Day One: Hostel
I arrived in New Orleans downright confused about The Placement Exchange. There was limited information on TPE website for on-site attendees, and I had no idea what to do or what to expect. However, I figured I was already registered and I’d get to spend five days in New Orleans if nothing else came of the experience, so I packed my bags and flew down to the bayou.
I decided to write up my experience a guide to first time attendees who might be feeling as lost as I was/am. I am nestled down in my hostel, ready to share my lack of wisdom with the world.
Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
- Lodging: I recommend looking into hostels if you are trying to save money. I am staying at the Atlas House and paid around $150 for 4 nights in a 6-bed mixed gender dorm. (2 of my fellow hostelians are also TPE candidates!) Things to consider:
- accessibility needs (my hostel has stairs)
- your age (most hostels only allow those under 30 to stay)
- how much space you are willing to share. (there are usually dorms with sets of bunk beds, semi-private, and private rooms)
- Transportation: Consider using public transit or taxi-sharing if you are trying to conserve funds. I took the streetcars and buses, which took a bit longer but were much cheaper than a taxi to the convention center. Some universities or departments provide funding, so see if you can get your conference experience paid for.
- Application Process: I received an e-mail two weeks before TPE informing me that the process is to submit your application materials and then message the employer contact through TPE website. I did not know this process and had not been doing it, so be sure you keep a record of your applications and make the contacts. Residence Life is where it’s at, by which I mean a good 80% of the jobs at TPE are probably Residence Life, so being open to that can expand your options.
Day Two: On-site, oh my
I arrived on-site and was given a name tag with my candid ate number and a short program and sent on my merry way. There was an accessibility table near check in, so pop by there if needed.
- Program: Contains a map of the convention center, wifi information, room/session information, a schedule, and some event information. An interesting bit is the fitness and wellness events held Saturday-Tuesday. Here is a copy of the program I received.
- Mailboxes: There is a mailbox attached to your candidate number where employers can leave messages and materials for you. You can also submit your resume to an employer. Check your mailbox somewhat frequently.
- Workrooms: There are a few of these which offer wireless printing, laptop charging stations, and professional coaches. The main workroom has a supply table with various odds and ends, such as first aid kits, office supplies, sewing kits, lint rollers, mints, and antacids. There is a quiet workroom as well.
- Orientation: We went over how to use the messaging system, the process for scheduling and cancelling an interview, thank-you note procedures, and basic interview format.
- Dress: The styles ranged from business casual to business formal. I went with business casual and seem to be in good company. If you wear heels, I suggest bringing a pair of flats that you can carry in your bag to change into. I also recommend bringing a professional looking bag to carry your materials in.
- Professional Coaches: They are “available to answer questions and ease concerns about the placement process. Coaches will look over your resume, help prepare you for an interview, or simply lend a caring ear.” My coach helped me construct a plan. Since I had no interviews scheduled, she suggested I spend the morning making employer contacts through the mailbox system, with a goal of 10-15 contacts. My coach also sent me my first piece of mail wishing me luck, so that was encouraging.
I ended up sending 8 resumes. I got my first “not interested” in the early afternoon and did not get anything else in my candidate box that day. However, I did get an e-mail requesting an interview, so keep an eye on your e-mail inbox.
Day Three: The Interview
There are rooms in the interview hall where you wait until your employer retrieves you.I arrived to the waiting room about 10 minutes early. My interviewer came to get me with a plush of their mascot, as well as by calling my name but some only used signs, so keep your eyes open. The interview itself lasted around 20 minutes and wasn’t much different from any other interview other than the length and cacophony around us. She gave me a timeline for follow-up and that was that. Since I didn’t bring thank-you notes, I wrote a letter and put it in the employer mail the next day.
The biggest thing I learned from TPE is to be prepared. I definitely wasn’t and it colored my experience. I hope that this short guide will help other first time attendees from being in that same sinking ship. I’m happy to answer any specific questions in the comments. Good luck!