahead of us, and needed to prepare for interviews.
The next couple days of interviews went by very quickly. To summarize I interviewed for 14 different positions, I had a total of 23 interviews over 3 days. I think I counted somewhere between 15 and 16 hours of talking. A lot I know. Most people told me I was pretty crazy for interviewing so much, and thought I should be more selective. Constantly, I like to remind them that “it is a full-time job, to get a full-time job.”
Personally, I was satisfied with my decision to interview as much as I did. I have a lot of stamina for interviewing and it was fun to do. I approached it like being a machine. I ate, hydrated, stayed focused and cranked out as much relevant information I could during every single interview. Surely, each night I came back to my hotel and was exhausted. However after day two of interviews I was ready for the conference to begin and interviewing to end. I enjoyed my time in Seattle so much more when I was able to just sit and be. No pressure to be “on” you know.
Fast-forwarding to life beyond campus, I am excited to share that I have 4 on-campus interviews setup. Soon I will be traveling all over the country to try and secure the infamous first Residence Director job. As a matter of fact, I am interviewing this week at a large institution in an urban center. I am excited, but I am sure the process of traveling will tire me out.
'Cause You're Hot and You're Cold...'
My first night in Seattle, after I’d spent a day at TPE running around and interviewing, scheduling appointments, socializing and generally hovering over my mailbox, my mom called. She wasn’t quite sure what I meant when I said that employers and candidates all come to the same place and interview all at once, so I thought of the only way I could metaphor it for her so she’d understand. “It’s like speed dating plus job search,” I told her.
All these dates I went on at TPE start the same. You sit in the waiting room for your date to come pick you up. You anxiously flip through the notes you took about your date earlier that day as you researched them online, trying to figure out the right things to say so that they’d be impressed and really want to take you on a second date. You check your shirt and make sure there’s no leftover lunch on it, and rub the sweat off your palms. Just when you think they’ve stood you up, someone calls your name.
You lock eyes for a minute and the first judging begins. This is where the interviews can go in many different directions. My first interviewer was smiling brightly, gave me a firm handshake, and immediately started to get to know me as we walked back to the university’s table. My second interviewer had a dead pan face, a cold, clammy handshake, and we walked in silence as I floundered with my weak attempt at small talk.
Once the interview gets started, I realize I’m so nervous that I’m picking up on every little thing the interviewers do, good and bad. My first university is nodding a lot and commenting back on my answers: good. My second is spacing out, and a couple times I catch them stifling yawns: very bad! How can two similar interviews be so different? Shake it off! I tell myself. I can’t let this stick with me the rest of the day. Finally my six the first day were done and I limped back to my hotel room in my heels, only to have it in the back of my head that I have to do it all again tomorrow.
I know interviews aren’t supposed to be excruciating. I’ve prepped myself and pondered my answers to all possible questions, but the truth of the matter is that I absolutely loathe talking about myself. And when you’re placed in essentially a 30-minute infomercial in which you have to sell all your amazing qualities, I know I give a lackluster performance. It got easier as the three days carried on, but I don’t think any amount of prep or studying could have prepared me for a weekend of that. I couldn’t help but leave TPE feeling a little defeated.
On a positive note, I left TPE informally being offered an on-campus interview the following month, at a large, public university in the northeast. While none of my top schools have yet to follow up with me, I hope to reach out to them soon and make some connections there. In the meantime, I must explore my options given to me, and just continue to push along in the process.
Are We Hired Yet?
I recently read an article by Benjamin Ola Akande from Diverse Issues in Higher Education about the generational group “Millennials.” Born after 1982, Millennials are into instant gratification, technologically savvy (with electronics at each appendage), like structure and constructive feedback, and thrive on support. As this pre-TPE part of my job search wraps up this week, I realize that at no other time during graduate school have I ever felt like such a millennial.
