Looking for a job in higher education is time-intensive, stressful, and incredibly complicated. After months of resume tweaks, cover letter writing, anxious waiting, more waiting, phone interviews, Skype interviews, and job interviews, I found the perfect job for me. Preparation and patience led me to a position at an institution I wanted to work at, a functional area I wanted to be in, and the geographical area that was my first choice. The more intentional and prepared you are for your job search, the more successful you will be. While each individual search has it’s own challenges, there are ways to set yourself up for success in your search. As I learned, searching can be especially stressful and tough for graduate students entering the field for the first time. Here are my top tips to consider if you are job searching in higher education:
- Little details first. Update your resume. Ask others to look over it. Tailor your resume and cover letter to each position. Triple-check spelling and grammar.
- Stay organized! Keep track of applications you are working on or have submitted. Use this google spreadsheet to track your applications if you want. Just go to “file – make a copy” to start a new one.
- Prioritize. Think about functional area, location, and institutional type. What is most important to you? How long are you willing to wait for the job you want? Create a matrix to manage competing priorities. This is a great way to map out each month and eliminate stress during the waiting game or beginning months. Patrick Love explained how to do this in a video on his blog. I used this technique for my job search and stayed focused on my priorities. I knew when I was going to start looking outside of my preferred functional area, location, etc. and followed this plan to keep on track.
- Ask for advice. Talk to mentors, friends, and colleagues about your job search. Ask individuals you trust to read your resume and provide feedback. Get feedback on a cover letter. Hold informational interviews with mentors or professionals at your institution to discuss your future and your career path. Ask people you know through Twitter for help; one person I found incredibly helpful was Mallory Bower. Everyone has an opinion about resumes, cover letters, interview etiquette, etc. I chose to collect as much information as possible and then decide for myself what I believed was best. I often heard contradictory opinions, but it was helpful to hear all the different perspectives and then make an educated decision about what was best for me.
- Manage your digital presence. Google yourself and see what shows up because I guarantee people are going to be googling you. Create a LinkedIn profile if you don’t already have one and make sure it is updated with a professional headshot and accurate information. LinkedIn is an easy and free way to share your professional accomplishments online.
- Engage your network. Make sure your contacts, friends, and colleagues know that you are searching. Tell them when you apply for jobs near them, at their alma mater, at institutions where they used to work, or at institutions where they are currently employed. This is very important, because hiring managers are getting numerous applications and others that know you and can vouch for you will help you move forward.
What would you add to this list? What helped you have a successful job search? If you are currently searching I hope this was helpful and good luck! Don’t give up! (wise words from Jimmy V)
PS – I enjoy reviewing and offering feedback on resumes and cover letters. If you’re interested, email me a copy of yours and I will be happy to provide feedback.
Life after comprehensive exams – I have been looking forward to this time for the last month, maybe even the last year and a half…
Studying for comps consumed my life and mind over the past 30+ days. I spent most of my time over break studying. Then last Friday my cohort took our exams! They were not as bad as I expected. I was not worried about them but I still let anxiety and stress get the best of me that last week and the morning of the exams.
All of the questions were practical questions that I felt prepared to answer (The results are yet to be detemined by the graders who will let me know if I passed or not). And even though last week was stressful I was reminded how incredibly thankful I am to have the support of my family, friends, mentors, and cohortmates. It was definitely an experience that we survived together.
T-shirts designed by Evan. (We took these pictures after comps but unfortunately not everyone in the cohort is in them.)
Evan and I worked together to order the t-shirts for those who wanted to purchase them; they feature a quote from one of our first classes together. The wonderful Dr. Merrily Dunn made an eloquent comment in class about how “the more you know the more you don’t know” but when Victor tried to repeat it later but he said:
“The more you know, the less you know” (Lopez, 2012). This comment generated laughs (as Victor always does) but also became a standard saying within our cohort.
I took a short blogging hiatus while studying for comps but am starting to get back on track. It is nice to settle into a routine for the semester and work on my after comps to-do list. Also…I’m starting to job search (more excitement, more anxious emotions to come with that)!
Thank you to all who supported me during the journey to pass comps 2014 (Baxter-Magolda, 2002; Sanford, 1966)! – Obviously I’m still seeing theory everywhere and thinking in theories!
Do you have any advice for student affairs graduate students going through their last semester or starting the job search? Leave it below!
Comps. Do you know what that is? It’s something that has been on my mind a lot the last 2 weeks, and sort of on my mind for the last year and a half. Not all graduate programs require this kind of exam. If you’ve never heard of them before, Wikipedia provides a brief overview of the comprehensive examination concept, also known as comps.
In less than two weeks (on January 10, 2013) I will be taking a compehensive exam for my master’s program. CSAA-M students at UGA must pass this exam to recieve their master’s degree. If you are thinking about attending graduate school for student affairs, it is definitely worth looking at what type of culminating experience(s), if any, the programs you are considering offer. ACPA’s directory of graduate programs provides a summary of most programs while also stating if a thesis or comprehensive exam is required/optional. Now if you are really intrigued or considering UGA’s CSAA program, more information about our comps process can be found on page 27 of this handbook. Basically, my cohort will be asked to answer two long essay questions and three short essay questions (two longs and three shorts) by integrating and sythensizing our learning. To complete the exam we are able to make and use a two-sided reference sheet in APA style.
The Spring 2014 semester is going to be full of many wonderful adventures. I’ve already started my after comps to-do list. It’s going to consist of job searching, blogging, maybe attending a conference, running, spending time with my cohort, etc. But right now, it’s all about comps.
Did you take a comprehensive exam with your graduate program? Thoughts on the concept? Thanks for reading!
With the fall 2013 semester finishing up, I have not had a chance to blog recently. But I have been working on major class projects and want to share one on my blog. This is a digital story layered in a theory for my CSAA multicultural practices class. In the spirit of being vulnerable and sharing more about myself on this blog, I hope this post gives you some insight into my experience and my development.
Digital story projects are an effective way to help students tell their story. Prompts can be tailored to the group so that people are able to tell their story. My graduate school cohort is very close, providing an opportunity for everyone to dig deep and share more personal information with their project. The assignment was challenging, because the video had to be short. It also reminded me how much I enjoy making and editing videos. If you are interested, learn more about digital stories from the Center for Digital Storytelling.