I was quick to volunteer to write for this series – I’ve made big moves for student affairs related reasons a few times now, so I felt like I might have something to say on the topic. But as I read the posts throughout the series, I wondered what I might have to add to this conversation, and I think I finally figured it out. I can offer what has been my truth about moves, the less shiny and happy truth… that sometimes, they just suck.
Eight years ago (which seems impossible), I made a move from my position in North Carolina to a new role in Texas. I am from New Hampshire and had moved to NC in 1998 to attend graduate school. I got married, got a fabulous job, and my husband and I bought a house just outside of Raleigh. Things were great, until they weren’t. In 2007, I found myself freshly divorced and living in a place very far from my family. It was definitely time to shake things up. I ended up accepting a position in Austin, and had three weeks from the date of my interview before I had to start my new job. I was excited – I had a good friend who lived in Houston, an hour and a half away, and my sister and her family were a five hour drive away. As I drove along I-20 to my new home, I was sure this was the right move.
I had made the cardinal mistake in job searching, though – I was running from something- not to something. In my haste to get a fresh start, I didn’t do my due diligence and found out, initially, the role was a poor fit for me. The first year of my time in Austin was, frankly, awful. Professionally, I had made a lateral move and was unchallenged and unhappy. My manager and I were not on the same page philosophically, and were two very different people. I began job searching before the year was up. And I spent all my free time in Houston with friends or in Oklahoma with my sister. I was living in what I would come to realize is one of the greatest cities in the country, and I left it at every opportunity to seek out what I knew, instead of explore something new. Some changes happened in the office and, professionally, things did a 180. I made friends at work and asked friends from home to introduce me to people they knew in the area. I also deepened my obsession with photography and got involved in that local community. I had finally realized, if I wanted to be happy in Austin, I had to be in Austin. And not just physically, though that was half of it. I had to go all in.
And that is the advice I have for you, fellow job seekers – go all in. What do I mean by that?
- Live in the city where you work, if at all possible. Not only will you be happier with a shorter commute, but it will provide you with a deeper connection to the community and assist with that whole work/life integration thing.
- Stay put. It can be tempting, especially if you’re single, to road trip lots to see friends or family that are sort of nearby (coming from the woman that convinced herself five hours away was “nearby”). And you should… just not all the time. Don’t spend so much energy trying to fit yourself into their existing lives that you have none left to build your own.
- Figure out who your peers are on campus. Who are the other new grads, young professionals, mid-level manager folks? Think of your campus like conference tracks. Seek those people out, especially the ones that work outside of your immediate area or office. They will provide you support and insight into campus culture.
- For the love of Pete, get off campus. This is especially important if you are a young professional. Grad school likely provided an instant friend group – you went to class together, likely worked together, job searched together. We tend to think because we’re moving to another campus, that experience will be similar, and that may happen. But it also may not. In order to be a healthy, happy, sane individual, please seek out people who look all confused when you say you work in student affairs – you need those folks in your life. They will help you by reminding you that you are not your job.
I took a new job almost two years ago and moved from Austin to Athens, Ohio. I’m not going to pretend the transition has been all sunshine and lollipops, but committing to being here from the start has made it so much better. Take your time, make careful decisions, but once you choose… go all in.