It is job search season for many student affairs grads and it’s a bit of an emotional time. Academics are taking a back seat while the top priorities have become writing and re-writing resumes and cover letters, habitually checking job boards, trying to tap into networks without seeming like we’re taking advantage of a connection, trying not to be disheartened by automated “no thanks” emails or, even worse, hearing nothing at all — it’s an exciting time, but a miserable process.
Every job search is different, but the one I recently completed was restricted by a factor that not many grads consider – geography. Although I think everyone struggles in their own way, I felt isolated in this fact because national job searches are the norm in our field. I doubted myself every single day. I questioned my commitment to my career and my commitment to the city I had chosen to make my home. And although I know I’m not alone in this, it sometimes feels like the geographically-restricted job search is a lot less common than it probably is.
The uncertainty was the hardest piece for me and some of that comes from many professionals in the field perpetuating the stereotype that the national job search is the best (or only) way to get the job that will launch your career. Every day I wondered if I would have to sacrifice a good institutional fit, a functional area that I really wanted, the best possible professional development opportunities, or any other ideal job traits, just for the opportunity to stay local. I wondered if colleagues in the field would see me as less committed to my career for not being willing to move for a “dream” job. I wondered if I would eventually hit a dead-end in my career because external candidates seemed to always be preferred. I even wondered if I had chosen the wrong career path because I wasn’t willing to live up to the expectation of moving around every few years.
There are a number of reasons for restricting a job search to a certain city or region. For me, it was simply that I just did a cross-country move less than 3 years ago, I’ve started to build a life where I am now, and I’m not ready (or willing) to give up what I’ve built to start all over again. Maybe you have a spouse and kids to think about or a sick family member. Or maybe you just love where you live and never planned to leave. But what anyone doing a geographically restricted job search needs to hear, something that would have made me feel significantly better about my own, is that whatever your reasons are, they are valid. Your job search is leading you to your career, so don’t let anyone make those decisions for you. We forget sometimes as graduate students that we can (and should) have lives outside of our work, so why is it frowned upon to consider those other aspects of life when making a huge life decision?
I just started my new job this past week and it feels like I made an amazing choice and found a perfect fit. And my office has a view of the Washington Monument, so I consider it a success – the best of both worlds. My humble advice would be to set your priorities and stick to your guns. This is your decision and you know yourself best. Happy job hunting!
This post is quite the opposite of our March series #SAmobile, on relocating for a job, and we welcome the difference! Thanks Megan for the different perspective.
> BONUS <
Podcast With Danny Malave on New Professional Retrospective on the Job Search