Saturday, May 30, 2015

The #SAsearch in Review

Greetings from Dean College, where my apartment currently looks like this:

(And these are the tidier areas of my home at the moment.)

I've been spending most of today packing up my place for in impending move at the beginning of July because (surprise!) I was approved for an apartment earlier in the week! I wanted to get a jump on packing before sessions start with BSU's Orientation in a little over a week, because once that starts I will legitimately have ZERO time. My new place will be about three times smaller than the one I have now, so I'm really trying to purge out the unnecessaries, figure out what will be in storage, and choose what's going to come with me. It's been crazy, but I'm so excited for the next chapter of my life to begin!

Speaking of the next chapter of my life, I wanted to take a few moments to reflect on my #SAsearch. Searching for a job is a long and grueling process, and with impending graduation and with it, the loss of one of your main sources of  income in your graduate assistantship, it can be extremely stressful. I went into the job search process knowing full well that there was a good possibility that I wouldn't have a job lined up before I graduated, but I stayed confident that by the beginning of the next academic year I would be working somewhere doing something that I loved, and that was all the motivation I needed to keep pressing forward. This post is going to chronicle my own entry-level #SAsearch, as well as outline what I thought of the experience. Read on for more! :)

I guess you could say that I technically started my #SAsearch in early December. My instructor for my internship course forwarded me a job description for a position in Rhode Island that was basically exactly what I wanted to do when I graduated, so I decided to dust off my resume and cover letter and send it along. I didn't hear back from them for a while, and at the beginning of February was informed that the position had been filled. I was a little bummed, but this was right around the time that I started to really take a hard look at my resume and cover letter, had them reviewed by several professionals that I worked with, and even took them to a review session at a local conference. This wasn't something I was a fan of doing (the fierce independence in me HATES asking for help), but I was willing to do anything to make sure I landed the right job to begin my career.

In late February, lots of Campus Activities positions started popping up on the job boards, which was so exciting! I applied to several in the region before jetting out of the country with my family for vacation in mid-March. Being disconnected during the week away worked wonders on my job search nerves, and when we came back to the States and my phone started to receive emails again (I'm pretty sure between my four inboxes I had about 200 emails to sift through), I found my first invitation for a phone interview waiting for me in my inbox!

That first nerve-ridden phone interview with a Boston-area institution resulted in my first on-campus interview, which I thought went really well! I was even offered two more interviews in the same week - a phone interview with an institution in New Hampshire, and a Skype interview with a Western Massachusetts institution. For whatever reason (maybe I was excited about all of the interviews!) I scheduled these two within 18 hours of each other. For the sake of nerves, I do not recommend doing that. (I may or may not have had a bit of a panic attack between the two interviews... yikes.) 

The New Hampshire interview went okay. I wasn't thrilled with how I felt afterward, and was not surprised that I never heard back from them.* There's a certain feeling you get when you hang up with an employer that can generally tell you whether or not you'll be invited to campus, and through my search that feeling never failed me. It seemed that we just didn't click, and that's okay. The next morning I interviewed with the Western Mass institution via Skype and thought that I nailed it. I got a really great vibe from the people I interviewed with and really enjoyed my time chatting with them. I had a really great feeling about that institution!

April rolled around and with it, came a whole slew of my own responsibilities ramping up, as well as the arrival of what I liked to call Rejection Season. *bum bum buuuum* This was the time I started to receive more "no"s than "yes"es, as were many people I knew who were job searching in the field. In April, it seemed that no one could land anything. To kick of my Rejection Season was a big loss: I was really excited about the Boston-area position that I went on campus for and likely would have accepted it if offered, but unfortunately, two weeks after the interview I found out that they had offered the position to another candidate, who accepted. I was bummed, but it motivated me to ramp up my search even more. 

During this time, my inbox was graced with at least one rejection letter a week from institutions that I had applied to and had never received an offer for any sort of interview. To say that it was discouraging would be an understatement, but being discouraged isn't really an option when you need to be at your best when communicating with potential employers. It's a weird feeling and it's tough to manage, but eventually you find a way to cope. I was fortunate enough to have my graduate institution offer me a temporary position with New Student Orientation through the end of June, so at least I had a bit more buffer time to find something full-time instead of feeling like I would be graduating with nothing, which was definitely comforting during this rough part of the job search.

One of the hardest parts of the search process is the lack of communication and the notion that being curious about the status of a potential employer's search may come off as pushy and rude. Even though I thought I had nailed my interview with the Western Mass institution, I didn't hear back from them for weeks. I was a little confused because I thought it had gone so well, and I was a little sad because I had such an awesome time talking with my interviewers, but I figured maybe they didn't feel the same. I continued my ritual of applying to jobs, and landed a phone interview with a second Western Mass institution, which I thought went really well and resulted in an invitation to come to campus a few days later.

It was around this time that Western Mass campus #1 finally reached back out to me (literally a month later) with an invitation to come to campus, which I of course, accepted. The interview was extremely short (2 hours max, when Higher Ed interviews are usually 8 hours minimum), but I connected SO well with the rest of the staff. They were all so wonderful, welcoming, and laid back, and I could really picture myself working there. It was a great experience, but I was nervous that my obligations through the end of June would prevent me from receiving the offer. However, the following week I got messages from ALL of my references saying this institution contacted them to set up a time to talk, and the next afternoon I received a job offer! I was asked to come back to campus to meet with the Dean of Students the week after that (which I treated like on-campus interview #2), was *officially* offered the job that day, and because I had already decided that I wanted to accept over the weekend, accepted my position with Western Mass campus #1 (aka Mount Holyoke!) in the Director's office! WOOT!

(I did feel badly having to pull out of Western Mass institution #2's candidate pool because the people I spoke with there were also so wonderful, but hopefully I'll be working with them at some point in my career!)

To break it down, here's what my #SAsearch boiled down to...

Time elapsed from first application to job acceptance: First application sent December 8, 2014, job accepted May 12, 2015. (5 months, 4 days total)
Positions I applied to: 12
Phone/Skype Interviews: 4
On-Campus Interviews: 2
Number of No-Responses: 6
Number of Official "No"s: 4

I consider myself to be extremely lucky to have landed a job so early, especially before graduating (I officially accepted the position the day before my commencement!). I am lucky that I don't have to worry about going any amount of time without a paycheck. I am lucky to now know exactly where I'll be when the new academic year begins. I am lucky that I have a bit of direction in my career and for that I am extremely grateful. It's a rough experience living with so much uncertainty, but in the end it really does all pay off. 

To all of my colleagues who are still out there searching (especially my fellow recent #SAgrad alums): Don't give up. You are meant to be in this field. You WILL find something that is wonderful and you WILL make a difference. You got this.

*I actually did hear back from this institution a week after I graduated (roughly a month and a half after interviewing with them on the phone). I was pretty surprised, and of course had to turn it down, but it just goes to show that everyone's search process is different and that if you are patient (like, REALLY patient), you'll hear back from people you were never expecting!


  1. Interesting you only had to apply to 12 jobs and got something before you graduated. I feel like that is not the norm for most folks (separate discussion of whether that is smart to do or not). I definitely agree with the frustrations about not hearing back from places. That happened a lot last year for me. Congrats on the job and graduating!