I was in the middle of my job search last spring when I got a call from one of my good friends in my graduate school cohort. “I accepted the offer!” she exclaimed. “I have a job!”
I was extremely happy for her. I couldn’t think of anyone more deserving. But, as much as I hate to admit it, there was a little voice inside my head saying, “What if this never happens for me?”
Job searching can be extremely difficult. The art of balancing demands from a current position as well as preparing to interview is complicated. In a graduate school cohort, many of the people you attend class with and consider friends are going through the same process. It’s great to have people to relate to and share stories with. But, it can be a real shake to your confidence when your search is moving at a different pace than others searches are. Maybe someone you know has already been on 2 on-campus interviews while you’re still waiting to hear back from institutions. Maybe a school you interviewed with at TPE flat-out rejected you, but wanted a second interview with your classmate. And maybe- as in my case- your friend accepted a job offer before you could get through all of your interviews.
I was having a hard time feeling confident in my abilities. This has been a struggle for me for a very long time, and it became more evident (during the job search process) that I needed to find a way to be more confident. Mentors and other professionals in the field verified this as well. “What’s for you is for you,” one of my mentors told me. It was hard to understand that at the time, but for me it means that it takes time to figure out where exactly you need to be, and you can’t do that without feeling confident. It may not be apparent right away. See how confident you are before, during, and after the interview.
There are a few things you can do to help you figure where you need to be:
1. Know your strengths. Highlight them. Understand what makes you tick. If you capitalize on that, it will shine through in your interviews and won’t go unnoticed.
2. Ask questions. If being able to expand your leadership skills by leading a committee is important to you, ask if that experience will be available to you. It will help you begin to get a sense of if your values align with the department’s, and if you will have opportunities to grow.
3. When you go onto a campus, look around you at the atmosphere of the campus. Can you see yourself exploring the campus, going to lunch in the dining hall, and working in one of the buildings? I walked into the building where I am currently the RD and thought to myself, “I could totally see myself working here!” It was the first time that happened for me in the job process, and I felt confident.
4. What is the overall feeling you get from the people who work there? Are they friendly and willing to make you feel part of a team? Do you get the sense that they will help you flourish?
Few of the tips listed above will matter if you lack confidence. Here’s the thing: the job search process is different for everyone. Some people are simply looking for different things, and everyone has different qualities. What works well at one institution will not work well at another; it may have absolutely nothing to do with you and everything to do with fit. There are several scenarios: you could have your heart set on an institution and they could decide to pass to pass; you could accept a position and realize – few months in – that it’s not for you; or the job search process lasts way longer than you anticipate. Ultimately, don’t worry. Every situation is an opportunity to learn something, and you can choose to fear and doubt yourself or pick yourself up and see what else is out there. Therefore, you shouldn’t compare yourself to someone else going through the job search process. You are an individual. You are unique. Sure, we all have things we need to work on, but if you know what you’re good at and where your strengths lie, you should be able to find an institution that will help you grow and highlight said strengths.
I was offered a job a few weeks after my friend accepted her position. Something in my gut during the interview told me it was the place for me and the institution thought so too. I really felt like I belonged, because I was able to talk about what I’m great at and see that my strengths would lend well to the department. Now, I’m glad to say I’m the happiest I’ve been in a long time, and I feel supported both personally and professionally. I am more confident than I’ve ever been, and people around me have started to notice. Even though the job search was full of anxiety, I feel that everything has worked out the way that it should have. It has turned out that what was for me is for me, and it’s been the best thing that’s happened in a long time.
> BONUS <
Podcast With Marsha Herman-Betzen on A Story of a Life in SA