It has been seven months since my #SApro search began.
I remember sitting in a Which Wich in early January, writing about the journey that is “job searching”. That was 200 days ago.
200 days of job searching.
This job search has been the most complicated, interesting, suspenseful, stressful, confusing, exciting, anxious, weird adventure. And now that it’s officially over, I feel like I can properly discuss this process that I have tried to keep vague and private until now.
But before we board the roller coaster for one last ride, let me share my big news!
I accepted the offer of Coordinator for Programs at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
I will be working with the Campus Activities and Programs (CAP) staff to promote involvement and engagement by educating students to create a vibrant campus life at UNCG*. Some of our major responsibilities, as a staff, will be to: manage major campus events, plan and implement weekend programs, coordinate student group recognition, provide leadership training and development, and advise over 230 student groups including Activities & Campus Events (ACE)– the programming board I get to advise.
I am so excited about this job and I get so giddy thinking about all the ways I am going to learn, grow, and be challenged. I get to work with a programming board, which was my main goal in this job search! I also get to do some of my own programming, which will be a really neat opportunity to be creative and try new innovative ideas. I have an amazing team that I am joining, and I couldn’t be happier about finding an office family that is a good fit for me. I am ecstatic that I’ll have the opportunity to continue my involvement with the National Association for Campus Activities (NACA) and look forward to more professional development with the Association of College Unions International (ACUI). UNCG is the most diverse campus in the UNC system, and it’s amazing what goals and initiatives the staff and students are passionate about and ways they want to continue growing and serving the student body. I am definitely a lucky gal!
I will be starting at UNCG on August 14th, so I am excited for the quick turnaround. I get to jump right into the action and hustle and bustle of the beginning of the school year, so I am certainly going to have so much to talk about as a new professional in the upcoming weeks!
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This job hunt has been a whirlwind. If you have been following my other blogs, you know that this job hunt has been particularly stressful since I chose to be location bound. However, I have to say, I am so thankful that I recognized my own priorities and stuck with my gut. It was painfully rough at times, but now, I have everything I wanted!
Now that my job is solidified, I feel much more comfortable talking about my entire search process and being more transparent about it. Out of respect for myself and the institutions, I didn’t want to discuss details while I was still a candidate. However, I think that my search can be a great learning lesson for future #SAgrad students or other young professionals trying to find their way in their career, especially when it comes to the first job.
Let’s be real– your first job search is one of the hardest because you’re on a timeline. Suddenly graduation is around the corner, and you feel pushed to find a job as soon as possible. Each day that goes by after receiving your diploma is a reminder that you paid a lot of money for a degree that you aren’t using. You are supposed to find a job, but find the right job. Make sure it’s a good fit. Don’t rush into something, but don’t take too long to get a job. Woah– okay. That’s stressful. But, it’s manageable. Let me walk you through my process and show you a view things I learned along the way.
First, let’s look at the numbers. From January until now, I have done (approximately) the following:
- Searched and looked into over 50 jobs, not including all the positions available from TPE
- Applied for around 30 jobs. (That’s 30 cover letters. 30 HR applications. 30 stomach-churning “submit” buttons clicked)
- Had more than 20 interviews
- Had 3 on-campus interviews
- Turned down 4 on-campus interviews
- Declined 1 job offer (in early February)
- Written over 50 personalized thank-you cards and/or emails
Now, this is all in perspective, and my situation cannot be compared to other’s. However, for me and my situation, this is a LOT. I basically went through two job-searches: January-March in an open search, which was successful, and then March-August, which was geographically bound. Although I cannot predict the unknown, due to the success I had at TPE I have a strong feeling one of them would have led me to an offer and acceptance in March/April. But having to close all my doors and start over was overwhelming, but looked how well it turned out!
