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.”

from the desk of... candidate 1

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.


from the desk of... candidate 2

'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.


from the desk of... candidate 2

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!


from the desk of... candidate 1

Family Matters

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.

from the desk of... candidate 4

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'm excited, I get to go to Seattle for the first time. I'll hang out, talk to universities, maybe find a job. Should be "fun."

I had just finished printing out all the TPE newsletters when I get an email from a university I applied for that will be at the conference. Wow! Maybe they want to set up an appointment! How wonderful! I'd LOVE to work for them. And their school is in my favorite city in the United States. What an opportunity that would be!

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.
from the desk of... candidate 1


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.