In no way am I going to sugarcoat that a graduate level summer internship search within student affairs is easy. That being said, you can take the appropriate steps to decrease the stress and increase your chances! Listed below are five simple tips that will help you throughout the process. Before I delve into the steps, I would be remised if I didn’t provide credibility to my own advice. In my four successful student affairs searches (graduate school, NODA, NODA/ACUHO-I, and professional job), I have used these techniques to score some pretty amazing experiences at Florida State, UConn, Becker College, and the University of Arizona.
Tip #1: Plan
With any organized search, such as NODA, ACUHO-I, and NACA, there is a published timeline outlining the search. This means that you know exactly when your deadline to apply is, an employer’s earliest date they can reach out to you to schedule interviews, as well as the first date you can be offered a job (this is a blessing in disguise, especially if you stress out like I do)! You can also plan by researching the dates an employer is expecting a candidate to be on-campus. If you know that your graduate assistantship requires you to be back by early July, don’t apply for an internship that expects a candidate until mid August!
Tip #2: Remain Organized
This is your make it or break it tip! If you do not remain organized throughout your internship search, it will show in an interview and possibly cost you an amazing experience. A trick that I use is to create a drop box, google folder, or anything applicable, in which you will put everything relating to that position in its respective folder. For example, I would put the job description, resume (yes, sometimes it is good to have position specific resumes), and a 1-2 page document of notes that I have researched. This 1-2 page document was my saving grace throughout my searches. I would keep mission statements, position timelines, facts about the department/institution, and so much more. If you would like a sample copy, please email me!
Tip #3: Be Prepared
While going through the internship search, it is great to know what types of questions and what venue of interview the employer has chosen. Be prepared to answer any question regarding the position, department, mission, values, or even off the wall questions like “what is your favorite fruit?” This is where preparation comes into play. Tip #3 definitely builds off of Tip #2, but adding an extra layer. If you have a phone interview, be sure not to plan this interview in your office in a residence hall. Believe it or not, an employer can definitely hear the running and screaming of loud residents. If you have a skype interview, be sure to dress appropriately (yes that means business professional) and to ensure that your background is simple, not busy. A pro-tip is to always have a white (or even eggshell – you’re welcome) wall as your background!
Tip #4: Make Improvements
While NODA, ACUHO-I, and NACA related internships can be draining with the amount of interviews you are going through, on top of school and GA work, there is a bright side! Let’s say that you are all set for your first of many interviews and completely blow it. Don’t let yourself get bogged down. Pick your head up and make improvements for the next interview. If your Wi-Fi went out during your interview, you should probably find a new place on or off campus, maybe try the Career Center! If you were stumped by a question about student development theories, maybe go and review some pertinent theories to better assist in your next interview. If you just weren’t proud of your answers, call up some colleagues or your supervisor to run a Q&A session with you and have them provide constructive feedback.
Tip #5: Don’t Give Up
No matter what happens in the interviews, DO NOT give up. The published deadline for employers to reach out is the earliest they are able to, not the last. If you don’t get a call immediately when the timeline says, that doesn’t mean you aren’t getting a position. When going through the NODA process in 2015, I had my heart set on a school near Boston. I waited to hear from them for three days before I finally heard something. During those three days, Boston saw a massive blizzard that kept them out of the office and unable to confer on whom the top candidate was. Luckily, I kept my hope alive and was awarded the position. Stay positive and follow-up with schools if necessary. Send a follow-up email to inquire as to where you stand in their process.
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Matthew Linton is currently a Community Director in the Residence Life departments at the University of Arizona. He loves all things Disney, traveling the world, spending time with his husband, and raising his Siberian Husky puppy. Matthew can be reached at email@example.com.