In Student Affairs there are a few major cultural phenomena that take place. There is Grad School, New Professional Transitions, Conferences, Internships, Practicums, etc. Each of these occurrences come with a set of lessons to be learned, skills to be mastered, and advice to be followed. However, one of the most rigorous and daunting experiences of the Student Affairs Administrator is the job search process. This process involves countless hours pouring over your resume, cover letter, blurbs, account creations, placement exchange registrations, sifting through positions descriptions, applying, interviewing, campus visits, networking, schmoozing, “does my hair look good?”, and the list goes on and on and on. As a Grad who is currently in the beginning stages of preparing to job search, all of this is extremely overwhelming. Yet, there are a few tips I’ve learned along the way that I just might think could help you all, too.
Get the Ball Rolling Early
The earlier you begin working on job searching materials, the easier your life will be. Preparing yourself incrementally is far less stressful than scrambling to put it together all at once. Take a month to compile your resume and cover letter, take another two weeks to create your account if you are doing a placement exchange. Constantly peruse job postings to see if they interest you. What I’m trying to say here is that slow and steady wins the race, and allows for better quality materials.
Limit the Number of Eyes Looking Over Your Resume, Cover Letter, and Other Documents
I can’t stress this point enough. Start working on your resume as soon as you can, and make sure you get it checked over. I’ve found that the more eyes see your resume to edit, the worse. So only let a few, skilled and trusted, people look it over and suggest edits. Otherwise you will drive yourself crazy changing from font size 11 to 12 and then back to 11 because too many people equals too many opinions. There is a common phrase, “too many cooks in the kitchen” for a reason. I would suggest 1-2 of your closest mentors, and possibly the Career Services Department at your institution.
Practice, Practice, Practice
At one point last year I realized that interviewing mirrors a theatrical performance very closely. You have an audience to capture, and you want to make sure that you are portraying your own character in the very best light possible. This being said, a performance cannot go one without rehearsals, so reach out to professionals at your institutions to set up mock interviews. See if the Career Center offers any form of interview practice. The more you practice and rehearse your responses to even some of the most basic of questions, the more your confidence will boost and the more competitive you will become. You would be surprised the amount of people who can’t eloquently answer that dreaded first, “So tell us a little bit about yourself.”
Remember, You Have Allies
Every single full-time professional has gone through some sort of job search process, and would most likely be as willing as ever to help you with yours. Experiencing the process is the only way to know what its truly like, so remember that you are surrounded with people who were once in your shoes. Rely on them. Ask them even the most mundane of questions, just for the sake of getting the whole picture. However, take caution when they may share horror stories. Most often, these stories of bad experiences are individualized, and not typical of most. I highly doubt that you will trip over a chair and knock yourself out in the middle of the interview room. Well, be careful just in case. Seriously though, rely on your support systems because they surround you!
Your Job Search Should be Personal
Competing for jobs is tough, especially if you and a close friend are competing for that one coveted spot. I suggest that you don’t discuss the jobs you are going for with your peers. Sure, seek them for emotional support, preparation help, etc., but don’t ask them their thoughts on you interviewing with a potential employer. They might talk you out of the opportunity, or try to gain the edge on the interview for self-interest purposes. Now I know you’re thinking, “My SA colleague wouldn’t do that to me. This bit is too cynical of a Student Affairs Administrator,” but I’ve experienced this situation first-hand with regard to a potential practicum experience and wouldn’t want it to happen with a job. All I’m saying in this point is to be sure of your interests, and don’t let other sway them.
This is just a taste of some of the most important lessons I have learned. I am starting to wade into the what seems to be bottomless lake that is the job searching process. However, always remember that you have a tremendous support system who only want to see you succeed. You aren’t alone in the struggle. Keep your head high, and proceed with confidence. You’ll get a job!
If any seasoned job searchers have additional advice, please feel free to share. Us newbies can use all the help we can get.