I Took a Vacation and I Liked It

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During my institution’s “spring break” we are still expected to be in the office working, preferably from 8:00-4:30. I decided that this was not the life for me  in mid-February and I promptly took the entire week off because I HAVE vacation time and I SHOULD use every single day I am contractually granted.

Again, for those in the back: I promptly took the entire week off because I HAVE vacation time and I SHOULD use every single day I am contractually granted.

I have written about Burnout before and like I have said before it is a “scary” word in student affairs. “Don’t get burnt out” and “Be sure to self-care” are phrases uttered in some fashion constantly by supervisors everywhere (myself included). What happens after we give our warnings? We wait until the symptoms of burnout present themselves again before offering the same eerie warning. When do we, as supervisors or as professionals, actively work with our peers and supervisees to assist in the creation of these habits before they are necessary?

I will be the first to admit that I absolutely hate the idea of using my vacation days. I continue to pretend that I will save them all of for this giant, great adventure during the summer. What else could be a factor here? Conditional response to limited breaks due to years of compulsory and then a couple of years of higher education: check. Structural (field-wide) discouragement of separating yourself from work during any time other than a break: check. Residence Life being a functional area where entry-level staff are expected to be present nearly 24/7: check. I am conditioned to think saving my days and using them during the summer is the most “appropriate” way to use my time off. The most appropriate time for me to use my time away is when I need or want it.

(Alt Text: Courtney Cambell @courtneyekeeler :  am I alone in being desensitized to the buzzphrase of “self-care” in SA? Since when is actually taking my lunch hour “self-care”?)

 I saw the preceding Tweet the other day… My favorite line from it is “Since when is actually taking my lunch hour ‘self-care’?” I immediately saved it so that I could come back and share it with fellow professionals because I think it may strike a chord with many. For me, many of my lunch breaks last less than 30 and too often are less than 15 minutes in duration. Self-care in student affairs has become the utilization of normal pieces of employment instead of work. This behavior becomes normalized early on in a professional’s career, which probably contributes to high burnout rates. We have become so desensitized that a job where you can have a full hour lunch and regularly leave at the end of the day is like winning the World Cup.

I took a vacation and I liked it. I think I’ll take another one. I will take my full hour of lunch or respite even if most of it is a stroll around the campus munching on a sandwich. These are relatively small things, but if many new professionals rebel against infringement of these small things we may see the day when working through lunch four days of the week is no longer an expectation.

Knee-deep in Keys

Last semester with the retirement of a highly powerful mage that worked in my office I was bestowed the responsibility of key and FOB master (Fobs are Near Field Communication devices that we use instead of small chips in ID cards). Being entrusted with these newly assigned tasks was unexpected and it was welcome even though this meant that my own level of accountability needed to increase as well. For anyone who has ever worked in Residence Life the sheer number of keys can be absolutely overwhelming because you need several keys for each room in addition to any office keys. Furthermore anyone who has had access to or responsibility for a “master” key is aware of the significant financial and employment risks if that key is missing after your name is the last one to use it. Keys force a person to become more organized because they are equivalent to a person’s safety within their residence hall.

This post is not meant to simply say “I AM THE KEY MASTER, MWAHAHAHA!” but I have recently come back into power over keys and FOBs. However, this time I have been a little more reflective and trying to wonder why I like this so much (other than the obvious answer of “You’re weird”).

Reason 1: Detective Work

Weird things happen in communities of humans. When I see a random key or FOB on my desk I already have a smile on my face because I now have a mystery to solve! I really enjoy the process of determining whose key/FOB that I have with little to no information. Oftentimes my co-workers will hear me exclaim “Well that’s interesting” after making a discovery that gets me closer to the truth. Work days can become rather dull and I like these small adventures.

