Tips for Job Searching… What You can do Now

Job searching and placement exchanges are definitely on the mind of many second year masters level student affairs graduate students. Everyone seems to have a different opinion on how to conduct the job search. My best piece of advice is to search in a way fitting for you and your needs. There will be pressure to move quickly as you see other members of your cohort receive interviews or job offers (likely the folks who are looking for housing). However, it is so important to put yourself and personal circumstances first in the search. Keep in mind everyone will have a different timeline. Folks in my cohort were searching in December; some did not start until after they defended their portfolio in March, a few in April, and some folks searched after graduation.

If you are planning to attend one of the job placement exchanges, you are likely in the middle of your search or starting. Even if you are not searching, I want to share some advice from myself and colleagues about what you can do now.

Resume. Perhaps this is obvious, but make sure your resume is updated and ready to send. Have several folks review your resume including a faculty member, an individual who works in the functional area(s) you are applying for, assistantship supervisor, someone from your campus career center, and cohort members. Even ask folks on Twitter if they might be willing to review. Most SA Pros have been in your shoes at one point and are more than happy to help if you give advance notice.

Get organized. I used folders on my computer to stay organized and placed my cover letter, resume, and any communication in the folder. A colleague shared with me his system was to create a spreadsheet. He had different columns indicating when the application was complete, main contact and information from the institution, and facts about the institution. I would suggest including in the facts section some of the following: name of institution’s president, mascot, mission statement, information about the city, and other facts that might come in handy throughout the process.

Specifically for placement exchange:

Look through the website. The Placement Exchange website can be overwhelming with so many job postings all across the U.S. and even the world. Block out some time each day or a few times a week to devote to reading job descriptions and applying for positions. Get a clear sense of the type of position or institution you are interested in, but know this might change over time. If you are open, apply to a variety of places.

Book in advance. Your flight and hotel. Think about whom you will feel comfortable staying with. If finances are an issue, it is okay to have a group stay together. My suggestion would be to pile more folks together during the conference, and try to have less folks in your room for interviews. If you know that you are a light sleeper it might not be the best idea to sleep with the person in your cohort who snores loudly. If you have to, be prepared. Wear earplugs if needed, but have a plan so you don’t miss your alarm. If you need your own bed, but you have more people than beds, ask the hotel for a cot. I would suggest getting one in advance.

Mock Placement Exchange. My graduate program did a mock placement exchange. They gathered together faculty, assistantship supervisors, and folks from different offices and conducted interviews. The tables were set up close together and you could hear the person next to you answering similar questions. If your program does not do mock interviews, get a group together and reach out to folks and set a time. It will be extremely beneficial even if you do not attend a placement exchange. 

Learn the Ins and Outs. Do not be afraid to talk to folks who interview or interviewed at a placement exchange. The environment is different than anything else I have ever experienced, and the more prepared you are the better. For example, different institutions have socials at night where candidates and representatives of the institutions get together. There are usually snacks and lots of people. If you are wondering if you should attend these, the answer is yes if you would like to work at the institution.

I attended The Placement Exchange (TPE- before NASPA last year, and was extremely successful. I was hesitant to sign up, because I am an introvert and the thought of all of those people being in one space seemed overwhelming. However, it worked well as there are usually only two to three folks at the interview table and I appreciated the time I was able to spend with them.

That was a long post! I have lots more I plan to share to help you feel more prepared. How many interviews should I schedule? What to wear? When to write a thank you note? What next? How to prepare for on-campus interviews? All questions I plan to answer in the coming weeks leading up to The Placement Exchange and NASPA. Another national job search exchanges for student affairs include Oshkosh Placement Exchange (OPE-, but for the most part I will share my experiences from TPE. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to connect with me and ask questions via Twitter. 

Stefanie Lucas

Student Affairs - the First Years

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  1. Resume is an obvious part of job search but a great majority pay small attention to it. I think the best way no to task friends and colleagues to review it but to hire a resume writing service.

    According to Resumance, an average price would be among $200. Not so expensive.

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  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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