Now that I have returned to North Dakota and have had a second to breathe, I have been able to reflect more about my TPE experience. TPE is The Placement Exchange, a large placement conference for student affairs job seekers held in conjunction with the NASPA annual conference. This year, TPE took place in Indianapolis. If you had asked me my intentions of attending TPE a year ago, my answer would have been not a chance. As an introvert and someone not looking to go into housing, I did not feel that I could thrive in that type of interviewing environment. However, after conversations with peers during my summer internship and with my own advisor, I decided to give TPE a chance. Even after attending, I feel that I have a love-hate relationship with the process.
Starting with the negative: The Hate
I was very skeptical of TPE before attending the on-site event. I was disheartened by the lack of positions outside of residential life available. I interviewed with every single career services position at the event, except one that was outside of my geographic preferences, and still only had 10 interviews. I heard of some people looking for residence life who had more than 20 first round interviews alone. I ended up being thankful for my few interviews because I felt that I was able to learn more about the institution and it fit better into my busy schedule as I started interning with the NASPA annual conference. However, I do not know that I suggest TPE as a good source of job searching for those outside of residence life. The TPE site and my mentors kept reassuring me that more positions would pop up, but that just wasn’t the case.
Also, especially for Career Services positions, TPE was like a pre-screening for employers. You still have to apply through the normal HR website (as you would with any position), but unlike most res life positions, second round interviews were very uncommon on-site. The employers passed all of their notes along to their search committees who will conduct their own interviews before inviting candidates on-campus. For many of these positions, attending TPE does not give candidates any more of an edge over the competition than simply applying through the system. And TPE isn’t cheap!
I am extremely fortunate to have been able to finance my TPE adventure with little problem; however, I do believe that the placement conference format puts low socio-economic status students at a disadvantage. Especially for those looking for res life, if they aren’t able to attend the conference due to financial restrictions, they may be at a disadvantage in their job search. There are plenty of positions that interview outside of TPE, but TPE is a large source of finding positions. I feel conflicted about the idea of a placement conference in general.
I was really nervous going in that I would not be able to interview in such close proximity to others; however, I found that I didn’t even notice the conversations going on around me. I was very focused on my own interview and our discussions.
While I was generally disappointed with the number of institutions I could choose to interview with, I did interview with some institutions that I absolutely LOVED. It was nice to be able to get some face time with these employers and learn more about the positions and schools. I have had great success with the positions I interviewed with at TPE, and I am hopeful that my prospects at landing a job are higher than I expected.
Regardless of how many schools I interviewed with, I believe that TPE was a worthwhile experience. It is something so unique to student affairs and I am glad that I had the opportunity to be a part of it. I doubt that I will participate in TPE in the future, either as a candidate or employer, but I at least have some insight into the process that I can share with my mentees and any future students who are interested in participating.
(Cross-posted on my personal blog.)