Reason 2: Creating Procedures

In just a couple of days I have completed 95% of a written procedure guide for student and professional staff because I had seen weaknesses in our system and wanted to correct them. I was given unbridled (more or less) creativity to do whatever I needed to make the system more manageable, traceable, and easy to understand/teach. Our office workers were integral to this process because I sought their feedback to ensure that we were creating procedures that were easy not only for professional/office staff, but for students as well.

Reason 3: Forced Organization

From chaos I created order. While doing minimal detective work and create procedures I felt that I was using magic to clear up a mess from a dramatic sequence in a film. As I mentioned earlier, keys are a high accountability subject and they need to be in their proper place. This forces me to be organized because there is little room for the phrase “I’ll figure it out later.”

I know that I have an adventure tomorrow as I still have a mystery or two to solve.

Contemplating Challenge

I do not think that it is any secret that I am oriented more towards challenge than support. Sanford (1962) made it particularly clear that you need a dash of both rather than a stiff dose of one or the other, but over the past several years of supervision experience I have learned that I am prone to offering challenge from the start.

Throwback: In July as a part of training the full-time professional staff was asked to carefully consider one word that represents themselves personally and professionally. I originally disdained this activity because there were so many words that I felt applicable. I actually spent hours searching through the depths of online thesauruses and dictionaries before I finally settled on one word: heuristic.

Heuristic to me means that I am not always capable, and in some cases,am unwilling to give you the answers you seek. Why? Sometimes you need to find the answers on your own Plan, try, fail, try again. @ShaneYoung15

My one word for the 2016-2017 year.

Throwback continued: I come from a liberal arts college where critical thinking permeated every single part of my studies. I was constantly challenged to look at my assumptions, look for hidden meanings, and connect to contemporary happenings in an effort to better understand why they were occurring at that specific moment. I was not often given a direct answer, but pushed to find my own. Even when I thought I had answered the battle was only half won; I still needed to defend my assertion.

My entire academic experience was built on challenge and resisting support (I am sure my old supervisors have some potentially funny stories of me refusing help). My graduate assistantship experiences have also helped solidify my gravitation towards challenge.

Fun fact: I once received anonymous feedback that “Shane doesn’t directly answer your question. He asks a lot of questions that make you realize that you already knew the answer. It would have been faster if he just answered the question.”

Yes, it would have saved both of us quite a significant chunk of time, but I do not think that it would have been beneficial in the long run to simply answer the question. I still believe in the importance of helping students realize that they have a lot of the answers they seek.

Then it all changed when the fire nation attacked…. (Avatar: The Last Airbender reference, sorry). It was a very different experience while in the midst of student staff training at an institution that I had spent only a month at. My staff, especially the new resident assistants, needed me to help facilitate their learning and to help them understand the pieces of crucial training: they needed support. Incidentally several of my staff members may have disliked me at the beginning of the fall because instead of directly answering the question, I asked what they thought was the answer and asked questions instead of simply answering the question.

I was not being the supervisor that they needed. They were surrounded by returning staff members whose main preoccupation was asking why things were different from last year (a post on change is in the works for the future). They experience long days filled with information. They were not even sure what was the most relevant information that they received from those days. I would not call my first several support conversations “successful” but they were not failures engulfed in flames. I steadily began to develop skills in offering support, mainly because, with time, I learned to support only pieces that needed support. Instead of trying to re-teach the entire day of training, I began to listen more attentively and ask questions to clarify what the crux of the question was.

This has taken many forms. I still regularly allow a moment of silence before asking “So, what is it that you are asking?” I do this mostly for those who unwittingly unleash a monsoon of information, to provide background but easily lose themselves in the narrative. I repeat questions back using alternative language that makes more sense to me, to see if we are on the same page. And then I answer the question when I have the answer. If I do not have an answer, I find it and ensure those asking the question do too.

Whenever you find yourself contemplating challenge it is important to remember that no matter what you are better at giving, you must develop the necessary skills in the other. There will come a time where a student who has received a lot of support will need challenge. Likewise, there will come a time where those constantly challenged will need a little help.

