FT: Work to stay your authentic self & have a damn good group of folks who support you through the process (& life!)
The struggle of the job search is real. There are so many things to consider while you’re searching, applying, interviewing, and following up. Discussing the politics of the student affairs job search made for an engaging and (for me) personal #sachat recently. It has felt so validating to finally feel like I’m seeing conversations, blog posts, and discussions about the less positive and exciting aspects of job searching. Some recent posts that have resonated with me and may speak to others experiencing frustrations and letdowns with the SA job search include Craig’s month by month account of his search and reading Shane’s collection of responses from other colleagues in the field. This the first time in my search that I felt like others understood what I was going through.
While in the thick of the job search, I often felt like I was alone in my experiences. Some of my grad school classmates had jobs, and some were still looking, but long conversations about our (un)employment statuses were not happening. Why weren’t we talking more about our experiences? Couldn’t we have been encouraging and learning more from one another? Empathizing? I can only speak for myself, but I felt like there was a sense of shame in the ongoing (and ongoing, and ongoing…) search, which further added to feeling alone during the process. I’ve found it’s all too easy to lose a sense of who you are and what you are striving to do.
My experience has been that there is a lack of empathy when it comes to the way in which many job search and interview processes are conducted. It’s difficult to submit an application for a job you thought was perfect for you and not receive a response, but with the mountain of applications rolling in for most positions, it is understandable. However, when you make it through the round of phone interviews, and are invited for a half to full day on-campus interview where you try to convey your passion and connect with the staff and students on the search committee who may not always seem fully engaged, and then don’t hear a word until you receive a formal email or letter in the mail almost a month later, it can really take a toll on your confidence and trust in the “process.” Y’all, we can do better.
I experienced such a contrast in my interactions with SA Pros while conferencing and while interviewing on campus. Leaving conferences left me with renewed energy and a sense of self-awareness- I knew why I loved student affairs and was determined that I would find the position and school that suited me best. I saw other SA pros being amazing and thought I would be ecstatic working with any one of them. Leaving interviews did not leave me with similar feelings. It often felt as though search committees were just going through the motions of the interview. It was difficult to find the authenticity in our interactions.
I really believe that we should treat every candidate like a future colleague. Being on the job market can be a really vulnerable place; shouldn’t we treat our future colleagues with more empathy and compassion? We interact with our students on a daily basis, always keeping empathy and development in mind; why should our interactions with our future colleagues be any different? When departments and search committees take so much time to conduct a search, it seems out of place to simply read through a list of questions at an interview, and later pass on to HR the role of responding to those folks who weren’t offered the position. SA Pros apply to positions because they could see you being their colleague; show them that you can see them being yours.
Throughout my active job search, I questioned myself many times. Was I who employers were looking for? Did they like me? Was I the right “fit?” I tried to smile more and tried to be more extroverted than I really am. But I realized that it wouldn’t be fair to myself or to a future employer if I acted as this less-than-authentic version of myself. Thankfully I had a small squad of folks close to me who supported and encouraged “authentic me.” You don’t have to be the right candidate for every position, but you’re right for the right position. That decision to remain authentic improved my outlook on the whole process…but interacting with some empathetic and understanding folks wouldn’t hurt either.
> BONUS <
SAC Book: Job Searching in Student Affairs