The Fit, Failure & Chance

So, I’ve fallen off the bandwagon of blogging for the last few months. My plan is to get back into it, and keep going. I stopped writing right before the job-search started. I did this to follow suit, I think. My cohort went into the, “If I don’t talk about it, it almost doesn’t exist,” mode for job search in order to lessen drama. As if you don’t talk about your search, there will be less drama in the world. Seems like a silly concept, but I subscribed to the theory at the time. Through March and various conferences, I almost only spoke about my search process with close friends and professional staff that I trusted. Obviously, my family rarely knew how to help—with my brother being a college recruiter for a Fortune 100 company and my mom in corporate life as well. Corporate and Education use completely different tactics in recruiting and selecting for entry-level positions. If you ask me, we have it pretty easy in the Education/Student Affairs world.

Student Affairs people basically want what’s best for everyone, but most of the time there’s still cohort rivalry. Who gets the first on-campus interview, the first job-offer, the most interviews at TPE, the best salary or an offer from the most prestigious school is all a part of the rivalry–almost like a reality TV show. If you don’t get offered a rose, you’re out of the process and you failed at your task to make the employer fall madly in love with you. Do not pass go; do not collect $200.

As part of a recent Student Affairs graduate cohort, the over achievers we are, it does not feel good to fail. Now that I’ve stated the obvious, let me explain my version of “fail.” Failure is in the eye of the beholder. Yes, it’s all about perception. My perception of failure is moving in with my parents after graduation and not being able to find a job, to watch my friends and fellow cohort members move onto wonderful adventures without me and struggle at getting employers to give me a chance  without meeting me first. I had to accept this harsh reality in May. I moved from my graduate school in South Carolina to my mom’s place in Florida. I have put in countless number of applications since March, and have found that there are several other applicants that “better fit” what the position needs.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. It’s the “I want to help” gene we all have in order to love our profession so much: “Do you want me to check your resume?” “Maybe go to a career center and practice interviewing.” “What kind of information are you putting in your cover letter?”–All valid points. At the risk of sounding pompous, I believe my issues are a little beyond these points.

After searching for 4-5 months, asking for feedback from employers and having a recruitment & selection GA position for the past 2 years, you start to pick up certain tactics. Sometimes you never get a response—employers are busy people! Sometimes all you get is an email stating that they “picked someone else with a better fit.” I’ve seen both sides of the employer/candidate relationship, and have a little more empathy for the employer side than most struggling candidates.

I did not start writing this post to complain or whine about the system. The truth is that I trust the system we have now. Eventually, I will find something. I know I will. I’m not saying that our current system will always work for search processes in the future either. Our environment and society change at the blink of an eye, very similar to technology. We will need to find a more suitable way to find characteristics of candidates to match positions and culture of a department. I’m a great candidate. I work hard, and would never let my talents go to waste. I could “fit” quite a few positions with that description, but fit is in the eye of the beholder. We have such a subjective career—fit is what the one person in the room with the most power/respect thinks.

If you’re searching currently, my message would be to fight that uphill battle. Don’t give up, because when you do.. that’s when those buggy online HR systems win. (We can’t let that happen, or else they’ll take over the interwebs.) If you get knocked down a few times, give yourself some space. Take a trip to a desolate cabin with no cable/internet. Get your mind off things and refocus your energy. Remind yourself why you’re in this, and try a different route.

If you’re an employer, my message is to take a chance on the candidate that doesn’t have 500 hours of direct experience. Find someone that can bring new light and innovation to your office. This is how we, as a profession, will not become stagnant. Various world views with experiences from other functional areas can bring a new fresh breath to your existing culture.

Thank you all for the support, and I plan on kicking butt where ever I get to work.

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7 comments

  1. Great post CM! Resilience is something that no one can teach you. It’s learned via the process. We’ll all be ready with high fives wherever you land.

  2. Great Post! I had the same excat feelings when I went through my job search. I wish you the best of luck on your journey. If you need any advice or help, let me know. You will land somewhere, its all about timing.

  3. Colleen Marquart

    Thanks you two! E: I think I’m getting a whole whopping lesson of resilience. Not that fun, but hopefully that lesson will stick around for quite some time. L: Good to know that there is a sense of normalcy of my feelings, even though no one talks about it. I can see why not many do! I really leaned into a uncomfortable feeling by posting this. Some messages I’m getting in response borderline on pity and sympathy–not easy to take.

  4. Kevin Valliere

    I’m a rising second year SA grad, and a lot of that resonated with me. I love my cohort members and they know that, but especially when they are really good, it’s impossible to not compare. I know the job search is going to be stressful, but if nothing else it’s great just to hear someone else acknowledge the difficulties.

    Thanks.

    • Colleen Marquart

      Thanks so much for your response! I’m really glad that you were able to feel connected to my experiences. If you ever need someone to talk to next year, I’m sure I will have plenty more stories for you. A response like this is what reminds me that not many write/talk about reality. We all need to be more honest in our profession, even though we are pretty keen on sugar-coating. Thanks again, Kevin!

  5. amramos

    Thanks for your thoughts, I am in the same position right now. It seems crazy to me now that the faculty in my program never discussed this limbo time and what to do if you don’t get a job immediately.

    • Colleen Marquart

      Limbo is never fun. I’ve actually found myself flustered after a few No’s from positions that I fell in love with. Certain aspects would be nice to cover before we strike out on our own: some tactics to get us back on track after a no, building stamina throughout your search, or how to brush off defeat. I’d love to hear from cohorts past, but I also realize each year [and person] is different in the search.

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