The Procrastination Paradox

Disclaimer: There is probably no paradox involved in this, but I can only think of titles that are alliteration.

When I was interviewing for my first time full-time job I was really excited about the use of co-created supervision rubrics based on individualized conversations with staff members and I used it in my answers. Once I accepted my first full time role, I was excited to meet my staff so I could put this answer into practice. I was pushing aside the necessary preparation work until I had a full product ready for testing. The error of my ways has resurfaced in my consciousness recently and has refused to dissipate until I acknowledge it.  I procrastinated; I pushed back working on this project because of the prominence of other products, training, or work.

Even today I do not have the supervision rubric that I envisioned months ago, but I do have insight to offer the world about procrastination. Honestly, I am not entirely convinced I am speaking of procrastination but about our perception of time in student affairs. Within student affairs there is always a perceived “off-season” where our loads of work will not be as large or immediate and all those projects, tweaks, and changes that need to be made can be created, explained, and implemented. For many functional areas this time is likely to be summer. I admit readily that I am currently suffering from this right now. I have identified this “summer” as a time where I will be able to perfect the changes I have already made and develop the changes I still want to make. Is it possible?

Hindsight is interesting because a person can see all the warning signs and blame themselves for not noticing then. Foresight is interesting because a person can see the possibilities but forgets the earthly complications that already exist in our daily lives. For me I find it easy to forget that summer is a time in which I will not live in a bubble where all of my responsibilities are absent. I am still to complete my obligations, but they will look differently than during an academic year.

Summer is not a panacea for the work we have failed to set time aside for.

Groundbreaking, isn’t it? I shared that statement with a respectable coworker. See their response below. fullsizerender

We are all in this paradox together. We are still going to think “I have to wait until summer to do this” or “I can’t do this until summer.” You may be unable to tackle an entire project or lead a departmental change right now, but what you are able to do at this point is lay the groundwork. Maybe it is ten minutes a day writing down your ideas. Find yourself with half an hour before the end of the work day? Begin by creating a timeline or a list of persons you need to work with to make this project a reality. There are ample things you can do right now to make your summer project a reality and not simply a magical time where you have deposited all the changes you need/want to make. I believe in us and you should too.

Reflecting on Reflection

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I work with someone named Shane. This “Other Shane,” if you will, led an activity on Thursday based on the book Soul Pancake: Chew on Life’s Big Questions by Rainn Wilson. This book is filled with prompts such as “What is the biggest lie you are glad you ever told?” For most prompts, there is a “dig deeper” question that asks open-ended questions that stop you in your tracks to ponder the implications of your gut response.

Other Shane’s activity began with each participant drawing a question. Afterwards, we were to switch partners and answer each other’s questions in addition to our own if we wanted. This activity was filled with ponderous pauses because none of the participants ever knew what to expect from the other. I was asked a great many questions, some easy such as “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?”

Answer: World domination… Backup answer: Become the world’s first quadrillionaire.

The impact of hearing so many people’s stories was not lost on me. There were persons who bonded over the answers given, whether through similarity or difference. We finally obtained a clearer picture of one another. There were people who made visible efforts to speak to certain persons (I saw you!) and then there were persons who refused to move too far from their headquarters (’twas me). There were so many different persons with different narratives in the room, but we were bound with one common mission: to learn about one another. Each individual was responsible for their own narrative. Participants were able to be as vulnerable, authentic, guarded, evasive as they deemed necessary.

In an effort to be more reflective in my general life and also to provide insight to my audience as to who I am instead of “here are all the things that I learned about” here are some questions and my answers from the activity!

Question: How has your view of right and wrong evolved over time?