All my applications were sent in via email or using online forms (which, since I’m on my soap box, can I just say, are such a hassle – I spend weeks making this beefy resume and then end up having to cut and paste it all into someone else’s format), and within an hour I was wondering why no one had emailed me back. All right, that’s a bit of an exaggeration – it was more like a day. I got easily frustrated when I saw a job posting on the Placement Exchange website, a note on the posting saying that I must apply on the institution’s web site, and then realizing there was no posting as promised. Nothing under the institution’s Human Resources section, or even under the department’s web page. This lack of structure made me have to keep checking until I was sure I missed something – was this some kind of trick used to weed out candidates? Only those who were smart enough to actually find the application should apply? I was convinced I was not passing this exam. And it made me even more frustrated and stressed out than I already was. I find myself compulsively checking email and the TPE website for any more listings, or to see if schools have placed themselves on my interview schedule yet. I Google-chat my grad school friends to ask if they've heard from other schools, research institutions on Wikipedia, Rate My Professor, and CollegeBoard.com, and my Facebook statuses and Twitter updates seem to consistently proclaim Stressed! Panicked! Exhausted!
But I have got to learn to be patient and think zen in these crucial days before TPE. I must take care of myself, get plenty of rest, and know that everything’s going to work out. The next time you’ll hear from me will be at the Placement Exchange!
The variables to consider when job searching are numerous. Each time I think I have accounted for all of the factors that will matter in my job search some new thing surfaces. Consistently, I have thought about location – I want urban, weather – I want warm, and pay – I want more. The newest factor that I have added to my list is my family.
I am an only child with strong ties to my mom. While I am extremely independent, as I get older I find that my relationship with my mom is getting better. Since leaving for college, I have always been at least a four-hour drive from home and for a year I was a solid two-hour flight away. However, as I think about moving again I wonder if I should minimize the distance between my mom and me.
This thought seems more important now than it did when I went away to school. Now, mom and I are more of friends than we have ever been. While she supports me in less tangible ways than she did in the past, her presence in my life seems larger than it ever has been.
When I chatted with my faculty advisor about this, she suggested that I should make my next move independent of consideration for my family. Based on her experience “these things have a funny way of working out,” and in this scenario there is no real reason to anticipate my needs of those of my mom. She suggested that I could only respond to those needs, when they actually manifest themselves as needs. Also, I distinctly remember my faculty advisor asking: “What if you mom doesn’t what you close by?” I never really considered that part.
For many people, family is extremely important and for others family members are the people you visit for holidays only. Like other adventures in my life, I have tended to follow my heart and I don’t think this job search will be any different. And if nothing else, it is always fun to have my mom visit me in the cool places that I live. She has up until this point, and I don’t anticipate that part to change.
from the desk of...candidate #3
The Final Countdown (Europe)
How am I feeling? Really? The time is now to perform! I’m really excited for TPE to begin, and after arriving in Seattle on Wednesday night and exploring the city today, I’m putting on my game-face for meeting potential employers. Everything made it through the screening process, and their fine re-packing skills meant that I spent a while ironing shirts and pants again (thanks, TSA!), but otherwise I’m ready to go. Truth be told, I don’t have many interviews scheduled – it’s not that I’m a bad candidate, but my availability has changed and I won’t really be available until January 2010. So, that’s a bummer – but I’m here to “work the room” as they say. I’ll be talking to a variety of institutions and colleagues to let them know about my experiences and qualifications. At the very least, I want to leave a positive impression so that I can pick up on conversations come Fall 2009. My good friend often remarks that a stranger is simply someone he hasn’t met and gotten to know yet, and I’ll be employing that strategy this weekend.
Did I know where I would end up before my first professional position? I shook the Magic 8 Ball and all signs pointed to only a handful of schools. Now, I don’t think the ball, a séance, or Miss Cleo could show me a definitive path. The Final Countdown sounds appropriate for the ticking clock signaling the beginning of TPE. I’m foregoing the candidate intro sessions and going to trust myself to figure out how the messaging system works and how to schedule interviews on the fly. Plus, this song has a pinkie-spasm-inducing Guitar Hero riff about two-thirds of the way through, and if you can’t get jazzed up for interviews by listening to it you’re either not a fan of 80s music or really all that excited for interviews. Interviewing is fun – really! – and the TPE conference experience is meant to be a meeting of minds, experiences, and hearts.
