Let me start by saying this – time flies. It feels like just yesterday, I was an #SAgrad beginning my job search but here we are, a year later, and I’m an #SApro. As I reflect back on my time in graduate school, I not only recognize how quickly it went by, but the development I experienced along the way. When I started my program, I knew I was going to do a national job search and make a move to a new place. My wanderlust was ready for the next adventure.
As I hit my second year, things changed and I knew that a national search was not what I wanted after all. While the number of days to graduation decreased, I began to reframe the way I prepared for my post-grad plans. After conversations with colleagues and mentors, I was able to use the following strategies to frame my job search.
Reflect on your values.
At the start of any big decision making process, it is important to take the time to reflect on what matters to you. What keeps you motivated and fulfilled? What values are significant to you? What do you need to recharge?
As you begin to look at job descriptions and potential employers, take the time to review their mission and strategic plans. How do their goals align with your values? Is their “Why” something you can support and buy into? Will the work you do allow for congruency between your job responsibilities and values?
Taking this time for self-reflection will help keep you in the right headspace and serve as a guide to navigate the journey ahead. It can help identify the types of positions you apply for, questions to ask in interviews, and decisions you make along the way.
Know what you’re looking for.
Or at least have an idea of it. You have likely spent time learning about functional areas and the ins-and-outs of higher education. At the start of your job search you likely have an idea of the area(s) you want to work in. I was often told limiting your job search locally means you must broaden the types of jobs you would apply for. This can open up the number of opportunities available to you.
With that said, it is important to think back on the self-reflection piece. If you are genuinely open to a job, then go for it! But if you know it’s not what is going to keep you from hitting snooze in the morning, you won’t be doing yourself or your future employer any favors. Stick to your values. Limiting both your functional and regional areas has the possibility of a longer search if there are a small number of positions. At the end of the day, make the decision that is best for you.
Take the time to reflect on the skills and experiences you have and what you are hoping to develop. Then read through position descriptions to see if they can provide those experiences for you. Are there certain issues or initiatives you are passionate about? Ask for opportunities to incorporate that into your role or perhaps serve on a committee. This ties back to knowing what fulfills and motivates you. There are very few jobs that will have ALL the things you are looking for but there may be opportunities to incorporate them in other ways.
Additionally, think about the needs you have outside of work. In my search, I wanted to be in or near a big city, close to a major airport, and have access to good food, the arts, and entertainment. This helped frame some of the information-gathering I did during my search.
Build Your Network.
We are a people profession and utilizing your network can be a huge help. Work with your colleagues, faculty, and alumni to help setup informational interviews and connect you with other Student Affairs professionals. Attending a conference or program in the region you are job searching in is also a great way to build this network.
Don’t wait until the day before an application is due to utilize these connections - continuously work on them as a graduate student and beyond. While they can be a huge help you in your job search, they can also be great partners in idea sharing, collaborations, and professional development opportunities.
Remember, your decision is perfectly okay.
It can be both challenging and rewarding to navigate a job search with your peers. There are few times in your career where you will have a cohort of colleagues navigating similar experiences and this support system can play such an important role in your search. You may disperse across the country and even around the world, but the learning and growth you have had together will be something you pull from in the years to come. When we play the comparison game with each other, it can make the job search a struggle.
No search looks the same as another. Just like each individual has their unique narrative, the same applies to the job search. Some may submit 75+ applications while others submit a handful. Some applicants have a job 6 months before graduation; others may receive an offer 6 months after. The number of applications you submit or on-campus interviews you have does not determine your worth or the validity of your job search choices.
This process is yours to mold. You have taken the time to reflect on what is important to you, what you want in your next step, and the network you have to help get you there. While this is not an exhaustive list of strategies or be entirely applicable to your process, I want to thank you for allowing me to support your job search endeavors. Enjoy the ride this journey takes you on and remember to uplift each other while you are on it.
Cristina Pérez currently works at the University of Georgia as the Senior Coordinator for Staff Development where she coordinates professional development and community building experiences for staff. She received a B.A. in Political Science from California State University, Fullerton. After graduation, she spent two years as a Leadership Consultant for her sorority before moving on to Clemson University. There, she earned her M.Ed. in Counselor Education – Student Affairs while working on training and development initiatives for Residential Life. Cristina enjoys reading, knitting, exploring new places, and the occasional Netflix marathon.