Last-Minute Gifts for The Higher Ed Job Seeker

Every year, I start the holiday season with good intentions…making lists, coming up with the perfect ideas for each person on my list, and taking some time to get a good head-start on things.

And like many, I fall short.

I began writing this post the night of the 19th. At that point, I hadn’t begun my Christmas shopping. Yesterday morning I was going to go out, but all the sudden it was nearly 2 p.m. before I was finally heading out the door to do some shopping. I still have a few more things on my list, but they will have to wait. Today is my daughter Susie’s 2nd birthday and we are eating cake, opening presents, and (undoubtedly, because we do this every day) watching Team UmiZoomi about 20 times.

My wife, Sarah, is one of those people who buys ahead and finds all the great deals. So she and I periodically talk about ideas and she buys many of our children’s gifts early. And my siblings, parents and the other adults in our family have moved on to doing a “country gift exchange,” so I don’t really have all that many people to shop for, but the ones I do are pretty important to me.

If you are a last-minute gifter, and you have a higher ed job seeker on your list (or you are one, and hope to give yourself the gift of a new job in the coming year), here are a few ideas for last-minute gifts:

  • Buy the person a website to set up a job-seeker blog. If possible, register a .com address and use the person’s name, so they can stake out a “home base” for their personal brand. You can find plenty of good web hosts out there, and it’s really easy on most to set up a blog using WordPress. I use FatCow, which has a lot of nice features and add-ons, and a really affordable annual rate, with unlimited storage and bandwidth, as well as e-mail addresses for your domain. They are running a $4.67/month hosting special right now, which you can get by clicking on the link above or on the ad in the right-hand column. The deal includes hosting for one year, one domain, and a lot of easy-to-use tools. For example, easy set-up of a WordPress.Org blog like this one, photo galleries, forums, Moodle and Joomla sites, even an online store. Users also get ad credits on Google AdWords, Facebook, and Yahoo, which your job-seeker could use to place personal “Job Wanted” Ads.
  • If you self-host a WordPress blog, you can install a standard template or get a little fancy. My blogs run the Thesis theme framework, which has some built-in features that help with Search Engine Optimization. You need to have some confidence with technology to get it installed and set up, but once you do, the dashboard is pretty easy to master, and you will enjoy better search results without having to get a certificate in internet marketing.
  • Buy your job-seeker some assistance with writing and editing their job search materials (or if your job-seeker is going back to school, with admissions essays). I offer these services as part of my 1-on-1 coaching packages, and would be glad to speak to you or your job-seeker about what I can offer, but I also recently became an affiliate for ResumeEdge and EssayEdge, the leading resume and essay editing and assistance services on the internet, so please check them out as well.
  • screen grab of module 3 outline for HigherEdCareerCoach.Com's "Placement Partner" Coaching Program

    Screen grab of Module 3 of the Placement Partner Program Moodle Course

    Give the gift of coaching. I am opening a job seeker group for spring.  I am offering first spots to people on my mailing lists, so sign up here to get information. There will be a limited number of spots for this program, because I want to offer members a quality experience and to give them personal attention, so list members get first crack. If there are available spaces in January, they will be opened up to the general public.There will be three levels of participation:

