You may not get a job from an interview at TPE.
As a Student Affairs graduate student graduating in less months than the equivalent amount of money (in hundreds) you probably have in your bank account, this is terrifying.
I graduated from my program in 2013, and did not have any sort of job until six months after I walked across the stage for my fancy diploma holder with my classmates. I attended TPE. I applied to over 80 jobs before I was hired. I had a network and connections, I most of the things the way I was told. I had seventeen people looking at my resume to provide input, dozens of voices sharing what a successful cover letter looked like, and all of those people providing input into what my job search should look like to achieve my desired outcome.
I had goals, a plan, an idea of what I wanted my career to look like. I had a five, ten, fifteen year plan – #ResLife, then #AcAdv, then maybe be an AD or Director for a Campus Activities office.
Three days before TPE, I had no interviews lined up – a few finally came through the day before I flew out. None of them panned out. I did not even make second round. I did mostly fine, and mostly fine is not good enough in a giant ballroom lined with curtains hung from PVC pipes and more fold-out tables than you have seen in your life.
Be open to the connections, the interruptions, be open to the people that are there to support. Listen to your fellow interviewees and whatever you do, do not get lost in the process. The process can be overwhelming, the process can take you over and rule your heart a bit and that is not the purpose of the process. Remember that just to get to this point, you have made it so far and accomplished so much.
I had a handful of phone interviews after – one of them I completely bombed in less than 10 minutes. I was so intimidated that this university would consider me with my small amount of experience in what they were looking for that I froze up and was unable to express my skills and knowledge as transferable.
Since graduating, I have known connections that have not found jobs right away. Some have taken a year, two, three to find a job. A few have moved on to other places, a few have taken on temp work in hope that it will lead to something permanent (including myself), and sometimes it does.
When you have been so successful for so long, when you have had so many wins, so many A’s, some many moments seeing students learn and grow, it can be hard to not “win” on this one. It can be hard to not get a job right away. It can be frustrating, scary, upsetting. In an idyllic world, there is something someone could say to make any of that better. One friend told me “unemployment is temporary,” which helped for a day or two, then made me angrier. Because life is temporary. Because everything is temporary.
I wanted to believe, but it was hard. I wanted to stay focused, but I could not make myself wake up before 10am. I wanted to be good at something, to care for students. And I ended up in this place that felt like a rut.
I want you to know that if you have this feeling that seems like failure, you are winning.
When you have this failure-feeling, that is when you have the most opportunity, that is when you have the most capability. You can literally make or re-make yourself.
This is a time that, yeah, you need to apply for jobs consistently. But this is also a time you can do the other thing you love. Build your passions, follow your heart.
Because what this field needs is people who can be better, people who are willing to do what it takes to become who they want to be (I write this with the intent that you will be dedicated, not cutthroat).
If you have no strings, no attachments, and a lot of hope, this can be a great time to make a jump to a place you have always wanted to live. If you have people in your life that you have a commitment to, maybe they have opportunities to follow, this is a chance to support that.
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts” – Sir Winston Churchill.