Monday, February 24, 2014

The Other Side of the Desk: A former recruiter’s perspective #7

Pro bono is the new black

So I've convinced myself that the best way to hunt for jobs in function areas that I don't have experience is to mosey into departments around my institution and volunteer. In particular, I have had my sights on the university's career center, which has been widely known for having vacancies since last semester. Secretly, I'm holding out that they might have a position for me, so about a month ago, I greased the wheels by soliciting an informational meeting with the center's director. 

In the meeting, I told the director that I was interested in trying to support them in their time of need, and of course, that I was happy to help in whatever capacity (aka hire me). I am lucky to have somewhat of an open schedule this last semester, so I offered about 15 hours of time, which I honestly don't really have to spare, but I'm willing to make it work. Since then, I've volunteered for a career fair, and I working towards getting the chance to put on presentations and giving career critiques - in  hopes that I can genuinely show them that I should be a permanent fixture in their office. 

Now don't get me wrong, this all sounds rather self-serving, but I am truly interested in career services work itself. The fair I helped out with a few weeks ago was a lot of fun. I was tasked with trying to get students connected with employers and vice versa, and I thoroughly enjoyed putting nervous students and overzealous employers at ease. It was as if I were participating in a professional version of OKcupid. 

Nonetheless, my recruiter intuition says that even if it doesn't lead to an offer, it's still additional fillers to the resume. Not to mention, the appreciation that I can offer to the staff by taking some things off their plates is priceless. I excel at putting my skills to use for the benefit of students, so I can hold out a little longer. At the very least, I will get a flavor for the career services work in a non-committal way. I prefer monogamy, but I'll take what I can get for now. At the very least, it gives me something to pour my energy into while waiting in vain for the job fairy to grant my wish of a super awesome job landing in my lap. Tick tock job fairy, time is ever constantly running away from me. 

Curious to hear from anyone out there who might also be trying/tried this tactic and if it is paying/paid off? Happy hunting!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Beeline Broadcast, #7

Student Debt Is Ruining My Job Search

I have a disgusting amount of student loan debt. It's a little stressful.

To some extent, this stress has colored my job search. All I can think is: STATE SCHOOL. State schools generally pay higher and offer better benefits. And oh yeah, there's that small matter of becoming eligible for a loan forgiveness program.

The Public Servant Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF) is for people that work full-time at a public service job. I learned about the program from a law student friend of mine. He's hoping to get a job at the state or federal level in order to qualify for the program. When he first told me about it, I was annoyed. Shouldn't I be eligible for this program too? If I work at a state school, doesn’t that make me a public servant? During my hours of training at FinAid, I decided to investigate. It turns out that I am eligible!

The idea is that you pay a fixed monthly amount for ten years and then your remaining interest and principal are wiped clean. You have to use a certain repayment plan, one of which is income based repayment (IBR). IBR doesn’t really bother me. In fact, it works better in my favor because I won’t be making a lot of money. That’s why people that benefit most from this program are those with high debt and low income.

My lawyer friend told me not to get too excited because this program hasn't reached its first full cycle yet. He says it will ruin the economy, and there’s no guarantee that I’ll be grandfathered in once the plan gets nixed. It’s okay though; PSLF is my little ray of light in a dismal and debt-ridden future.

Now I feel like I should have some sort of disclaimer with this entry. I haven’t read all the fine print. There could be some clause in some paragraph that makes me ineligible for this program. Only certain loans qualify. I haven’t actually talked to a loan person to verify that all of this is true. It’s just something I plan to pursue. I think it’s worth pursuing because all preliminary signs indicate that this is an option.

Also, I'm told that it's really difficult to get hired at a state school because it's a competitive world. Everyone else wants great pay and benefits too. And while I’m not ruling out private schools at all, I’d like to take us back to what a wise blogger once said:

No matter how altruistic we think we are about sticking to our passion for education, in this day and age when Sallie Mae comes knocking (and she’s always knocking), nothing is sexy about being on a shoestring budget.

If interested, here are some PSLF sources you might like to check out:

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. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Beeline Broadcast, #6

Making The Right Life Choice

Lately I’ve heard a whole lot of opinions about the job search. Normally I would find these perspectives really helpful. After all, it’s nice to have a bit of guidance with this thing I’ve never done before. I can use all the tips I can get! Then I started to realize that people were offering me conflicting insights, and suddenly I felt very confused.

My topic this week definitely overlaps with my fellow blogger's topic from last week. Should you love your first position? Or should you focus on practicalities like location and income? There are so many different views on the topic.