Very much related to student development theory, I think I began with a very direct sense of right and wrong, probably created from the rules set forth by authority figures in my life. I adhered to the rules with less willingness to bend them than some of my peers. However, as I grew older, the world and the things I desired became more complex. After nearly two decades of education, I find it difficult to believe that there is an objective right and wrong since there seem to be so many exceptions. Or perhaps there is an objective right and the exceptions I am cultured to believe are permissible seek to unseat my “goodness?” Right and wrong has grown into a not so simple answer that I seek to obtain as much information as possible before making a decision.

Question: What’s one time you wish you had trusted your gut? Why didn’t you?

I was in an executive meeting during the afternoon of my undergraduate years and one of the seats was vacant during that time. I found it extremely puzzling that the person was not at the meeting, but did not have any logical reason to look at this absence critically. I had no reason believe that the absence for any reason other than the person was busy because they were a senior level administrator. I was surprised that evening by an announcement that affected a large portion of my job. I was angry, not only at the information presented, but at myself for not trusting my gut and following up with them.

I don’t often trust my instincts because I prefer to follow an objective perception of things. My gut has been totally off base before. However, we all know that hindsight is 20/20 as the phrase goes. It’s easier to see all the signs when you’re looking backwards.

Development on a Dime

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The spring semester is packed with all types of conferences, most notably ACPA and NASPA (see my thoughts on attending NASPA last year here). As you are no doubt aware, the conference registration fees for the national conferences is no small chunk of change. There are benefits to attending these conferences because of the concentration of professionals in one place and the knowledge imparted during the sessions, however the cost is a significant barrier to many persons especially new professionals.

In this spirit, I wanted to create a list of opportunities for professional development that could leave less of a crater in your bank account. I, personally, have benefited from some of these opportunities and that has influenced why I recommend them.

  • Student Affairs Collective
    • Well known for its weekly Twitter discussion #sachat the Student Affairs Collective is a group of student affairs practitioners who write/blog/vlog/podcast about the field. I find that most of what is written is a little too brief for me. Therefore, I recommend this resource with an additional caveat of reaching out to the authors of pieces that strike you and asking questions.
  •  Blogs
    • Yes, the Student Affairs Collective has bloggers, but some of these bloggers have their own websites where they create and curate content for all to see. Find subjects you are interested in and use search engines to find someone who is posting about it. Comment on their posts, ask questions, ask for emails to correspond.
  • Drive-in Conferences
    • These one day conferences can range from a wide variety of subjects to one functional area. No hotel costs, lower registration fees, and you are likely to see persons from within your region for networking purposes. These can occasionally be offered by national, state, or regional associations.
  • State Annual Conferences
    • My first introduction to student affairs was through a state association that offered a Careers in Student Affairs and an annual conference boasting similar presentations found at national conferences. There are great opportunities serving on committees and executive boards for these organizations.
  • Regional Conferences
    • National organizations may have regional conferences as well. These will likely be linked to geographic areas larger than the audience than a Drive-in Conference thus giving you greater opportunity for networking.
  • Mentorships/Learning Partnerships
    • Most of this list has involved connecting with people. Sure, I can learn from simply reading a manual but I am more likely to learn from someone who has had the experience I am seeking. Is there someone that you respect and strive to be like? Ask them if you can talk to them regularly about job/life related things. You can also become a mentor because there is much to be learned from those being mentored. Or work with your colleagues to create a learning partnership where you both want to learn a similar skill/topic and regularly meet to discuss/teach what you have learned on your own.
  • Read
    • Many institutions of higher education enable access to journals electronically. Take some time every now and again to read through some of the articles. There is always interesting research occurring or position papers. Perhaps a book review may help you find a book to add to your library. The best part of reading post-graduate education? You can choose what you read and it is not assigned to you to be read by a certain date.

This list is not exhaustive. There are many additional opportunities for professional development that I have not touched on (or thought about myself). I believe the most important takeaway from this brief post is that there are opportunities out there, probably posted on a listserv in an inbox. Take a deep breath, start small, and consider the possibilities.

