Part One: Carpet Bombing
My first job search was spring 2008 when I was just about to graduate from the Student Affairs in Higher Education master’s program at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. At that time I essentially carpet bombed the field with job applications; I did a national job search and applied to over 40 institutions. It was too much to organize, it got to be too confusing keeping track of everything and everyone.
I managed to find the funding to attend The Placement Exchange in Boston and ACPA Placement in Atlanta. In all I managed to have 20 conference interviews, for those keeping count, thats about a 50% success rate. I was on my way to … disappointment. I was sitting on cloud nine, I interviewed with almost half of the schools I applied at. Well, those 20 interviews only resulted in two on-campus interviews: Florida State University in Tallahassee, FL and Point Park University in Pittsburgh, PA. In the end I was offered and I accepted an entry-level position at Point Park University. Its ironic that I had to travel to Atlanta to interview with and accept a position from a school that was literally 5 miles from where I was living.
Now after a few years I decided that it was time to start looking for a new job. It was February 2010 and I was in the midst of job searching and this was my second time going the the student affairs job placement process. I knew I did not want to repeat my first experience, 40 applications, 20 interviews and 1 offer. I decided that I was going to narrow my job search to only one region: New England. I started looking at openings and thats when it hit me; I needed to update my resume and cover letter. It had been a while since I had to use my resume so I wasn’t sure where I should start.
Enter Sean Cook
I had been participating in the #SAchat on Twitter and introduced myself to Sean Cook. I learned that Sean had worked at Penn State and that he had just started his coaching business helping others with job searches, interview techniques, updating resumes and much more. Sean started offering a free support group to job searchers. In this group we were able to discuss a lot including expectations for placement conferences, interview dos and don’ts, resume tips and much more. It was during this free group that I decided to retain Sean’s help one-on-one. So I sent Sean a message and said I’ll pay you please help me!
At first I wasn’t sure what to expect. Here’s this guy that says he knows what he’s doing and here I am looking for help. Well it turns out that it was one of the best investments I made this year. I first started by talking about what I was afraid of and what concerned me. Then in our second session we jumped into interview techniques and reviewing my resume. The best thing we did was a mock phone interview. I’ve always felt I was a poor phone interviewer, Sean taught me several techniques to use during phone interviews. During this mock interview Sean asked some questions I have never heard before, some were really thought provoking and some were easy. At the end we talked about my answers and he provided a great critique. About a week later I was able to utilize the skills Sean taught me in an actual phone interview. Armed with these new skills I went into the phone interview confident and at the end I knew I rocked it.
Job Search: Part Deux
The major difference between my first job search and my second was focus. I was able to focus on the geographical area and with Sean’s help I learned to focus my energy on specific parts of the job search and not everything at once. Throughout my ACPA Placement experience and throughout my on-campus interviews I knew I had Sean as a resource, someone I could call for support anytime I needed him. My second job serach experience was so much better than my first. I had less applications submitted, but a higher percentage of conference interviews and more on-campus interviews. Clearly I had a better experience because halfway through one conference interview I was offered an on-campus interview!
One school I interviewed with was Western New England College (WNEC) in Springfield, MA. I had two good conference interviews so i was confident going to my on-campus interview. I arrived the night before my interview, I was picked up at the airport and dropped at the hotel by a WNEC Res Life staff member. That evening I decided to take a taxi to campus to walk around and get a true feel. I jumped in the cab and had a great conversation about the school and the area with the taxi driver. When we arrived at the campus the first think I noticed was the trees and the buildings. I noticed how quintessentially “New England” WNEC looked and felt. As I walked around, I noticed students playing frisbee, tennis, catch and just hanging outside with friends. Brick buildings, gazebos and lawns, these are things my previous campus didn’t have. I knew that evening I wanted to work at WNEC. I was so confident in myself that during my self-paced tour of WNEC I stopped in the bookstore and purchased a school pennant for my collection.
Ultimately I ended up being offered and accepting a job at WNEC. While I did the heavy lifting, by doing the interviewing and applying, it was Sean who helped me build the confidence needed to be successful.
John Mayo is the Area Coordinator for Traditional Housing at Western New England College. In addition to residence life, he has experience working in housing operations and student leadership development at very diverse campuses. Like many student affairs professionals, his family still doesn’t understand what he does, so he tells them that he teaches life skills to college students.
John holds a bachelor’s degree in history and a minor in art and military history from Bridgewater State College, a master’s degree in student affairs in higher education from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and is working towards a second master’s degree in organizational leadership from Gonzaga University