Congratulations, you 2nd year Student Affairs Graduate Student, you! You are now on the downhill slope of your last semester/quarter or second-to-last quarter, depending on your schools academic calendar, and you have recently begun searching for a job (sidebar; recognizing here that there are a handful of one and three-year programs out there – this is for you too).
As you set up e-mail notifications and upload your resume to higheredjobs.com, and sign up for TPE or C3, and enter your information into website after website all the while wondering why you need all your employment history when they have it on your resume, you feel some enthusiasm. Within a few months, you will be walking across a stage or a lawn or some kind of area and being handed a diploma holder.
I remember being there, the excitement, the fear, the WHAT-IF-NO-ONE-LIKES-ME, the “remember, it’s about fit,” and “everything will fall into place perfectly” and “sometimes, you don’t expect your first position to fit, it just DOES, like Cinderella’s shoe” and all the other clichés.
After getting home from TPE and not having any prospects despite my mostly-West Coast focused job search that included a smattering of applications to other parts of the country I was pretty bummed out. Sure, I had a couple of interviews, but nothing that led anywhere, despite my best efforts. I had friends who went to TPE and had dozens of interviews, friends who did not go to TPE and did phone interviews, classmates who did not get hired until the beginning of the semester school year.
I had to make a decision for my next step. Before my graduation, I decided to move to a new city. A city filled with hope and promise and new-ness. I slaved away at job applications, I was denied at a number of national and local chains as I sought even just some retail work.
Since mid-September, I have been on a temporary contract that has been renewed, yet I am still on the prowl for a permanent, benefited, full-time positions.
Some days it is hard, I wonder how the heck I managed to “fall this far” and why I am a failure. Some days, I have no fears and no concerns that things will work out. Because they will, and I know they will. It is just a really easy thing to lose sight of when I have been in the times where I wonder how I will pay rent AND the grocery bill to the standard I am used to.
You may not get a job right away in your job search. You may walk in commencement and not have any idea where you will be employed. It may be August and you will not know. Heck, I know someone who was hired earlier this month after graduating in May. It is okay to not get a job right away. I have heard enough stories about people not finding jobs immediately, or directly in their functional area that I am beginning to wonder if it is more normal for that to happen than for folks to immediately be where they want.
If, at any point past your graduation, you are not employed, that is okay. It does not change who you are. It does not make you less of a person or less of a professional. Instead, it gives you an opportunity to better build your personal and professional identity. Find a thing or three you love doing – Netflix does not count – and do those things. I have delved into book reviewing, blogging and attempting to visit every coffee shop in Portland (spoiler: the last one is never going to happen). Book reviewing has given me an opportunity to spend time reading – a thing I love doing – and sharing the titles I have finished with others through my blog. In a way, I guess that is killing two birds with one stone. I have provided written content for social media managers and begun to work on building an identity as a freelance writer.
Maybe your things are different, maybe you want to work on puzzles or build models or hike every trail in your county or something else. But I strongly encourage you to find an active way to engage in something you love, because it will make you a better person and a better professional. Find that thing you always wished you had time for in grad school or college – try new things if you did not have that thing – and put time and effort and energy into it. When you find work, it will be easier to make that thing happen if you start now rather than waiting.
As you move forward with your job search, I wish you every bit of confidence, every bit of certainty and that you would know the right interview answers at the right time. The one thing I am constantly reminded is how steadfast and incredibly supportive folks are – if you need help with interviewing, cover letters, decision-making or any other process, ask for it. There are a large number of individuals who each individually have a wealth of knowledge that they are just dying to share with you.