I’ve lay in bed all day today.
And binged watched “This Is Us”
Ps, I’m on episode 15
I left work at 2am Friday night/Saturday morning, slept in until 1pm, watched four episodes, ran to the grocery store to get my chicken tender pub sub (which are on sale this week– PSA!), replaced my phone screen protector at Verizon since my replacement came in the mail, and finally unpacked my suitcases to throw my dirty clothes in the laundry.
It sounds like a lot, but to be honest, I’ve been lying in bed most of today.
TPE and NASPA were amazing. San Antonio is absolutely beautiful. However, I’m a hard woo and even harder extrovert, yet I found myself being *that person* in the airport who wore her headphones the entire time just because I was too exhausted to even make small talk with people. I have no idea how our introverted friends survived. (So kudos to you all!)
So now that I’m back home and have had some time to reset and recharge, I wanted to finally blog about my experience.
Tips and tricks and lessons I learned from my time at The Placement Exchange
Prepare for every single interview, individually
Yeah, I realize that it’s grammatically incorrect to say “every single” and “individually”, but I was trying to make a point. Each night I would sit in my hotel room prepping for every interview I had the next day. I had a template I used, and wrote out things like: name of school, position, name/position/email of who I thought I would be interviewing with (often it’s the person who emailed you to set up the interview, but not always), the date of the interview, the time, some general facts about the school (colors, mascot, public/private, size), then had an area for notes where half was pre-filled out with general history of the school and facts about the office but space to take notes during the interview, then finally an area at the bottom with my questions pre-written. Woof. That’s a lot to write, especially for each interview. However, I cannot stress how important it was and how much I relied on it, especially during back to back interviews (I even considered back to back being a 30 minute break, because you don’t have time to leave the interview hall). I was able to quickly review facts about the school and aspects of the office that excited me for that position. I would google the names to try to get a visualization of who may be picking me up from the waiting area. But most importantly, the positions will quickly begin to blur together the further you get into interviews. So all prep you do before hand will really save you in the moment (either pre-interview or when they ask you “so what do you like about this job?”) for you to really show off.
Say no to interviews
It is perfectly okay to decline interviews. Yeah, it is great to feel wanted, but it is not worth the time and energy from you or the school if you’re not interested in the position. Teaching myself how to be okay with declining first round or second round interviews was probably one of the hardest things I did at TPE. I’m very much of a “keep all your doors open” kind of girl, and who am I to say no to a school?! Well, Amanda, you’re someone who only has so much to give, and the interviewers are exhausted too. If you’re genuinely not interested in a school, politely decline (and TPE is great and not only teaches you how to do this but also always has volunteers and coaches there to help you with your wording). It’s much better to bite the bullet and decline than to exhaust yourself more than needed on interviews where you know you won’t accept and be exhausted for the ones you’re really interested in, or for them to really like you only for you to shut them down later. It’s okay. Remember, it’s a fit for both parties. If you’re not feeling it, end it before the “second date”.
Making friends in the waiting room was something I congratulate past-Amanda on doing. I saw these faces for three days straight, and it was really nice getting to know a lot of them. We even had one guy, let’s “anonymously” call him George, who was our waiting area’s biggest cheerleader. The first few people that got called by schools, he would clap and cheer them on and tell them “they got this.” It was funny at first, but honestly, was a really great thing to happen. As you begin to familiarize yourself with the same group of people, you start getting invested in their process. Not only does this help distract you from nerves, but it is really great when a school calls your name and six people say “Good luck, Amanda, you’re going to be great!” it’s a real confidence boost! Plus, you never know which of these “random people” may be your colleagues one day. Remember that!
You don’t have to share
On the note of making friends, you don’t have to share any information about your search. A lot of people are genuinely interested, but don’t feel forced into sharing. It can be awkward because you are interviewing for the same jobs. Some people are great with that, and others become weirdly competitive. For me, I’m just not much of a blaster about my plans or my job search until I know where I’ll be (notice how I’ve never mentioned a school that I’m interviewing for or anyone I’ve interviewed with?) That’s just not how I like to roll– it never has been. Some people find a lot of comfort and joy in sharing their plans and their progress– and that’s great. But remember, people’s levels of sharing are different. It’s okay to keep it vague and say “I’m not sure about the specific schools right now, but I’m feeling good about the interviews I am having.” Be friendly, but you don’t have to be BFF level.
