The gates have opened, the horses have taken off and the crowd is cheering as the brightly dressed jockeys blur past on ridiculously named thoroughbreds. The hooves stampede into the grass, thundering around the track to see who will outrun and win the race.
As a second year student affairs grad, the job search can feel like a horserace. Only the race truthfully began a couple months ago, so we’ve rounded the first bend, a hat has already been blown off in the wind and the bets have been placed. There are those who have been holding back, reserving their energy for the final stretch and other racers who are sprinting ahead, hoping to pull ahead of the competition before anyone else. There are moments when it feels like there is one single job available for my entire cohort.
I have to remind myself the job search is not a race with my cohort, although getting a job is a competition. Dozens of people submit applications; those are narrowed down to phone interviews, which are then narrowed down to on-campus interviews and finally, one job offer. This competition is individual for each person, there are small overlaps where friends have applied for the same job, but the overall process is a separate race for each person.
It is equally important not to compare my job search process to others. There are different timelines for jobs and institutions. There are people attending the NASPA Placement Exchange, regional job placement conferences, and individuals looking independently. Each person approaches the job search differently, comparison is dangerous because it serves to no one’s benefit. When I begin to compare my job search process, it makes me question what I value in my first job and my hopes post-graduation.
Ideally, I would like to work at a diverse institution in a large urban area. To qualify urban area, I am generally referring to cities with at least half a million people living within the city. I’m not particular on a region in the United States. Baltimore, Chicago, Charlotte, San Francisco –give me half a million people and I’ll consider moving there. I appreciate what cities bring to the college experience. Most of my student affairs experience focuses on student activities, leadership programs, and fraternity and sorority life, so most of my job search is also focused on those areas. I’m open to considering a job I do not have direct experience in and expanding my skill set as well.
My summer internship at Temple University in Philadelphia affirmed for me that it’s important to enjoy where I work and where I live. This is why I’m particular about living in/near a city. For me, I find the most fulfillment living someplace where there are restaurants, shopping, museums and art, always something to do, and something new to explore. I want to live a life where I am fulfilled within my work and with my life outside the job –which sometimes feels like a vulnerably bold statement to make in a field where finding work/life balance can often be a challenge.
There are also jobs I have applied for outside of the qualities listed above. Sometimes the institution or the professionals I would be working with allow me to compromise because of the developmental experience I would be gaining. There is no formula for determining what is a willing trade-off in the job. It’s a case-by-case decision with each position description. I’m flexible and I also have my timeline for when I need to reconsider what is necessary to me for life as a new professional.
So I do not my best not to compare my job search, when I do I reevaluate qualities that I deem essential for my life post-graduation. I need to remember that I determined these conditions are important for a reason. It is paramount to trust the process, keep diligent, and have patience as I apply for positions. Each timeline is different, and as long as I consistently apply and keep confidence in my abilities, I have to have faith I will find the job where I fit in a city I enjoy.
The job search is a competition, but is not a race against the other members of my cohort. We are each in our own race and completing the track on our own time. To the second year SA grads at University of the Pacific and other student affairs grads searching for jobs, best of luck! Hopefully we can all grab a mint julep once everyone has completed their individual race.
This post is part of the Emerging SA Pro series following 4 awesome people: Meagan, Karyn, Michael, and Alice, 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.
> BONUS <
Podcast With Danny Malave on New Professional Retrospective on the Job Search