A) SUPERVISOR: "I would do anything to work at a state school. If an opportunity turns up, take it. Get your foot in the door. Don’t feel as though you have enough student contact? Adjunct. You can make the position, especially if it's an entirely new one." 

B) COHORT MEMBER: "If it's the right fit, I don't care about location." 

C) SIGNIFICANT OTHER: "You shouldn't settle for something you dislike. You shouldn't feel pressured into doing something that you really aren't interested in just for the sake of a job.”

Clearly each person is coming from a very different place. I think, especially with the first job, I may be in for some sacrifices. I have to figure out my priorities, whether it’s location, wage, or job criterion. I have to ask myself questions like: Can I be happy doing the perfect job in a faraway place? Would I be happier settling for a job that I’m semi-interested in and is closer to my family? Should I seek a job in FinAid because it's better paying? I'm trying not to let the advice of others sway me too much. A lot of people want to help me answer these questions, but at the end of the day only I can truly answer them.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Other Side of the Desk: A former recruiter’s perspective #5

No Credit Cards Required

Conference season is nearly upon us, and I have been looking forward to attending both NASPA - for the second time - and ACPA - for the first time. As a second year Masters student though, the obvious expectation that has been put forward by many a predecessor is that I should attend TPE, in part because NASPA is nearby in Bawlmer (Baltimore), but also because of the supposed wealth of job opportunities in one place. While I certainly am game to put myself in for any opportunity that could lead to job acquisition, there is one thing that turns me off about TPE: cost.

I cannot believe that anyone would even consider paying a dime for a job fair. Certainly as a former recruiter, I am no stranger to the notion of fee-based career placement firms, but I have NEVER believed in the value of paying someone else to find me a job. The supposition that doing so will yield "increased odds for employment" based on the sheer number of employers in physical proximity is not a compelling argument. Coupled with this, I know very well that TPE largely attracts employment opportunities in ResLife, which I've said before, I.AM.NOT.INTERESTED. 

I understand and empathize that job fairs are expensive endeavors to put on; however, I could barely get enough money together to get myself to NASPA in the first place, and now you want me to pay more money and get my hopes that I might get an interview for a job I probably don't want? Pass. I know there are many who will disagree with my interpretation, and granted, I have not been to TPE to understand exactly how it works, but want to know what I know from experience that does work? Networking. And where can I network without having to pay extra money? I don't think I even have to say it. 

I intend on writing a detailed blog leading up to conferences about my tactical networking strategies, but for now, I am going to keep my credit card tucked away and save it for more immediate purchases such as textbooks (groan). 

An exciting announcement: I will be in New York area on Friday for the NYU Student Affairs conference. I attended last year and found it to be fairly informative and a great collegial environment for networking. I will report my experiences for next week's blog. Otherwise, another week gone by, and all remains quiet and non-existent on the job front. Happy hunting my fellow SA-ers!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Beeline Broadcast, #5

February Job Search: Why It's Good to Be Type A

I'm the type of person that needs to feel organized. I deal with stress by making to-do lists and setting due dates for myself. I basically micromanage my life until I feel I have some sort of control.

I'm sure this sounds really unhealthy.

Anyway, here’s how I'm micromanaging my job search:


I had job applications floating everywhere. I had apps tossed on my desk, hidden in the file cabinet at my internship, sitting in the printer at my assistantship, stuck between pages of my textbooks, and so on. Now I just throw them in this handy file folder. When I’m feeling especially organized, the apps are ordered in the date that I applied for the job.


I’m sure there are better ways to build a directory, but I rely on an email draft with a list of websites that direct me to job listings. The directory is really nice when I have a spare minute at work and can quickly run through the list to view new postings.

One of my classmates asked which jobs I applied to, and then she quickly added, “only if you’re comfortable saying.” I am totally not like that, so if you’re searching in the Connecticut or Massachusetts region, may these links help you too!


I don't remember who told me this, but Excel is an excellent way to organize yourself during the job search. It's a helpful way to remember which positions you applied to and when the closing date was. It’s also nice to compare information (region, position, institution, pay grade, etc.).