Let me highlight something for you: my geographically bound search was just as difficult as my non-bound search. And I want to end the stigma that one is worse than the other. For my non-bound search, the biggest challenge was surveying an area. Not only did I have a thousand factors to consider about the position (pay, professional development, my responsibilities, room for growth and challenging myself, fit within office, campus culture, creativity within my role, divisional goals and strategies, student culture, etc.) but then I also had to factor in the area where I would be moving too as well (cost of living, how close I was to an airport, what grocery stores are common in that area, what is the traffic, how easy would it be for me to travel home, how close was I to family/friends, what was the overall demographics like in the area, what fun things are there to do in the city, etc.). For my geographically-bound search, the biggest challenge was wanting to apply for jobs that were not open. Although there are a lot of schools in the research triangle, which is part of why we moved here, I still can’t apply for jobs that are not open. For weeks I remember stalking every school’s HR page, not finding any jobs open. For some weeks, there weren’t even any Student Affairs jobs posted– not just jobs I didn’t want– but they literally were not available. So kudos to anyone who has gone through a geographically-bound search and been successful. This isn’t even about opening a door of opportunity to walk through– sometimes those doors don’t even exist.
For about four weeks, there weren’t any jobs I could apply for. My spreadsheet was empty. The market was dry. But then, ironically, the only thing worse than having no potential opportunities is having to pick between two schools! So the end of my timeline was quite odd– I got an unofficial offer on Friday and received a phone interview offer for another job (that I was really really interested in) on Monday. Seriously?! For weeks I have been dry as a bone, then I have two jobs that I’m really interested in pursuing me at the same time?! Talk about stressful.
Thankfully, I have a few wonderful mentors in my life that I was able to reach out to (highly recommend finding some if you haven’t already!) who helped me figure out what I wanted to do. I went ahead and followed through with the phone interview, hoping it would tell me one way or another how I felt. Although I was filled with anxiety that whole week, racing the clock between my official offer coming through and having my phone interview for the other school, I made it through! I had a good phone interview, but I just knew in my gut that it wasn’t where I was supposed to be. That same day, I got the official offer from UNCG. It felt so good knowing that not only was it a great job that would fulfill my personal and professional goals, but it was a place that I felt my gut was pulling me towards. Crisis averted!
I remember when I was looking at colleges for undergrad, my mom and I went on a college tour trip during spring break of my junior year. On the drive from Ohio down to Florida, I asked her “How will I know which school is for me?” And my mom replied, “Just trust your gut. When you’re on the campus, you’ll just have the feeling and you’ll know this is where you are meant to be.” And she was right. Although I liked most of the schools I visited, there was this section of USF’s campus that had palm trees lining both sides and it dead-ended into the brand new residence hall on campus (where I ended up living both freshman and sophomore year). I looked down the path, looked at my mom, and said “This is it.” And that was that! In that moment, I just knew in my gut that USF was home. It felt right. It felt comfortable. It felt exciting.
Finding UNCG was the same way. I loved all the other schools I applied for, and love touring new campuses, even on an on-campus interview. However, some of the other places I wanted to love, but something didn’t feel right. There was one school that I never got that warm and fuzzy feeling. There was one school that made me excited and felt warm, but it wasn’t exactly right (I didn’t know it at the time). But after I went on UNCG’s campus, from the moment I walked into the building, something felt familiar. It felt like I had been on that campus before (technically I had to visit a friend, but I was just on the outskirts of campus in her residence hall). Something about that whole day seemed bright and shining and exciting. I always felt comfortable on campus. Just like that gut feeling I had at USF, something just felt right.
Oh, so that’s the gut feeling everyone talks about. Finding a place where you fit. I definitely saw myself fitting there. The interview with the office staff felt so casual and comfortable that I knew these were people I wanted to surround myself with every day. Got it!
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Overall, that was my experience. I still have a lot to say about working through locational job searches/moving in with my partner, how to handle rejection from jobs I thought I was the perfect candidate for and really counted on, and how to read between the lines with a job offer and consideration (future blogs). But for now, I am going to soak in the excitement of my job offer and get ready to jump in the deep end!
quote of the day: “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” – psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl, quoted in Option B by Sheryl Sandberg, pg 77-78