When You Find Yourself Job Searching Sooner Than You Expected

by Maggie Merryday

Student Affairs grads around the country at this very moment are readying themselves, for phone/Skype interviews, on-campus interviews, and the days to come when they transition from a Graduate Assistantship to their first professional job. Perhaps several weeks (or months, it's ok if it takes months) from now, you'll get that long-awaited phone call, and your path will be set for at least the next 2-3 years.

Or, so you thought.

Sometimes, life happens, and you find yourself job searching for that second job sooner than you expected. If that's you, New Professional, I can relate - that's the place that I'm in right now.

Shortly after I got married, my spouse was offered a promotion. It was a wonderful career opportunity for him, and for us as a family unit. However, it would require him to relocate immediately. So, my husband moved. I decided to stay and finish out the semester with my students... and, the job search began once again.

My story is mostly happy - my husband's promotion means more financial benefits for us, more professional experience for him, and relocating to a location that's closer to both of our families. Of course, I'm disappointed to be departing Florida Gulf Coast University as early as I am. I would have liked to have more time to grow the Programming Board and some initiatives that we've just barely started. Overall, though, this is a positive move for us.

I know not everyone is that lucky. Perhaps the move is coming early for you because the job isn't what you expected it to be, or the surrounding area isn't a good fit for you. Whatever the situation may be, here are some tips I have to share if you find yourself searching earlier than you expected: 
  1. Be transparent with your supervisor. Telling my supervisor that I was leaving after only a year was the hardest thing I have had to do within my professional career thus far. I had never departed a job in such a way before, and I didn't even know how to tell her. I knew, though, that putting it off would mean that my position may not be able to be filled in time for my departure. So, as soon as my husband's promotion was final, I spilled the beans. She appreciated that I told her early on so that she could go ahead and post my position. I'm even able to serve on the search committee for my replacement. 
  2. Share the news in stages, but make sure your students aren't the last to know. After I shared the news with my colleagues within the Office of Student Involvement, I knew that I needed to tell my students before my job was posted publicly. I dreaded telling them - I knew they would be disappointed. But, I couldn't stand the thought that they may find out from someone else first. Once they knew, I began sharing my impending departure campus-wide.
  3. Make sure you leave your programs/projects in a good place. Week of Welcome is part of my job description, but I'll no longer be here to oversee the actual events. I've been working overtime the last few weeks to make sure that contracts, reservations, marketing, and orders are all set prior to my departure in June. I've also been working on detailed transition documents. We've already started training our 2017-2018 Programming Board Executive Board. All of this to ensure that if there's a gap between me and the new coordinator, student programming operations can still function smoothly in the interim. Now is definitely not the time to check-out. 
  4. Be transparent with potential employers as well. I've gotten mixed feedback on this, but ultimately I've decided that honesty is always best. I've shared with my potential employers my reason for departing FGCU so soon, and I've been met with a lot of respect for my decision making. Sharing with your potential employers your situation will ensure that they're getting accurate information directly from you. 
  5. It's okay to have mixed feelings. My feelings going into this job search have been much more complicated than they were the first time around. During my first search, I was sad to be departing my graduate assistant, but I was ultimately excited for the opportunities ahead. This time around is much more melancholy. I feel that there's still work to do at FGCU, and that I haven't had the time to make the impact that I want to make. I want to be here to see my second and third-year students grow, graduate, and thrive.

Student Affairs - the First Years

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