Do you have other examples of Development on a Dime? Post in the comments below! 

Preparing for The Placement Exchange

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A Brief Message from your Sponsor

Hello friends,

It has been a while since I have been active and there are many personal and professional reasons for absence. However, I believe that the past several weeks have rekindled my dedication for providing my perspective and reflection in written format. Enough about me. Let’s get to my thoughts!

The Real Content

There are several graduate assistants who are taking the plunge and job searching at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. The department spent a portion of our spring refresher training/onboarding drawing on the knowledge of the department to assist in giving an overview of what the job search, most specifically The Placement Exchange (TPE), looks like from our collective experiences. I have written previously bout my experience at TPE, but a new post might be worth it.

Below is a list about TPE that stems from my experience. There is 100% chance that you are not me and it is possible that some of the advice I give is not applicable to you. That’s okay. I do not have all the answers and know that you can fill my knowledge/experience gaps with your own awesome talent(s).

Before You Arrive:

  • MONEY: Just a couple of the costs are registration, hotel, travel, food while there
  • Hidden Costs: “Professional” clothing is the standard at TPE as well as business cards, thank you notes, and other potential branding costs
  • Prepare in Advance: Do your research on institutions before you arrive to TPE. Depending on your schedule, you may not have time to prepare before an interview. Furthermore, it would be better to use that time to prepare for your second round interviews instead.
  • Set time to yourself early: You may want to interview for all the jobs, but there is a high probability you will starve yourself if you do not take a lunch break. Build time for you in your TPE calendar. This is also applicable to scheduling back to back interviews.

 

When You Are There:

  • Arrive to the city early: I arrived with only 30 minutes until the first Orientation, thinking that a hotel check in would be easy . . . it was not and it never is.
  • Traveling during TPE: You are in a city with hundreds of additional candidates as well as early arrivals for the NASPA conference immediately after TPE. That coffee shop nearest the conference center is going to take more time out of your morning than originally thought
  • SLEEP: Do not forget to do this. Yes, it is stressful and you need to prepare for the interviews, but the lethargy you feel the next day while waiting 45 minutes for a coffee is not worth it
  • Expect the unexpected: Did I expect that the button on my brand new suit was going to pop off? No. Did I expect to wait 45 minutes for a burger diner? Definitely not.

 

After You Leave:

  • Do not stop applying to jobs! You may have had a great interview with X school, but that does not mean X school will hire you. If you follow TPE on Twitter, employers may continue to post new positions on the portal as well.
  • Prepare for the possibility of an on campus interview, if you have not done so already. Do you have reliable transportation? A coworker/friend willing to take you to the airport? Furthermore, you are likely to get the call about an on-campus interview at a terribly inconvenient time. I received my first call as I was in the middle of Orientation.

Final Thoughts

You will be surprised: No matter how much you prepare for this experience something will still happen that throws you for a loop. I was given a compliment during an interview once and I was completely thrown off my game after that. You might find a position that looks FANTASTIC, but then you get to the interview and the aspects you were excited about do not shine through. It is the nature of job searching, especially far and wide.

What advice do you have for your peers? Add a comment with what worked well for you!

Pro Staff Training + FLSA = ?

I survived! I moved to Carbondale, IL to begin my first full time role as a Hall Director. Since completing the treacherous trip from Ohio, I have been in a myriad of meetings, presentations, and other various training/team building activities. Each one of these items is an important structural component to a successful transition of professionals. Attending and participating in these sessions was especially useful to me because I am undergoing a huge transition in terms of institutional size. There are ample resources that I will learn about as I work because there simply was not enough time during training to cover every necessity.

Is there ever enough time? One particular difficulty I am noticing, especially working in Residence Life, is a compounding effect. In my specific case I underwent a month long professional staff training, followed by a week-long graduate assistant training, followed by the beginning of student staff training that seemingly was never going to end. I was constantly barraged with attending or facilitating sessions with student staff and attempting to find time within evening team builders to regenerate my energy reserves. It was an exhausting beginning to the 2016-2017 school year.