    • Value Edition: Online group with self-paced activities and forum discussions ($180 for 6 months access. You must register for this option to be offered the opportunity to upgrade to either of the other levels. The first five modules of this 26-module program are now live and available for those who are ready to get started with their exploration and planning over the holiday break. The rest will go live in sometime in early January.)
    • Standard Edition: Online group, plus free access to webinars and 2 1-on-1 meetings for resume assistance and mock interview practice, and e-mail coaching through the duration of your enrollment($300-with the option of paying for the upgrade all  at once or in 6 monthly installments.)
    • Personalized Edition: All of the above, plus 6 additional coaching sessions. ($500-with the option to pay for the upgrade all at once or in 6 monthly installments.)
  • If you are looking just for 1-on-1 coaching, my rates for one-on-one coaching are reasonable, and depend on the length of the session. If you’re interested in 1-on-1 coaching, visit my public calendar to schedule a free initial consultation. There is no obligation to purchase anything. We’ll talk about what you are looking for in a coach. I will tell you a bit about my coaching methods and business practices, and we’ll discuss the going rates for the services that interest you. If you like, I will even give you a couple of other resources to check out. Every job seeker has different needs and the “fit” between coach and client is just as important as “fit” is to landing the right job. So the consultation will be an opportunity for both of us to assess whether we might be able to work together on your job search.
  • Or you can buy a gift certificate (that can be used at my webstore toward any of the programs above, or 1-on-1 coaching, or other products and services to be offered soon, including e-books, webinars, and job-seeker tools and resources.

    Whatever you end up getting your friends, your loved ones, or yourself, I wish you the best this holiday season, and good luck in your job search!

    Photo of Sean Cook

    Sean Cook Higher Ed Career Coach

    Sean Cook is a certified Life Purpose and Career Coach based in Athens, GA, and owner of Cook Coaching & Consulting, the publisher of HigherEdCareerCoach.Com and HigherEdLifeCoach.Com.
    Through his practice, Cook assists higher education professionals and persons looking to transition into administrative and faculty positions in academia. He also coaches college students and their parents through the difficult transitions that come with college.

BreakDrink Conference Today and Tomorrow! Plus, information on the "Placement Partner" program

I am glad to be presenting on Monday at 1 pm CST/2 pm EST at the BreakDrink free fall conference. The topic will be “Mastering the Job Interview,” and it’s about getting in the right mindset to prepare for your job interview. An extended version of this presentation (and others like it) will be part of the Placement Partner hybrid coaching program that I am opening up shortly and that will continue through May.

This program is a “hybrid” mini-course for higher ed job seekers. Split into 25 sections, this program begins in December and goes through May, the traditional season for academic hiring for the upcoming academic year. There are self-paced activities that you can go through on your own on a Moodle group, and a forum where you can share your questions and ideas with other higher ed job seekers. You can add on webinars, resume coaching and assistance, e-mail coaching and one-on-one coaching.

There are three levels of participation:

  • Value edition-Moodle activities, plus occasional free online chats and call-in group coaching.
  • Standard edition-Everything in the Value edition, plus free admission to some webinars on job search and career-planning topics. (Value edition members can pay for those webinars they would like to attend.) Plus 2 sessions of online resume coaching and assistance, and e-mail coaching. ($300 for 180 days of access)
  • Personalized edition: Includes everything in the standard package, plus 6 sessions of 1-on-1 coaching between enrollment and the end of May. ($500 for 180 days of access.)

The Moodle group is shared between all levels of seekers, and the “Value Edition” is offered at the base price ($180). Users get access to the site for 180 days ($1/day).

To upgrade to the standard edition or personalized edition, participants will be given the options to add these on after registering for the Value edition. Just go to the “Overview of the Placement Partner Coaching Program” and subscribe using the PayPal buttons for the other editions. For upgrades, you have the choice to pay the entire amount, or to spread it out over 6 installments.

Tickets to the webinars will be issued as they are scheduled to participants in the Standard and Personalized editions, and members of the value edition will be offered the opportunity to purchase tickets to the webinars before sales are opened to the general public.

Please contact me at if you have any questions.

Job Search: Part Deux

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

John Mayo, Area Coordinator, Western New England College

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

Feel free to follow him on Twitter (@jmayojr) and check out his personal blog (

#JobHunt No.11

Hey readers, it’s been awhile! My last #JobHunt entry was about re-entering the job search: handling the rejection of round one and keeping your spirits up for round two. I am happy to say that this is the last blog I will ever write that can be tagged with “#JobHunt,” as I have officially accepted my first full-time position!

