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Dear Candidates

Dear Candidates,

It’s the night before The Placement Exchange. You have your outfits ready to go and all of your research in order. I’m an employer this year and my outfits are also ready to go and your candidate files are in order. A few words of encouragement before the four-day whirlwind begins:

Nervous? Good. It means you care. It means you want to do well in interviews so you can do right by our students. Have a thousand questions? Awesome. It means you are invested. Worried you won’t get a job? Wonderful. It means you are committed to this field.

TPE is the best and the worst of student affairs. It is loud and overwhelming and raucous and relational and impersonal. It inspires everyone to have an opinion, myself included. What to say, what not to say, what to wear, what not to wear, what questions to ask, how to schedule, when to take a break, how to talk to your cohort, and how to tell them to mind their own business. Maybe you’ve watched an webinar, participated in a Twitter chat, connected with mentors, did mock interviews, and more to prepare. Good. These are all good things. But they aren’t the only thing.

No amount of preparation will prepare you for the exhausting, exhilarating profession of helping college students find their place in the world. No mock interview prepares you for sitting next to a student whose roommate just died. No webinar will replace the feeling of total pride when you see one of your troubled students walk across the stage at graduation. No Twitter chat will help you understand the political landscape of a college campus.

And this is okay. This is fine. No one at TPE expects you to already have these skillsets in your back pocket. We are hiring not just based on your experiences, but also on your potential. Believe it or not, employers want you to succeed. We want you to be amazing, to be awesome, to knock our socks off, and say to ourselves, “If only we could make a job offer now.We are rooting for you. 100%.

So you need to root for yourself. Employers want you to be the best version of yourself. To come with your experience and knowledge and opinions. We don’t want perfection. We want a holistic sense of who you are and who you will be for our students. No one knows how to be a better you than you. So go out there and be it.

If you need a pep talk, processing, or just a listening ear, feel free to reach out to me. I will be recruiting with the Xavier University team and you can reach me via Twitter @MarciKWalton

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The Only Job Search Advice You Need

It’s job search season in student affairs. ACPA’s Career Central and NASPA’s Placement Exchange are just weeks away, and the furor on Twitter from job-seeking grads and professionals is palpable. I’ve been noticing this chatter, understandably, grow as the date gets closer and it made me reflect on my two wildly divergent job search processes. My first one was straight out of grad school and was actually documented as one of the 2007 Job Search blogs from StudentAffairs.com. I anonymously blogged for the site as a way to make sense of my process and it also helped pay some of my bills. The search was nationwide, sky’s the limit, and with the clarity of hindsight, incredibly idealistic. I read through some of my posts last night and I was struck by both can candor, as well as my naivety. Here’s a sample of what I mean:

The job search sucks. Every single insecurity you have is placed in front of your face and you are asked to defend it. How do you answer the question “What is your worst quality/characteristic/trait?” I usually reach for the standard “Well, I think I am somewhat overcommitted to my job. I usually work more than what is asked of me and often find myself at the office later than I need to be, just to make sure everything is perfect for the next day,” when all I really want to say is “I think I’m too emotional, too attached to the students that I work with, sometimes defensive, I judge ignorant and non-accepting people, I really think students are getting increasingly stupid, sometimes I think theory is all a crazy scheme concocted to make me fail Comps, and I have had visions of strangling meddling parents.” The problem is that nobody really wants to hear the truth during a job interview. It is a little dance that we play in order to make each other feel good. I make the people feel like they are getting a quality candidate and they make me feel like I have fulfilled their expectations.

Wasn’t I quite the sassy grad student? While age and maturity have allowed me to giggle at the person I used to be, the same feeling of struggling through the search persisted during my last job search. This one was quite different as I had identified the job I wanted early in the process and pretty much poured myself into securing the job. Luckily, it worked out am I’m currently in the early identified position, but it didn’t mean I was any less stressed or questioning of my abilities.

Here’s what I realized from two unique searches and serving on professional search committees for the better part of a decade. You will get advice from everyone, including your mom. Your professors have something to say, as does your supervisor, not to mention your cohort members and co-workers. You have Twitter accounts and Tumblrs who have almost solely been pumping out job search advice. You have webinars and candidate information sessions and I haven’t even mentioned this little thing called Google. While all of these resources are great and can answer your practical questions, what really matters is this and this alone:

Calm down and trust yourself. 

I’m going to say it once more, with feeling: Calm down and trust yourself. The energy around a job search, especially if you are a grad student can be both intoxicating and toxic. You’ve spent months or years processing theories and struggles and it’s only natural to default into the same habits when it comes to the job search. However, the job search can often shift people’s priorities because this is a new type of stress for many. You may compare number of interviews or the quickness of your search in comparison to others.

Calm down and trust yourself. 

Trust yourself. Trust your skills, trust your education, trust the skill set you have been diligently working on for the past few years. Trust your resume and cover letter. Trust your ability to have a good interview. Trust the flow of the search and know that every rejection isn’t a personal attack, but rather a step to bring you towards a better future.

I’m not saying that you should rest on your laurels and not seek out some practical advice for the search. You should still have several people look over your cover letter and resume. Take up people on their offers for mock interviews. Listen carefully when advice is given and incorporate it appropriately into your candidacy. But at the end of the day, calm down and trust yourself. 

I wish you luck in your process and if you ever need another set of eyes for your resume, need non-partical mock interview feedback, or simply need someone to tell you how awesome you are, please don’t hesitate to contact me! You can find me on Twitter: @MarciKWalton

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