I have already begun to look ahead to the 2017-2018 school year or even upcoming training in January in preparation for the impact the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) will have on “the way we’ve always done it.” In preparation for this post, I half-attempted to locate a source that would give me an average of how many hours a residence life professional worked during the month of August but was not successful in locating a source. I believe that the lack of success is attributable to the fact that the number is as close to infinity as possible.

DISCLAIMER: many of this comments stem from the collection of anecdotal evidence from residence life professionals over the years and my own experiences. Not all of my examples will be relevant to all professionals across the student affairs world.

Professional Staff Training

I had a steep learning curve as a new professional who recently moved to an institution far different than most of their previous experiences. Institution size increased dramatically and I also moved from private to public which has highlighted some very important differences in my understanding of emergency response protocol. It was almost immediately after arriving that I was in training sessions. This was my first experience as a new professional undergoing professional training therefore it should be noted that my perspective is one of a recent graduate beginning their #SApro journey.

There is a lot of information being presented at training. There are sessions on policies, procedures, tours, resources, and even the occasional motivational speaker throughout the training period (which can range in duration). It is increasingly easy for presentation fatigue to set in and lay waste to any understanding of the days’ material, most of which could be important to know. In addition to becoming fatigued I assert that many professionals are aware that just because a person attended a presentation does not mean that they fully comprehend or can complete that task on their own. You can talk a person through every single step with a beautiful PowerPoint presentation, but that knowledge and its application is not cemented until that person actually completes the task on their own.

The most educational activity is involving a person in what they need to understand.

To this effect, I suggest that departments utilize experiential learning in the early stages of training instead of relying on the necessary know-how to occur post training. In the trainings I have experienced (predominantly in Residence Life) there is a heavy emphasis on training (professional, graduate, and student) aiming to impart a lot of knowledge in a brief timeline. The hours are usually long and filled with great amounts of information, but not always an emphasis on doing the tasks that are described. I am guilty of being a professional that has said “When you are actually completing the task you will understand it” when there is confusion about a procedure or process. Reliance on perceived learning instead of actual learning, I am realizing, is perhaps a mistake.

What happens if we reverse this learning process? Instead of giving a broad overview in the beginning, trainers develop interactive, technology based trainings that can be done to facilitate learning by doing? Several weeks ago when I was learning how to use the student conduct software Advocate, I underwent approximately an hour and a half presentation to learn how to use it, but found myself nearly clueless when I logged into the system. It was not until I went through a training case that I began to remotely grasp what I was doing. By adjudicating a mock conduct case in Advocate I was able to grasp it in a way that had escaped me as I sat through a presentation. I felt that I was able to get more from subsequent trainings because I had an experience in which to draw upon.

What other activities could be benefited from mock or trial runs? Instead of a lecture on properly filling out purchasing card forms – create an opportunity to make a “purchase” and complete the necessary clerical duties. Residents have a tendency to want to switch rooms so it might be beneficial if trainees underwent a mock space change from beginning to finish. If we flip the educational process to in-depth, experience based as the introduction then resource documents will be more effective as references instead of a step-by-step guide that one scrambles to find the moment a situation arises because they remember the presentation, but not how to complete the task.

One further benefit delivered by the type of experiential learning that I recommend is that it can be asynchronous, meaning that it does not need to be completed at one specific time. Many of the recommendations I made are items that can be completed during “structured office time” or without a physical facilitator. Creating the preparatory materials for this type of training is not something that can be left to week before. Developing effective asynchronous learning experiences requires training committees to intentionally design the materials to ensure that they are clear, concise (definition depends on the task being explained), and accessible.

