Full disclosure – I came from an unusually small cohort for my graduate program – only seven students. Four were already employed full-time prior to starting the program or hired early in our studies. Two others accepted full-time offers during our final semester. And then there was me – degree in hand with a future TBD. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t experiencing some serious stress and self-doubt back then. Luckily, as a result of graduate internships, I found myself with two options to consider during my job search and one of those would be my ultimate choice.
So now, three years later, I offer you some advice for the post-grad school job search:
Be open to alternative opportunities to get your foot in the door.
My first professional position was part-time. My second was full-time grant-funded. I know that many people hesitate to apply for these but I was able to gain a practical foundation in the field and get a foot in the door.
Create a search strategy.
My job search strategy entailed a piece of scrap paper, a pen, and my bookmarked list of employment boards. Nothing fancy. I was searching in a specific geographic area and had identified all schools in that area. Every Monday, I’d review each bookmarked website for new opportunities. As I made my way through the list, I’d check off the college, ensuring that I stayed up-to- date and on track. I kept this list of colleges on my desk so it was a constant reminder to stay on top of my search.
Keep good records.
Keep electronic files for each job you apply for. Save your resume, cover letter, references, and the original job posting. You’ll now be able to easily borrow content from past job files when applying for similar jobs. When preparing for interviews, you’ll be able to easily access the documents you’ve submitted AND the original job posting (this is especially helpful if the posting was already taken off of the website).
Focus on your strengths.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone in a mock interview say something like, “Well, I don’t have that much experience but I’m skilled at creating and analyzing assessments”. STOP! Whenever you find yourself about to start an answer like this, simply say, “I’m skilled at creating and analyzing assessments”. Be confident in the knowledge you’ve gained through your graduate program and any experiential learning.
Leverage your network.
In every industry, including higher education, knowing the right people can help you get to where you want to be. Keep in touch with former internship supervisors, classmates, and instructors. Get involved with professional associations. Utilize alumni social media groups if your program has them.
The job search for your first post-grad school position can be challenging but I urge you to not lose momentum or motivation. You’ve put in so much work to get here and I promise it will pay off soon!
This month is dedicated to the new crop of new professionals beginning their careers in higher education. Stay tuned for advice on job searching, transitioning into the field, and translating all of that new knowledge to the field.
This post is part of our #SACareer series, addressing careers in student affairs, careers outside of student affairs, and the work of career services professionals. Read more about the series in Jake Nelko’s intro post. Each post is a contribution by a member or friend of the Commission for Career Services from ACPA. Our organization exists to benefit the careers of career services professionals, student affairs professionals, and anyone supporting students in the career endeavors. For more information about how to get involved with the Commission for Career Services