It's the eve before my job-hunting trip to Seattle. I'm packing all my resumes, my professional suit (ok my ONLY suit), and notes about interviewing.
I excitedly click on their email, my mind wrapping itself around the idea of living at this university. Yeah, that would work. I would be happy there. Truly happy.
And then I read the email.
"Thank you for your interest in our anticipated Resident Director position at [our university]. Unfortunately, at this time, we will not be pursuing your candidacy. I wish you the best with your job search!"
And with that, my whole attitude changed. It was the third rejection notice I've received in the last week from a university. And it reminded me that it might be extremely competitive to get a job in Residence Life this year.
Going to TPE isn't supposed to be a "fun" trip, per se. No, this is business. This is serious. It could be the most important trip of my life. I have to convince one employer to chose me over hundreds of other potential employees. The last thing I need to do is be lackadaisical.
In one of my previous post I wrote about professional courtesy and how I would appreciate more correspondence from employers about my status as a candidate. Many readers connected with this post and several commented, echoing my sentiments. Well, now the pendulum has swung in the other direction and a potential employer has over communicated with me.
I couldn’t believe this happened, but yesterday one of the schools to which I applied sent me the same “Dear Candidate” email indicating that I would not be moving on in their selection process. This was the second time the email was sent to me. I was pissed. I mean it really stung the first time, because the school was one of my top choices for location and job type. And the second time it was a huge reminder that I am not “good enough” for them.
Clearly, it was not intentional. And I am sure there was a simple error behind the scenes that caused this to happen. But this is a cardinal sin as it relates to managing a hiring process. PLEASE send the right emails to the right people, and only send them once.
When I first shared with a friend that I would not be moving on in this school’s process, they suggested that it wasn’t meant to be and it was possibly a good thing. I sensed they knew more about the institution than I did. Well, being told “no” a second time confirmed for me what my friend suggested. While it is a small error, I am not sure I want to work at a place that is unable to effectively manage their hiring process.
Largely, the take-away is that there is A LOT going on with every institution that is seeking to hire new employees. Seemingly, some places have a system that works like a well-oiled machine and other places are disorganized and out of sync with the needs of candidates. Given our profession’s emphasis on research and our access to information, it may be beneficial to benchmark the best hiring practices and procedures of a college or university. Surely, there is plenty to learn and some schools may evolve with better systems.
from the desk of...candidate #3
Love is a Battlefield (Pat Benatar)
I cut the cord this week – I notified my current employer that I will not be returning to my current position for the 2009-10 year. Scary stuff, and I debated for several months about turning in ‘the letter’ that said I won’t be coming back. Now I’m a free agent, willing and wanting to explore options but without a firm place to come back to. My current institution has been a fantastic place to learn and grow, both professionally and personally, and the time has come to explore the job market. It’s been a battle of sorts – mostly of the mind and heart – and there’s been a lot of support from various administrators and co-workers about wanting to fully enter the job search. As Pat Benatar notes, “We are strong, no one can tell us we’re wrong, searching our hearts for so long, both of us knowing – love is a battlefield.”
Life, like Pat Benatar’s analogy to love being a battlefield , is filled with as you seek to find the best thing for your relationship, career, education, and personal wellness. There are no guarantees in life or love, so it’s right to have some hesitation before leaving a steady, good-paying job and seeking out a change. The battlefield, in-between my ears and deep inside my chest, came from knowing I was ready to start a new adventure and to start the next phase of my life.
I’m getting excited about TPE – and nervous, too. There’s a lot to do in the next couple of days, from picking out outfits, double-checking hotel/airline reservations, and other tasks. I’m also helping my supervisor with 1st & 2nd round interviews for replacements for my position, so there are responsibilities that I must fulfill. All in all, I’m approaching this pretty level-headed and very much like a business trip, not as a sightseeing adventure (too flim-flam) or a do-or-die situation (too firm). It’s been awhile since my networking, gladhanding, and interview skills were put to the test –and although I’m generally a bit more introverted, I explode with confidence and outgoingness at conferences and come alive in interviews. I know there’s a lot riding on TPE – but if I concentrate on the enormity of the issue, then I’ll lose sight of the goals of developing solid relationships and learning more about future opportunities.
from the desk of...candidate 4
Searching for a job is like screaming underwater. You wonder if anybody can hear as you drown. You wonder if all the work and energy is futile.