As a part of one of my graduate internships, I developed a hybrid Safe Zone training. Our purpose was to delegate the imparting of foundational knowledge to a series of online community members who had already completed research and created videos explaining LGBTQ+ definitions to allow facilitators to have more time to discuss the role of an ally and how to fulfill that it. Furthermore, using pre-existing information and archiving the source allows for unlimited access to the source material. Imagine for a second if instead of a series of printed images as a guide in navigating Advocate that I had access to a video that recorded a student conduct officer’s screen and voice explaining and demonstrating the necessary steps to successfully navigate the system. At any point a user could pause or replay a section of the video and replicate it on their own screen.

The challenges to “traditional” notions of what training and the work day looks like for student affairs professionals are not impossible. Student affairs is notorious for its systemic culture of overworking professionals to such a point that they leave the field forever (see my blog post on burnout here). The burden to prevent burnout has always been placed on the worker by institutions, although inadvertently. “Take a flex day, create boundaries, turn notifications off . . .” are some examples of what I have heard throughout my time as an undergraduate as well as an emerging/new professional. All of these would be great options if the follow up question was not always “Why didn’t this or that get done?” FLSA puts burdens on institutions/departments to enact structural changes to give professionals the remote chance of living not just working; of being paid for the extra 20 hours a week worked regularly to stay afloat.

What I wrote about in this post does not solve the problem automagically, but is one step towards progress. Use the comments section, use #SAChat, #SATech, #SAGrad, and many other mediums to collaborate with professionals from across the spectrum to identify ways to create or improve everyday processes or training. I believe in my peers and the field. Otherwise I would be blogging about cats or something.

 

Additional Resources:

NASPA Policy and Practice Series: The FLSA Final Overtime Rule

The Job Journey: My mistakes, your successes.

Greetings colleagues, friends, and new visitors! It has been too long since my last post, but I assure you that my life has not been idle. In the months leading up to and immediately after graduation I was engaged in my first professional job search. I was searching across the nation for a role that synced with both my professional and personal persona. Although this post is not focused on the result of my job search I would find it remiss to not share with my readers that I accepted a job as a Hall Director at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. I am very excited to gain some additional experiences in University Housing to bolster my professional abilities.

The purpose of this post is to offer advice, reflection, and general thoughts on my own journey through “The Search” as well as several sprinkles of anecdotal evidence from my own peers. I lost count of how many positions I applied for but my search began in December only to end in late June. It was a taxing six months of trying to plan my future while not knowing what my future could hold. Would I live in the far reaches of Alaska? Perhaps the coast of the Pacific? I applied to many different institutions, but many different institution types as well. If there is a combination of institutional characteristics I applied for a position. This, perhaps, was a mistake.

I was willing to go anywhere and do anything. In hindsight, I may have benefited from filtering my pool of possibilities more. For example, my HigherEdJobs job agent would email me a list of positions daily ranging from six to 106 positions. For some odd reason, I felt compelled to apply to nearly every single job on these lists that sounded remotely like something I wanted to do. As many of you may be aware, there is only so much time in a week whilst balancing coursework, class, work, and any semblance of a personal life. I felt behind every single moment. See image below of me exhausted from applying to all the jobs.

I can't even

If there was some advice I would offer future or current job seekers, it is to narrow their search parameters even if just a little. It was not helpful for me to think about all the jobs that I thought I had to apply to while I was sitting in my capstone class. Consider limited institutional type or look for very specific opportunities. Do not, I repeat, do not just apply to a job because it is a job. The temptation is there; I know that it is. When you get to the point of applying solely because there is an opening you will struggle with the very first question in every single interview: “Why do you want work here?” Your answers will seem robotic, disingenuous and they probably are. Search committee members will sense this and could critique the rest of your answers more stringently than if they felt that you have a genuine interest.

Quality over Quantity is key in your #SAsearch

The Mental and Emotional

The fact that I was applying for every single job set me up for what I would describe as an “emotional roller coaster.” I experienced a range of positive and negative emotions during my job search. I will admit that at one point I questioned whether student affairs was for me because it just seemed like no matter what I did I was not making the cut. It was a particularly stressful semester with my capstone and a challenging assessment course. But, I survived and the next generation of student affairs professionals can too!

