Welcome (or welcome back)! I honestly did not intend to leave this space untouched for nearly six weeks, but I hope that the news that I’m back to share as well as some of my personal advice will more than make up for my protracted absence.
So… remember my first real post of 2015? The one in which I shared some of my personal and professional resolutions for the year (and royally put my foot in my mouth)? Remember my top professional resolution? Let me refresh your memory:
Move to the next level in my career in Student Affairs- a mid-level position.
I’ve been doing Student Affairs professionally for about three years now, and I’ve had the opportunity to really develop my skills over the years, particularly in staff supervision, crisis management, and counseling and advising students. Part of the reason that I started GotDegrees was a desire for something more professionally, and over the past semester I’ve realized that it may be time for a new professional challenge. In the coming months, I’ll be taking some of my own advice regarding the job search and advancing in the field, so stay tuned to hear more about what happens in this arena and where I end up. If you’re reading this and know of mid-level positions in Residence Life, Student Support or Student Activities, let me know!
To be quite honest, part of the reason I haven’t been on GotDegrees is because I’ve spent much of my free time seeing to fulfill this resolution. As we all know, the job search process is inherently stressful- spending a great deal of your time putting yourself out there for the judgment of others can wreak havoc on your spirit if you have to do it long enough. Working, applying to jobs, trying to have some semblance of a social life in March snow/April downpours did a number on my motivation to write.
May, however, is only 1/3 over and the moment I’ve been waiting for months to share with you is here- I can finally announce here that I will be moving into a new mid-level role at Brandeis University in Community Living!! I’ll be the Assistant Director of Operations and Community Development– which means overseeing people (4 entry-level professionals, 70+ undergraduates), programs (the Community Advisor program) and processes (operations work like opening, closing, room selection, social media, website updates, etc). The role is exactly what I’ve been looking for, and I can’t wait to get started in early July. Thanks again to everyone who provided advice and support, helped me make connections, read resumes and cover letters, etc.- couldn’t have done this without you!
I know that there are a number of people out there who are going through the same search process for a mid-level role that I just finished, so in addition to using this post to share my exciting news with you, I wanted to share some quick tips on what helped me in this process:
- Apply early and often- but don’t be afraid to submit an application later in the game. Most positions begin review of applications two to three weeks after the initial public posting, so you want to get your materials in quickly. However, getting something in later than that doesn’t mean you can’t make it- on the contrary, spending time tailoring your materials and proofreading them can make your application stand out from the earlier submissions.
- Tap into your network- make sure your friends, mentors and sponsors can speak about your current abilities. I did this more gradually than I probably should have- in my prior post on seeking jobs, I noted that many positions are achieved in part due to networking and I still assert that this is the case. My colleagues and mentors provided immeasurable support by sending me postings, telling me about jobs that were about to open up, giving me advice on how to talk about my experiences- but none of this would have happened without me reaching out to them and without me keeping them updated. It truly takes a village to find a new job, so find your people early and tap into them.
- Practice, practice, practice for phone and on-campus interviews! I know that my tendency is to be way too wordy (I do that in my posts here too occasionally…), so I tried to come up with short responses that used examples as a way to get my point across. Make sure that you can easily answer questions about why you want a position, why you’re ready to move up, and how you handle topics like: supervision, budgeting, collaborating across campus, working in teams, organization, how you deal with failure, finding your own work/life balance (as opposed to someone else creating it for you), your personal student affairs philosophy, and how you see the role you’re going for fitting your overall trajectory. Get someone to do mock interviews or practice out loud and time yourself at home if needed.
- Ask for feedback when things don’t go your way. This one can feel awkward- the last thing I want to do when someone tells me I’m not a good fit for something is to ask them what I could have done better. However, you get a better sense of how to go forward and in turn become a better professional. Don’t always expect feedback, though- sometimes hiring managers aren’t allowed to share it out with candidates.
- Remember that YOU are interviewing THEM as much as THEY are interviewing YOU. Ask good, solid questions about the role, the office, division, institution, students, stakeholders, etc. As I said in an earlier post, first impressions and behavior shown during the search can be indicators of what the environment would be like- so if you can’t see yourself there, it’s probably an indication that something might be off. Take time to be reflective and to listen to that “inner voice” when you’re walking on campus- it can pay off big time!
- Give thanks- and not just to your potential supervisor. I like to write thank-you notes to everyone I interact with during an interview- even students if I can- and to reach out and thank those who helped in the search. It shows that you’re interested in the institution and its people and are more likely to be a gracious colleague/supervisee. I usually go with e-mail because you never know how fast people plan to move (in my case, I found out VERY, VERY quickly). Not writing notes probably won’t keep you out of a job- but writing them (WELL) can never hurt your case.
- Finally, BE PATIENT and DON’T SETTLE FOR LESS! I was soft searching for a while before I officially announced my search here in January, so it’s been a long time- there were definitely weeks that my friends and family can tell you I was in a funk because of the challenges of this search. I was selective about what I applied to- a specific area, functional areas, salary, and set of responsibilities- so it took some time to find what I wanted. I could have easily went for another lateral move or taken a position that didn’t necessarily fit my needs- but I guarantee you I would have likely been looking again soon. Know what you want, and go for it- it will be hard, you will have crappy days, but when you least expect it the chance you are looking for will come by and move faster than you ever expected. Stay focused, humble and ready for your next opportunity- it’s coming!
I hope this was helpful! As I make my transition over to my new role and institution, I’ll be writing more on the move to the middle and will probably make a series dedicated to some of the issues related to becoming a mid-level administrator, so keep an eye out for that. I won’t promise an influx of posts this summer, but I can definitely commit to at least popping in here once to twice per week.
GotDegrees is back, with new energy and with new purpose- and I hope to have you all along for the ride!