Tales from TPE

by Nikki Steinberger

Hi there! My name is Nikki Steinberger and this will be my first post to Student Affairs – the First Years! I had the wonderful opportunity of meeting some of the leadership team for this blog at the recent NASPA 2015 conference in New Orleans and they suggested taking some time to reflect and write about my experiences. At first I wasn’t sure, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. I am a second year graduate student in the midst of my job search and I think I could share some of my experiences in this hectic and crazy time for those following behind me to learn from my experiences.

As I mentioned, I was a recent attendee at the 2015 NASPA conference, but right before that I attended The Placement Exchange (TPE). I was so hyped up and anxious given what had been shared with me about the experience, that on the first day I lost sight of all the unwritten and unspoken opportunities that were right in front of me. I’m not going to downplay the size of TPE. Yes, there were thousands of people in one large room with little black curtains to separate the ‘haves’ and the ‘have not’s…’ that is, the people that ‘have jobs,’ and those of us that do not. There are ‘holding rooms’ that you report to based on the first letter of your last name; that is where employers will come to pick you up if you have scheduled an interview with them. None of this is probably too new for many of you reading this. What I want to share with you though, is my experience in between.

We sit and we wait. One by one we each get called out of the room for our interviews, but the real magic happens when we arrive 15–20 minutes early and are sitting in that room with nothing to do. Sure, some people shuffled through notes and did further research on their phones (I’m guilty of this too), but after my first couple of rounds waiting in that room, I decided I was sick of the silence and started to make friends. I talked to the people next to me, behind me, in front of me. They were great! They were in housing, orientation, multi–cultural affairs, and more. They were passionate, excited, and like me, ready to graduate. The first questions were usually about our current institution and what our functional area of interest was (we think we’re fancy), but then I got to learn about them. What did they like to do in the free time? What do they do for fun? It was awesome. Before we knew it, we were all getting called back for interviews again, but with big smiles and a relaxed demeanor.

Over the 4 days of interviewing, I met some of the most incredible people, most of them being my peers. Many of us exchanged information and hung out the following week during NASPA. It was so much fun! When I took a second to think about it all, I realized that these are the people that will be my colleagues in the coming years. They will be the next generation of new professional’s right along with me. We’ve already texted and sent several emails to one another since returning to our respective cities. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. The interviews were great; the professionals were top notch, but my peers brought out the best in me and I hope that in the coming years there are more people willing to stick out their hand, introduce themselves and start a conversation. It will make any placement exchange more fun, less stressful, and most of all, will help you build connections with the future of our field.

What was your experience at TPE? Did you meet some future colleagues? Tweet me about it @nsteinberger!

Student Affairs - the First Years

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