“You should gain at least some experience in residence life.”
“You really need to diversify.”
“Be prepared to accept X amount of money in your first position.”
“Most people don’t love their first professional positon.”
In my second year of grad school, I heard these statements (and more like them) a hundred times over. I was on the path to “res-life-ify” myself – I had a summer internship in housing operations. But when I compared myself to the grads in residence life in my program, I couldn’t compete. I was working off of the notion that certain positions are more prevalent than others in student affairs, and that new grads are destined for a long, painful search before securing a job that met (maybe some) of their expectations.
I’m here to tell you that it’s possible to get the dream job you really want. You didn’t spend your money, time, blood, sweat, and tears in grad school to take a job that’s just ‘okay’. Go after the positions that are exciting, fulfilling, and offer exactly what you want to be doing.
I graduated on a Friday and started in my current role the following Monday. When I say I have my dream job, I mean it. I’m doing exactly what I want to be doing in the exact location I want to be in.
Here’s how I landed my dream job right out of school, and how you can too.
1. No task is too big or too small
As a student employee, graduate assistant, and intern, I was willing to do whatever needed done. From taking inventory of residence hall furniture, to planning and placing over 250 students in a TV commercial shoot, no task was too big or too small. I have the same attitude and work ethic today. When you’re willing to do the less-favorable tasks (and are positive about it), your supervisors will recognize and appreciate it. You’ll get opportunities to take on bigger projects that add value to your resume.
The cover letter for my current job was the easiest to write, because I had done every single thing the job description called for.
2.Be someone everyone wants to work with
When you’re interviewing for a position, the interviewers want to know if you’re qualified, and if you’re someone they want to spend 40+ hours per week working alongside. Be someone who’s willing to help everyone in your organization, whether or not it directly pertains to your work. Have examples of how you collaborate with and help your colleagues. Most importantly, always be on time, professional, respectful, and kind.
3. Do the work that others won’t
You can fulfill the requirements of your job or you can exceed them. As a graduate assistant, I was contracted to work 18.75 hours per week. Most weeks I worked over 20, sometimes I worked 30. Social media isn’t a 9-5 job, and I chose to never treat it like one. I worked when work needed done – nights, weekends, or holidays. I wanted to be the best at what I do, and that means doing the work that others won’t. Following this philosophy not only helped me to excel in my job, but earned me a reputation as someone who can always be counted on to get the job done. I never treated my role as an assistantship that was paying my tuition. I treated it like my full time job, and took great care to ensure that every detail reflected my best work.
There were a million times when I was exhausted, and would think to myself, “This better pay off one day.” It already has.
So don’t believe the hype – you really can have it all.
This post is part of the Emerging SA Pro series following 4 awesome people: Aracelis, Emalie, Felicia, and Patrick, as they blog monthly about 1 year of their journey as either a new SA Pro or SA grad student. We are proud to help them share their stories as they break into our field.