Keys of Success in Landing a Job in Student Affairs

Tishana Daniel, Mary Rose Saint-Cyr, and Quinneka Lee

May 22, 2017

This blog showcases advice from three black women who formed a bond while attending graduate school and through perseverance found their niche in student affairs.

Tishana’s Journey

During my last semester of graduate school, in the month of January, is when I started to apply for jobs. This process was by far an intense one. It consisted of being focused, organized and consistent. I was seeking a position in the areas of TRIO, Multicultural Affairs, and/or Leadership, non-traditional careers in higher ed compared to residence life. I was open to relocating so I applied for positions in many states in addition to attending NASPA’s Placement Exchange.

It was not until several months later, I secured a job in higher education. In the interim, I worked seasonally as a clerk at Macy’s. I felt ashamed to work there knowing that I worked hard to earn a Master’s degree. I kept applying and looked for ways to motivate myself often turning to pray and family support. By the way, shout out to my family for always being a constant support and holding me down. I would not be where I am without them. I narrowed my search to New York State and accepted a job as program coordinator of a program called At Home in College.

Words of Advice: Experience and networking is key to landing your ideal job! Gain experience from the start. Seek an assistantship or internship in the field. These kinds of opportunities can allow you to learn new skills, explore various areas in higher education, decipher among your likes and dislikes in job responsibilities, and provide financial benefits for tuition and/or your wallet; hopefully, making you a more profitable candidate for your future job. My advice to anyone seeking a job is to be true to who you are, cherish your value and self. Once that is in place stay motivated, encouraged, and have a strong support system. The rest will take place in its right timing whether or not it is yours.

Tishana Daniel is a STEM Student Manager in the Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) at Queensborough Community College. She supports students holistically by providing personalized advisement and using on-and-off campus resources to guide students towards their academic and career goals. In her spare time, she enjoys volunteering in the boroughs of New York City and traveling to different Caribbean islands.

Mary Rose’s Journey

I will openly admit, I DID NOT have a plan. While in graduate school, I kept an open mind and pursued experiences that aligned with my passion of making a positive impact on underrepresented students of color and other marginalized populations. Like my colleague Tishana, I too was one of a few students in my cohort who did not have a job lined up after graduation. Was I worried? Absolutely! However, I did not let the worries consume me because I knew that I was bound to land a my dream job.

During the fall after graduation, I received several job offers. My initial offers were in residential life. I knew from my previous experiences that I was not interested in a live on position. It was hard to turn down job opportunities because I feared that I might not receive another chance to work in the field. At this point, I was running low on savings and could barely afford to travel to interviews. Shortly after, I secured first job working in a diversity office at a medical school. My position was grant funded and gave me the opportunity to learn more about medical education and co facilitated a STEM pipeline program for underrepresented high school students. In hindsight, I’m glad I didn't allow outside pressure to influence my employment decisions and overall career trajectory.

Words of Advice: Identify key professionals to support you during the job search process. You don’t have to go at it alone. I had the support of former colleagues and mentors who held me accountable during my search. Throughout the years, I've stayed in touch with them through periodic email updates to share stories of my professional journey. Actually, my mentor from high school connected me with a job coach who formerly worked in human resources. During our meetings, we practiced common interview questions, crafted position specific follow up questions, and identified key points of the mission and strategic plan of the hiring department. After those sessions, I felt equipped with the necessary skills to secure a position. If you do not have access to a job coach, check out the career center at your college/university.

Mary Rose Saint-Cyr (@CyredRoses) serves as the UC Postbaccalaureate Consortium Coordinator where she supports underrepresented minorities who have shown interest in pursuing careers in medicine. She considers herself an avid podcaster and novice cook.  During her spare time, you can find her hiking throughout Northern California. 

Quinneka’s Journey

While in graduate school, I focused my energy on being a generalist. I personally could not see myself settling in one area. I knew that most entry-level jobs would be in residence life, I was strategic in making sure I would gain student-staff supervision through residence life. I also knew the importance of going outside of my comfort zone. I took a graduate internship role working with the Senior Women Administrator in athletics focused on alcohol education. I utilized network via social media and national organizations to gain knowledge in areas I was not competent in. My strategic plan assisted me when it came to a national internship and job search the following academic year. During my job search, I interviewed at ACPA and at the Western Placement Exchange. I received an offer and declined the position, which was a surprise to both family and peers. I did not want to feel limited by my search and I did not want to stay in a state where I felt I had grown and showcased my skillset. I wanted to leave New York and venture on my own. I worried for a while, if I was making the right decision. It is important that you listen to yourself and no one else when it comes to following your dreams. Finally, in April of 2012, I received another offer for a private college in Ohio and accepted the position. It is ok to take risks during your job search process, it is ok to dream big, and it is ok to sit in the discomfort of the unknown.

I without a doubt can say that my strategic planning of my experiences led me to where I am today. I agree with my colleagues that being flexible is a benefit, but having the right mindset is important as well. Graduate school may have wanted to break me, but I knew the education provided would allow me the resources to impact and influence others in my community. I reflect on the experience thinking that our graduate program needed us. Our stories, our experiences, the struggles and support because no one else can tell our tale.

Quinneka Lee (@quinnekabeth) serves as the Director of Residence Life at Wayne State College.

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