Job searchers are not going to be the perfect candidate to every position out there. Remember what I said earlier about the “Why do you want to work here” question? As a species, humans tend to want to surround themselves with similar persons. Remember that co-worker at your assistantship that you just could not understand why they were still in their current role? If they (or a person like them) was a hiring manager, would you want to work in that role? Conversely, would you be someone that they want to hire? Institutions, departments, offices, etc… ultimately want to hire similar persons, persons that share similar ideals such as student centeredness or a dedication to improvement. I suspect that most job searchers would want to work at an institution that shared their ideals.

Not every position you apply to is going to fit your values, goals, or ideals and that is okay.

When I vented my frustrations to my supervisors and colleagues about my search process, the one thing that they always said was “You’ll definitely find a job.” Although I scoffed at the idea of some eventuality that seemed unlikely at the time, the advice rang true. Of course, I will find a job as long as I am still searching. There may be times when one feels like giving up, but just because the search is arduous, mentally taxing, and difficult to balance with coursework does not mean that it is not worth it. The paycheck I am getting at the end of the month will be the best paycheck I ever receive because it demonstrates to me that I made it.

“You’ll definitely find a job.” Of course, you will because you will not stop until you do.

Practicalities

I feel like this post is getting a little too long therefore this section will be bullet pointed with some practical advice.

  • Use your peers, supervisors, and colleagues to review application materials [especially if they are in a similar position to what you are applying to]
  • Stay organized: Know where and when you applied, especially if you are willing to reach out to employers to check on application status
  • Have more than 3 references and interchange them when needed
  • TPE, OPE, etc… consider going to them and staying for the conference afterward too!
  • Go to, present at, all the things at conferences and network (obviously)
  • Keep your vehicle maintained for potential on-campus interviews
  • Think about job search clothing in advance: either save up now or purchase an item here and there
  • Update your resume regularly: if you have even one new responsibility, add it!
  • If possible: Tailor your resume and cover letter to each specific position [I recognize that this step is very difficult, but it is worth it]
  • Have a life outside of the job search! Go see friends, play board games, or take a nap.

Today I Graduated

Today after a brilliant introduction by Hawaiian shirt wearing Dr. Mark Kretovics I graduated…

Today after a skillfully hilarious keynote speech about the future by Dr. Erica Eckert I graduated…

Today after two years of reading, writing, driving 45 minutes to class, “balancing” my GAship I graduated…

Today after drastically altering my career from world domination to fostering the development of the next general…I graduated.

Today I graduated; today I became Shane Young, M.Ed.

Through the Higher Education Administration and Student Personnel program at Kent State University I have had the privilege and pleasure to meet and work with some phenomenal classmates who I am proud to call my colleagues. I may not demonstrate it as regularly as I should, but I sort of, kind of like most of you as people and hold you not only as outstanding colleagues, but good friends. I refuse to look at this moment as one of farewell, but of “see you soon.” I have a feeling that many of you will be conference attendees and presenters in the future because your thirst for knowledge shan’t be quenched by the occasional inter-office discussion.

It was not only the people I met through my program that helped me throughout my journey, but the amazing professionals, roommates, and colleagues at Notre Dame College. Being a 45 minute commute from each of my classes proved to be a challenge to me, but I believe the unique experiences I gained made it worth it. I have had several supervisors who have challenged me in different ways and always offered or provided support, even when I vehemently said I was fine and needed no assistance). The friends, both from Kent and NDC specific, whom I ate lunch with for two years provided much needed comic relief in times of stress. Without you all, I may have had a much more normal experience but it would have been much less fun.

Thank you, friend, for taking the time to read this brief reflection on the last two years of my life. Cheers!