When I started out my aspiring career in student affairs as an undergrad, I was often given advice to start off in a general area and then move into a functional area of you interest. If I done it the way I was advised, it would mean that I would find myself working in residence life or admissions straight out of graduate school. However, that greatly changed when I arrived to graduate school with no GA but an open mind because I just wanted to work with students.
In my honest opinion, I had the some of the greatest learning experiences during graduate school because I was able to experience different functional areas outside of housing, which is what I was primarily involved in as an undergraduate student. When my #SASearch began, I was thinking that I was beginning to miss housing and missed being in an area where student engagement was high. So I began to focus on looking for entry-level positions in housing and residence life for my job search. Up until the beginning of March, I felt fine about it… and then I went to The Placement Exchange.
You know TPE is always being perceived about only having housing jobs available and I am ready to defend them because it’s not true, however I will say that if you are looking for a housing job, you’ll have many options. The interviews I had went well for the most part, but I did have some interviews that were absolutely up in the air and did not make me feel confident. While I enjoyed interviewing with different institutions on housing positions, I did not feel confident about follow-up interviews. So I ended up looking for other opportunities to interview with other institutions for positions in areas such as multicultural affairs and student activities while at TPE and when they did come, I felt more confident about sharing my experiences and I ultimately felt that my experiences were valid.
Do not read this as a diss towards housing or another other area because it is not the case. Participating in TPE and continuing my job search has made me realize how to read job descriptions and qualifications better. “Preferred” is preferred for a reason and I realize now that if your materials meet the preferred qualifications, they will pursue you first. Is that okay? I guess so, I mean they do want someone who is going to do the job and will do the job well because they have experience in it. At the same time, there could be the counter-argument, how can you get experience working in a position if you need prior experience? It can be a conflict at times. There is more of a need in student affairs now to have professionals who are specialists than those who are generalists, which for someone like me, it’s a bit disheartening coming out of grad school because I would like to explore the field a bit but as a professional, it doesn’t seem like there is much space to really do that.
I have also reminded myself that I am values-centered and I am often looking for purposeful work. I need to follow my passions and my values to find the position that’s right for me, or at least one where I meet the experiences/qualifications. I think with that realization, my job search has become more complicated than it was to begin with. I’m very selective about everything, but at the same time I am also flexible which has resulted in my process being all over the place. But now I have somewhat of a foundation in considering my search in that it is centered on student engagement, program coordination and doing social justice and inclusion work (for now). I know I would like to work in multicultural affairs or student success programs at a point in my career, do I really care if it happens straight out of graduate school? Not really.
So what does this have to do with not trusting the process? I think it has everything to do with it. I can be really interested in a position but I can only so far if the people who are interviewing don’t think I’m a good “fit” (another conversation for another day). Institutions could also be interested in me working in their institution but I may not feel the same way after an interview. My process changed in the matter of days, and while I was super emotional about my plans not going the way that I wanted them to, I have also come to realize that I will not have the perfect job straight out of graduate school. Does this mean that I am settling? No, because I feel like I need to be in a position that challenges me to be a better person and professional overall.
So wherever that position is at, I am ready. Come find me… Preferably before August.