For the last 4 months, I’ve kicked and yelled into the job posting abyss, sent out resume after resume, filled out application after application, wrote cover letter after cover letter.
And there’s been only little response.
But this week, there was a little more hope.
A major university in Texas responded to the resumes I submitted for two different positions. They sent me an email to set up an appointment at the Placement Exchange conference next week. I think the question they asked was “Do you have any available time Friday or Saturday for an interview?” as if I was completely booked with all other sorts of interviews with universities both days.
“I have Friday at 2 p.m. available.” I replied, which is true. I just didn’t mention I had every hour available as well.
A few other schools sent me there Residence Life recruitment packets which I hope is indication that they’re considering interviewing me.
Maybe this will all turn out well, I think when I’m feeling optimistic. Surely there’s a University out there that will be my lifesaver.
Or maybe I'm not doing enough, maybe I should be trying harder, screaming louder, thrash and kick my way back to the water’s surface, anything to keep afloat.
First Phone Interview
This past week I had my first phone interview which officially kicks off the “job getting” process. I must say it was great. The school is in the Northeast and has about 10,000 students. This is one of the many Residence Director positions to which I have applied. The Residence Life department is up-and-coming and very dynamic. It seems like it could be a very exciting place to work.
They called on time and we chatted for about 45 minutes. The interviewers seemed fully present and interested in what I had to say. They explained their career paths and shared details about the department. After which they got right into questions for me.
I could not have asked for better questions. They asked me philosophical questions about the role of residence life, my thoughts on discipline, and how to supervise students. I even had the chance to talk about a new initiative that I created in my current job. Thankfully, I was also able to make a personal connection having traveled to a country in which one of the interviewers is from.
Minutes before the interview I did have some nervous energy in my stomach. I mean, I haven’t interviewed since December 2008, but it went away as soon as I introduced myself and got into the groove. I prepared by typing answers to typical questions, printing their mission statement, and practicing some stories in the mirror. It seemed goofy at the time, but I think it helped out.
This particular school has structured their interview process differently as a response to budget cuts. They have decided to complete screening interviews over the phone before TPE, so that they can interview fewer candidates at the conference. I imagine other schools may be doing this as well.
Needless to say the interview got me jazzed, and I am more excited to start this process. I feel like interviewing for student affairs jobs give me the opportunity to talk about myself, my values, and the things I believe in a lot. It’s a fit, and makes me feel comfortable. Stay tuned for more developments on this.
from the desk of... candidate 2
“Saturated” is a good word to describe how I feel these days. Saturated with advice, resume and cover letter reviewing, even travel prep. It’s quickly pushing my attitude from “excited/nervous” into just plain “frantic.” I have definitely mentally checked out of my classes for the time being, and find myself daydreaming about a mythical time in my future where TPE will have already happened and I don’t have to worry about things like scuffing my shoes before I walk in them or making sure all my thank you cards are done.
And to be quite brutally honest with you all – I’m getting pretty sick of the gloaters. My fellow job-searchers who are boasting and bragging about how many interviews they’ve clinched before TPE or how their phone interviews are progressing. It would be a lot easier to be happy for them if they took a shot of humility and just for once thought about someone other than themselves.
Somebody told me recently that this is the only time in my life where I’ll have to do a job search “of this magnitude and stress level.” I really hope they’re right because I’m really starting to get on my own nerves.
In Their Shoes
I had dinner the other night with some friends who work in Residence Life Department at a university. I was their boss once, back when I was a Assistant Hall Director and they were just first year Resident Assistants. Now they were veteran RAs with almost three years of experience under their belt.
I asked them to tell me stories of dealing with residents or putting on programs, anything that would place me in their world rather than the outsider I felt like.
All of them looked gloomy and started venting about petty problems and fleeting annoyances: a resident was writing on all the walls and getting into arguments, another resident was busted for forging his ID, a coworker was caught drinking with other residents. Small incidents magnified into dramatic aggravations. That’s Residence Life for ya. My friends could hardly wait to leave. I could hardly wait to get back in.
