As late twenty-something/early thirty-something professionals, big life changes start to take form. For me, it was getting married and deciding to embark on a new life adventure with my husband. We were both burnt out and there was no opportunity for advancement for either of us in our positions. He found a position first with an amazing company that promised greater pay, promotional opportunities, and longevity. In a whirlwind two months, my husband started his new job, we got married, moved, and set up shop in our new southern home. Because of the timing of all of this (fall) I knew hiring season for me wouldn’t start for awhile and nothing would most likely be posted until early Spring. In order to suppress my self-induced panic, I tried to look on the bright side and thought that maybe this brief break from the field would be good for me. By this time, I had nearly seven years of professional experience, so I would be embarking on the mid-level search.
I spent the first few weeks resting, searching for jobs, and watching Netflix. I really had no idea what I was searching for. I started to panic again. When you go to graduate school for a really specific field and set your sights into working in said field forever, any thoughts of Plan B, C or any other letter go right out of the window. Many Netflix binge marathons later, I was able to find myself a glorified office job working for an entertainment company that put on dance competitions. The company wasn’t run very well and had high turnover. I struggled most days with the repeated mantras of “This is temporary!” “You are in transition!” and “Something is coming!”
Even though my time away was only about six months, it felt like forever. I did a lot of soul-searching. My previous stint at a Jesuit institution was amazing in many ways, but one of the main lessons I took away was the importance of reflection and focus on vocation. I was able to find truth and clarify what I needed in my next role to grow as a person and a professional.
Here are a few helpful thoughts that I would like to offer to all of my SA friends out there:
- The Harsh Reality. The period where a high amount of jobs are available is over. As you move up the ranks, it gets harder. Folks in mid-level positions tend to stay in their positions for a long time, so the amount of positions that correlate with your experience are limited-ESPECIALLY if you are looking in a specific region. Mentally prepare for the possibility of an unconventional path to your next position. While it is possible to hop from one professional position to another quickly, it is not the norm.
- The Harsh Reality 2.0: Competition. The fact that Student Affairs programs are popping up all over the country, and that people are continually entering our field is mind-blowing. The competition may have been tough in the first job search, it is even harder now! There is always someone out there that may have better connections than you, or have a different skill-set that the search committee is looking for. Every job application is a crap-shoot. You might think you are perfect candidate, but they might not agree. It is hard to think about, and it can easily make you feel like crap, however, it is the harsh reality and no different than any other field. All you can do is put your best foot forward and give it a shot. What is meant to happen will happen.
- Stay Connected. I kept up in various Student Affairs Facebook groups and Twitter chats, answered questions, and participated in commentary. I still read InsideHigherEd every day. I connected with my sorority alumni group as soon as I moved, and secured a small advising role with the nearest collegiate chapter. I also had the opportunity to travel and facilitate a large leadership workshop. This all meant the world to me and re-instilled a sense of purpose. It gave me hope that I would eventually return to Student Affairs.
- Seek Out Your Support Network. I took it upon myself to seek out colleagues at area campuses that could be sources of support and assistance. I went on LinkedIn and tried to connect with those that attended both my undergraduate institution and graduate institution. They sent me job postings, wished me luck before interviews, and gave me support when I was feeling down. Consequently, I had a few colleagues going through the same process who reached out to me for advice. We were able to have some great conversations and find support in each other.
- Find Something To Do. Find something to do to keep your mind off the search. Take up a new sport, new hobby, or volunteer. For me, it was taking up aerial silks and training for another half-marathon. It allowed me to focus my energy on something completely different and in the meantime feel good about myself.
Hopefully my experience will be helpful to others out there that may be going through something similar. Keep your chin up. You are awesome and the right job will come along!