Note: Based on my conversations with other members of my cohort (and their conversations with their mentors), it’s super early in the job search. I wouldn’t panic if you don’t have a carefully constructed Excel sheet tracking your every movement. Like the post states, I’m super Type A (and probably a maniac). These tips may be helpful for you in, oh, a month or two.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Other Side of the Desk: A former recruiter’s perspective #4

Love vs Money

Aside from the tempestuous changing weather in the mid-Atlantic region, I’d have to say last week was pretty decent.  I received an email from a fellow alumna of my undergrad institution, who is now running a division of HR for a large media company that I used to “work for” (used loosely as I was employed on two temporary contract jobs that suddenly ended despite being promised they would turn permanent, not bitter).  She asked me to give her a call to catch up, and while we chatted, she let me know that she had an opening in her department for a recruiter and asked if I was interested.

I was immediately torn on how to answer because from experience I know that recruiting is typically a pretty well-paying gig, and knowing what I’ve known about the media company, I would stand to do pretty well financially.  If I say yes, on the other hand, I would be jumping off the student affairs boat before it even sets sail, but as passionate as I am for it, let’s be real, student affairs does not pay.  How do you think I responded?

a)      Screw poverty, when do I start?!
b)      No way José, my allegiance to student affairs is unbreakable
Joking aside, my response was more of the middle; I told her I’d have to think on it because I had four months of school left and I wouldn’t be able to start until May.  Unfortunately she needed someone to start the job right away, so there’s nothing more to think about.  BUT this situation is bound to come up frequently throughout my career path, the choice between money over passion.  No matter how altruistic we think we are about sticking to our passion for education, in this day and age when Sallie Mae comes knocking (and she’s always knocking), nothing is sexy about being on a shoestring budget.

As “entry-level” Masters student affairs job seekers, we have been told that we can expect to make around $35-40K at best, and that if we ever hope to get around it, we can either marry rich or find another job outside the profession.  As tongue in cheek as that is, it bothers me that we have to even joke about it.  My bigger beef with this low salary business is that there’s a presumed rite of passage that our elders have put on us that we have to prove ourselves in order to advance. I completely agree to an extent – if I had never worked before, but I am closer to 30 years old, and I fear that my former work experience might not even matter.  If I will be knocked down on the totem pole all because I’m a “newbie” to student affairs with no consideration to my former work experience, the deck is stacked against me before I even start, and that is a game I refuse play.  Some might say that I’m over-entitled for feeling this way, but after I sacrificed two years to get a Masters, I don’t think it’s wrong that my career aspirations have a price tag greater than $35K/year.

OK, no more ranting. I found a slew of about 9 positions that I plan on applying for this week ranging in function areas of alumni services, admissions, career services, etc. all that are pretty doable locations around Washington DC, Philadelphia, and Northern New Jersey.  Here’s hoping something positive comes out of it!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Beeline Broadcast, #4

I Am Not a Shark: Thoughts on Cohort Competition

This past Monday marked the first week of my last semester of graduate school. I've touched base with my fellow SA grads, and while we're technically not a cohort, our program is small enough to feel like one. It’s funny, because we’re currently in very different places. Some have interviewed, others already accepted full-time positions, and still others haven’t even given a thought to the job search yet.

Around the time of this reunion I learned that a member of my program was hired for the position that I had interviewed for.


Before I touch upon my reaction, let me take you on a journey into the world of (my) young adult development.

During my first semester of graduate school, I remember telling a fellow SA grad that I saw our classmates as competition. She was really horrified. I remember saying something like, Well yeah, they're competition. We're all going to apply for the same jobs at the same time! Let the best man win! Let the fists fly! You know that law school gunner that steals the copies of a reserved library text so her peers can't read it? That was my mind-set. I was out for the kill.

Don't worry, I eventually became a human being. I think my initial mind-set was mostly inspired by fear. I’ve been entirely defiant throughout my journey in higher education. I defied everyone by even applying to college, and then I pursued a dreaded liberal arts degree, and finally I broke all barriers and went to graduate school for something no one’s even heard about. I often feel this pressure to produce a result (namely, a job). I need to prove to everyone that college is a great decision. Don’t listen to the media telling you that college grads can’t get jobs. Don’t listen to your co-workers when they say English majors end up as Starbucks baristas. No wonder I was ready to plow people out of my way.

These “people”, however, are my people. In these two short years we’ve experienced a lot of change together. We’ve faced a lot of obstacles, pressures, and challenges. We’ve celebrated engagements, marriages, internships, classroom successes, and so on. I feel incredibly supported by my little group of SA grads.

So you know what kind of emotion I felt when I learned that my fellow grad got the job I wanted? Pride. I was proud that one of us had made it. The rest of us will make it too.

(And that's the sort of pep talk I'm sure we all needed right now.)