“You complain now,” I tell them. “But you’ll miss it when you’re gone.”
“Nah, they told me the same thing about high school,” one replied. “And I haven’t missed that yet.”
“Just be thankful that you have a job with great benefits," I said. "I mean what else can you do that pays for your room and board and helps you through college?”
“That’s true. I’m not looking forward to paying bills,” she replied. “I believe I will miss the moments I shared with coworkers, but dealing with residents, I just feel like I’m past that.”
It’s not for everyone. And if student development is not your main career focus and your passion, it’s difficult to enjoy. I remember, I was there once. Back when I was an Assistant Hall Director, I was so focused on getting a degree that the work in Residence Life seemed like a distraction. The job was getting in the way of my career goals.
But now that I’m choosing Residence Life as a career, and it means something so much more. The little things don’t sound so bothersome. In fact, that’s what you expect and embrace the opportunity to work with those kind of challenges. They sound – dare I say – adventurous.
I wish I was in their shoes.
Cover Letter + Resume = Crap Shoot
In the past week I have received both good news and bad news related to my job search. Excitingly, one of my top choices of east coast schools invited me to do a first interview with them at TPE. And sadly, one of my top choices of west coast schools indicated that I would not be moving on in their process. Similarly, both schools reviewed the same cover letter and resume.
I just don’t get it. What is it about the buzz words like “student engagement” and “learning outcomes” that impress some employers while driving others crazy? Seemingly, there is no right answer to the cover letter and resume question because one never knows what a potential employer is exactly seeking.
As a result, I’ve decided that submitting cover letters and resumes is a crap shoot, and with any gamble it relies heavily on your odds, numbers, and chances. Colleagues of mine laugh at me when I suggest this, however, it is exactly this point that has influence my strategy for applying to jobs.
Simply, I need to apply to many jobs because at each step in the process the number of possibilities is reduced. For example if I apply to 20 positions I can probably expect to have first interviews with 75% of them. This leaves me with 15 possible jobs in the hopper. After the first interview the chances of moving on in the process become harder, therefore I am expecting that 66% of the 15 possibilities move on to second interviews. This leaves me with 9 – 10 job prospects. Still, I am assuming the odds become even more difficult at the next step. With that, I think that 50% of second interviews, a total of 5, will move on to on-campus interviews. The final and hardest step with slimmest possibility is getting the offer. I have calculated this as a 33% chance. And of 5 on-campus interviews that might translate into 1 – 2 offers. Crazy…right?!?
Of course there are other variables. For example, there are schools that I won’t like and will pull out of their process, and there may be more employers than I anticipate that like and advance me in their process. However, the probability that I just explained seems very reasonable to me and has motivated me to be flexible and open to both positions and locations as I continue to search. I’ll have to keep you posted on the math and let you know if it works out like I think it will.
What Job Am I Interviewing For Again?
I had learned my lessons from last week. I made sure this week’s interview would be at the right time, and I would be better prepared for the questions asked.
This week I had a phone interview for a job at a college in Manhattan for a “Community Director” position. On the surface looked like the same thing as “Resident Director”, “Hall Director”, “Complex Director,” “Residence Coordinator” or any other variations that all ultimately mean someone who supervises the dorm, the residents, and the RAs. It usually means working closely with students.
So during the interview, I made sure to really emphasis my love for student development, coaching staff members, getting involved in student activities, and working with a team.
The interviewers kept silent except asking their canned questions. To my credit, I was nailing all of them. I was confident, passionate, and calm.
Finally, after I had given a compelling, oratory manifesto, a student development speech worthy of a president, they politely said the job had very little to do with interacting with students.
“The job is predominately administrative duties,” one of them said. “You won’t really work directly with students.”
“Umm…well that sounds great.”
What I learned this week on the job hunt
1. In an interview, always ask them first to describe the job position.
2. Make sure you REALLY know what the job title is.
A Piece of Advice
These past few weeks in my graduate classes we’ve been talking (seemingly) non-stop about the looming job search ahead of us. I’ve been getting advice from all angles: my supervisor, my graduate peers, my friends outside the program, my supervisees, even my mother – who really still has to have me re-explain what student affairs is every time I tell her where I’m going in a few weeks (“What does that NASPA thing stand for again?”). While all their advice is well-received, everyone has a different idea of what a successful interview sounds like, what an effective resume looks like, even down to what clothes look right.