Keep up with your thank you notes
I tried my best to complete my thank you’s throughout the day, and man, did 5pm/6pm/7pm Amanda LOVE that. No matter your level of extrovert, being interviewed takes some extra energy out of you. The last thing I wanted after a long day of interviewing was to go back to the workroom and sit for over an hour writing thank you cards, trying to personalize them, and having my hand cramp. Instead, immediately after an interview I would go back to the waiting room and brain dump. My thoughts, my feelings, the questions they asked me, the information they shared, and anything I could remember I wrote on the back of my notes. Then I took specific pieces of information of what we talked about and incorporated it into the thank you cards. That way they were done, employers receive them relatively soon after we finished our interview, and I didn’t have to worry about them later. I take great pride in personalizing any hand-written note, but I promise, even the great interviews start to blur together with all the rest. Keeping up with yourself as much as you can will help you out later.
Even if you think you broke your shoes in, bring bandaids
I broke my shoes in. I wore them around work. I wore them to my on-campus. I spent extra money when I bought them (not a shoes person, but these were expensive) because they had built-in cushions. However, by the end of day-one, I have 5 blisters on my feet. FIVE. (Thankfully, Jimmy Johns delivered my dinner to my hotel room that night because I couldn’t be on my feet anymore). One thing I thought about later– I had traveled, and I was probably still pretty dehydrated despite how much water I was drinking. I’m sure my feet were more swollen than they were at home, so they were rubbing the wrong way in the heels. Plus, no heels were made to walk over 10,000 steps a day. So day two I wrapped three of my toes up in bandaids and put four bandaids over the mountain blisters on my heels (some to protect them and some to keep the other bandaids in place). By day three, I had to switch to my capris dress pants and wear my flats. Thanks to TPE for having bandaids around the conference center, but man, all that advice about shoes and bandaids and I still messed it up. Plus, getting popped blisters wet in the shower HURTS. Oh well. Lesson learned! (But I’m still mad at my heels for deceiving me).
Eat what makes you happy
Some people may disagree on this, stating that eating well will help you perform well. I disagree. Eat what makes you happy. For me, this means eating both Jimmy Johns and Chipotle two days in a row. I want to be my best, and I know that yummy food makes a difference in my day. I had other things to be focused on that mattered more to me, and I know that eating a granola bar for lunch will not help me be my best self. So, I say go for it. Even if that means at the end of the day, you are sitting in your hotel room eating crappy but delicious mall court Chinese food with a mini bottle of wine with your feet propped up on pillows in your leggings. Do you, friends.
To be honest, I wish I had more to discuss from NASPA. I attended a few great sessions, but more importantly networked with a lot of friends and/or colleagues. I met my NASPA mentor that I’ve been talking with since the summer from NASPA Candid Conversations 365, I met a colleague that I submitted an education session with, I saw some old friends from USF, I met some great new people at the NASPA Region III SSAO and Graduate Student Breakfast, and I did some other extremely important networking. Most importantly, I met some of my #SAGrad friends that I have chatted with online for so long!
I wish I would have known how much TPE would take out of me. Thankfully, since San Antonio was such a beautiful place to be, I was able to use some time to practice self care and explore the city, too. I went to the top of the Tower of the Americas, I took photos at the Alamo, and ate at Casa Rio three times.
In my pre-TPE blog, I even stated:
While I definitely anticipate attending some great sessions during NASPA, I know that I may not be able to attend everything, and that’s okay.
I am so thankful I told myself that prior to the trip, because I ended up being absolutely right. I couldn’t do it all. I would have burned out way too quickly.
But with TPE and NASPA, even though I felt like I was gone forever, it was quite a fantastic time. I learned so much about myself– it was so neat to see two years of hard work start to pay off. I could really see how much I had grown and learned the last two years, and I am excited to see where my next adventure lands!
For now, I am going to finish enjoying my weekend. Friday is my organization’s biggest event of the year, and we only have two graduate assistants and one office assistant in the office because our associate director and new program coordinator are at ACUI. So this week is going to be just as busy.
40 days to go!
quote of the day: “It’s a hell of a lot easier to accept who you are, in all your damaged glory, than to be someone you’re not.” – Toby from This Is Us