I feel like I need to quote the Grateful Dead here – “What a long, strange trip it’s been.” What started last January with the first postings showing up on the OPE and TPE websites has finally ended in early June with a job offer and an acceptance.

And I couldn’t be happier. I found a position that, although it’s not in my top choice for geographic area, is probably a better fit for me than anything I applied for in round one. It just took me five months of interviews, rejections, campus visits, phone calls, parking lot pep talks, and intense one-on-one time with HigherEdJobs to realize what I was looking for and how to get it.

I found a position that is half Residence Life and half Student Activities, which is perfect for my already varied background in Student Affairs. I get to work with a variety of students in a lot of different ways. I’ve met some of my future coworkers, and that was a major part of my thought process when making the decision: Could I see myself hanging out with these people? That’s very important to me when I realize I’ll be moving over 1000 miles away from home.

My biggest piece of advice to those who will be job hunting next year: Use your resources! There are so many people in the field willing to help out, by looking over a resume, sharing a job posting, helping your formulate answers to common questions, and sending you funny text messages when you visit campuses to keep you calm. Not just professionals – some of your biggest support will come from other grad students who are also out searching. You’re all in the same boat, and it’s nice to know you’re not out in the job search sea alone! Plus, the thought of sharing a high-five when you all connect at a conference is a great motivator.

(And if you ever get the chance to blog about your experiences – whether for a website or just for yourself – do it! It’s a nice way to think through a lot of things related to the job search, without having to actually search.)

I talked a lot in my first entry about finding the perfect job, but that even working on a tropical island means having to deal with some jellyfish. I know there will probably be some jellyfish to deal with in my first year, but I’m looking forward to getting started in my new position. There’s a lot to learn, and I’m excited to take all my knowledge and experience from grad school and see how it works in the real world. It may not be a tropical paradise, but I’m looking forward to a lot of sunny days!

Though this is my last entry in the #JobHunt series, don’t rule out me returning now and then to blog about my first year as a professional in the field. I’m sure there are many more stories, revelations, and interesting tales to come. To everyone who has followed along my job search from the beginning – thank you! I really couldn’t have done it without all the kind words and supportive messages! Thank you!

Shannon Healy

Shannon Healy

Shannon Healy is a new student affairs professional.

(Editor’s note: I’d say more, but she forgot to tell me where! But you will definitely hear more from her in the future, as I do hope to have her blog about her first year as a professional. In the meantime, I am sure she’ll eventually tell her vast Twitter following. Or maybe she could just post a comment below.)

What to Expect: Residence Life Interviews at a Large University (Penn State)

I designed this great logo when I worked at Penn State!

If you are a regular reader, you know that I spent just over 14 years at Penn State, mostly working for Residence Life. So when I thought about doing a series on what to expect at different types of institutions and for different Student Affairs roles, it made sense to me to start with what I know best.

So I invited Cecie Eastman, Coordinator of Planning and Special Projects for the Office of Residence Life at Penn State, to talk with me for my BlogTalkRadio show about the typical interview experience at Penn State.

I had a teleconference call with her and recorded it, mixed it down using Garageband, and uploaded segments to my BTR account. It’s taken a little longer than I had hoped to find time to complete the segments and get them up, so as I write this, I am waiting for my show window to open up so I can basically run the switchboard and play the pre-recorded segments. You should be able to listen to the show using the BTR player widget on this blog, or on my BTR page.

The show is 30 minutes and the interview is split into two segments. It should give candidates going through the job search some ideas about what goes into the interview process for Residence Life positions at a large university, including conference interviews, phone interviews, and the all-important campus interview. Cecie also shares some good advice on following up after the interview, thank you notes, and basic interview and post-interview etiquette.

She was also gracious enough to send along some outlines of a typical campus interview agenda, and samples of communications sent to candidates during the process. For more about Residence Life at Penn State, visit their home page

Interview Agenda for Candidate Jane Doe

.Instructions for invitation-Penn State Residence Life