This week, we read in our textbooks testimonials of new professionals who went through their own Placement experience less than five years ago and, through their stories, give us soon-to-be professionals tips on things they wish they’d known about when they embarked on their journey. Most of the time it’s horror stories – candidates who neglected to wear their new “interview shoes” before placement, took one step on the tiled floor and promptly ate it in front of hundreds of people; clamming up during interviews and not knowing what to say as you stare across the table at some stranger you’ve known for five minutes; scoring an on-campus interview only to realize the moment you step on you absolutely know in your gut this place isn’t right for you. I’m not a worrier by nature but the sheer volume of these experiences began to shake me.
This week I realized that, at the Placement Exchange, not only do I need to bring by A-game interviewing skills and a resume that pops off the page, but I need to do some serious inward reflecting and remember what defines me as a person. What can I bring to this university? What can I bring to the department? And, most importantly, what can I bring to the students? In all our resume critiquing, mock interviewing, new-clothes-buying, discussing and sharing, I haven’t heard much about being myself while in Seattle. In fact, I almost forgot to consider it.
Cheesy as it sounds, I love quotes, and much to the chagrin of my students, toss them at the bottom of all my meeting agendas. Recently, one of my resident advisors that I supervise wrote me a card for my birthday, and helped me remember something very important. “Don’t cower from your insight. Move confidently, and you’ll get exactly where you want to go.”
BRRNG. BRRNG. BRRNG.
I immediately knew who was calling. But I wasn't ready to answer. I wasn't even fully awake. Had I overslept?
I had to answer. I raced to the kitchen and snatched the phone, glancing at the caller id. Judging from the New York area code, I knew the worst to be true.
But the first question out of the gate caught me off guard.
Somehow, i got through the answer, but confidence-wise, it killed the interview.
I bombed. Big time.
I became paralyzed by my neediness and forgot how to just relax. I chalked the experience up as a practice run. Learn from my mistakes, be better prepared next time, calm down, and my God, know what time zone the interview is held.
from the desk of....candidate 1
Professional Courtesy vs. Patience
I am now starting to feel more prepared for the job search; in large part because my graduate school offers career sessions to help students in our program navigate the process. We spend two hours on several Fridays throughout the semester talking about every aspect of searching for employment. Values alignment, location, salary and correspondence have all been focal points of our discussions.
Recently, we talked about the power of the cover letter and the resume. You know, matching headings, a solid font, and great catch phrases – the critical elements to being remembered. These parts make me feel really good. And admittedly, I am a little detail oriented, so I excel with this type of thing.
Since my last post, I have applied to several more jobs. Now my count is at about 16. It seems like a lot but so many places have only anticipated openings and other positions seem like they might be a stretch for my skill set. Regardless, I am baffled at the fact that so many schools have not even acknowledged receipt of my application.
I am not sure about you, but I think this is just rude. At the very least, employers advertising a position should offer a standard reply that says: “Thank you for submitting your application. We will start our review in a week, and will contact you with more information.” Is that too much to ask? Oh, I know - you receive a ton of applications for your amazing residence life position. Sure…. I mean why would you spend two minutes of your day sending a reply? It’s professional courtesy, just send the email.
And yes, there is a flip side to this. I probably should just be more patient. Not a heck of a lot of movement will happen before TPE, which is still four weeks away. Many employers are likely waiting on the applicant pool to fill, and I should probably respect that part of the process. Moreover, it’s email. They received it - it doesn’t’ need double checking. And, if it didn’t bounce back, somebody on the other end got it.
Maybe there’s a middle ground. More potential employers should be ready with a reply at a click’s notice, and applicants should hold their horses a bit. I’m not sure. I just know that I really appreciate it when I know that someone is tending to my application and that it’s not in cyberspace. Certainly, it makes me less anxious. We all could sign up for a little less anxiety…right?