If you have been reading this month’s #Comm_College series I hope that you are inspired to seriously consider exploring student affairs jobs at community colleges. Here’s some advice on how to navigate the process successfully.
Know why you want to work at a community college.
If you don’t have a clear reason for applying for a job at a community college, it will be very obvious to a hiring committee. Do your research. This is important regardless of the institution, but, if you don’t have any previous experience with community colleges, either as a student or professional, you will need to go beyond the basics. It’s not enough to know some facts about the institution and the department you would be working in. You need to understand the unique mission of community colleges. Become well versed on the concept of open access institutions. Community college students will be very diverse in terms of age, marital, parental, veteran and socio-economic status, maybe much more so that students you’ve worked with in the past. Articulate why that appeals to you and how you will be able to translate your previous experience into working with this student population.
Know where to look for community college jobs.
You won’t necessarily find community college jobs at The Placement Exchange (TPE). As of the writing of this blog post there is only one (!) community college position posted on the TPE website. Many community colleges will not even utilize the many other higher education focused job posting sites and instead will advertise in local newspapers or regional job posting websites. Make sure you are searching in a variety of places and don’t forget to go to the websites of community colleges where you may be particularly interested in working.
Know how to get yourself noticed by a community college hiring committee.
When submitting your resume and cover letter be sure to take advantage of this opportunity to share why you want to work at a community college. Discuss how your experience or professional interests fit with the position at the institution as well as the mission of community colleges.
Ace the interview.
You landed an interview! You Rock!! But there are still some factors to consider to get you the job offer. First and foremost you need to be aware of your audience. Hiring committees for jobs at community colleges will often include non-student affairs staff, including administrative assistants, administrators from other areas of the college or faculty. Be conscious of this. Be careful not to resort to the latest student affairs jargon. Don’t use acronyms, use the full names of everything and even give a sentence or two description of the organization, program or position ( ex. say student Orientation Leader not just OL). Use the interview to reiterate why you want to work with community college students and how your previous experience can be translated into this new position.
Be open to new opportunities and possibilities.
Community colleges are designed to be responsive to the needs of the communities they serve. Because of this, there is frequent shifting of roles and duties within the college to realign to meet these needs. In the past 13 years at the community college I work, my position or role has significantly changed at least 5 times. Most of these changes had to do with shifting priorities and needs of the institution and not because a position opened due to a vacancy. Once you land a community college job, keep an open mind about what might come next. I’ve worked in the areas of academic advising, admissions, veterans services, career and transfer services, student activities, residence life, student conduct, and have taught psychology as an adjunct instructor. These opportunities all came because I kept an open mind about what my role at the college was, and could be. I took advantage of each chance to gain new experience while filling the ever-changing needs of my institution.
A career working at community colleges can provide you great opportunities, meaningful work and a chance to make a difference with the students and communities they serve. I hope you will choose to consider these institutions either in your current or future job search. Community colleges need great student affairs pros like you.
This post is part of our #comm_college series, which aims to explore experiences developing community college policies and processes that impact the recruitment, retention, and completion of community college students. What human interest stories do you have of community college student resilience, persistence, and success? What about a stories of transition, challenge, or transformation? A variety of SA pros working in student affairs at a community college will share their insights. For more information, please see Kim Irland’s intro post. Be sure to check out other posts in this series!
> BONUS <
Podcast With Jennifer Keegin on Mid-Life Career Choices