Monday, February 17, 2014

The Other Side of the Desk: A former recruiter’s perspective #6

Love don't live here anymore: A recap/lessons learned of the NYU student affairs conference

I greatly anticipated the arrival of the NYU Student Affairs Conference that occurred this past Friday. I attended last year for the first time, and I had a pretty amazing time networking with local contacts in the area and sitting in on some pretty meaningful presentations. I hoped for the same experience this time around and even had taken the time to coordinate my outfit to match with Valentine's day, a mix of red and black. Despite such hopes and preparation, a combination of yet another Mid-atlantic snow storm and an unexpected run in with my worst allergic enemy (a cat), the conference was unfortunately a bust.

I rolled up to the NYU Kimmel Center exceptionally drowsy from Benadryl, pants soaking wet from the slurpie-like snow, and no game face on. I managed to get upstairs just as the first sessions were just about to start, and thus began a blur of a day that made my head spin. I heard moderately empowering presentations such as one on pushing women students to lead -which was was more of a proposition of Sheryl Sandberg's "Lean In" philosophy than actual research - to highly dynamic presentations/speeches about the current state of Higher Ed policy and the importance of creating an economy of memorable student experiences. 

While my intellectual appetite mostly whetted, I had much less luck making meaningful small talk with any of the attendees. Practically every session I went into, colleagues chatted with one another, and even despite my gregarious attempts to break in, I was shut down faster than the government during sequestration.  By the end of the day, I had not handed out ONE SINGLE CARD! I gathered that that the snow storm must have deterred a lot of senior level administrators from attending because the majority of the people I encountered were graduate students (mainly of NYU) like me. 

Thus, it appeared that once they found out that I was a) not a contact with any job leads or b) local to NYC, they casually smiled, but did that glancing move where they are trying to look for someone better to come along. As I've mentioned before, I'm a southerner, so I am very adept at picking up quickly on those kind of disingenuous social cues easily, and I was not a fan of it. The post-conference social at a nearby bar put the nail in the coffin as I walked around in vain trying to insert myself into banal and in-group conversations, and ended up leaving after about half an hour. 

Putting my recruiter hat on, I learned a few things from the experience: 

  • No matter how great the intention, some experiences just aren't meant to be a dream come true, and that's OK! 
We all strive to put our best foot forward, and you may get handed a few curve balls that knock you off balance, but as long as you make the most of what you have, that's all you can ask for. While I felt like I had been sucker punched, I always look on the bright side and I do appreciate that I was able to learn from a few of the presentations, especially the one on policy trends, which will help me during interviews.

  • Competition will always be fierce
Not that I didn't already know this, but other grad students are on their hustle to make connections and lock up some job interviews. I can't blame them for wanting to connect with gatekeepers; most job interview these days are made possible through networking, not necessarily job boards.  Even though that is the case, my final tip for everyone out there is:

  • Never overestimate who you talk to
Those other grad students seemed to care less about me because they didn't perceive me to have much to offer based on the limited details they bothered to get to know about me. True. Right in that instant, maybe I didn't hold the golden ticket, but I tell you one thing, you never know who I might know or be willing to introduce to you. "Pay it forward" has always been my motto.

I know this job hunting business is cut throat, and trust me, I will take necessary means to make sure that I land a stellar job. But I'll tell you one thing, if any of you think for a minute that I forget the faces of the insincere, well bless your little heart. 

1 comment:

  1. I went to a drive-in conference this past summer and had a similar experience. Members of the same college just stuck together and didn't socialize with anyone else. I completely agree with you though - young professionals shouldn't underestimate their peers. Not only is it a missed opportunity, it's plain rude!