February 12, 2018
Spring is here; graduate students are seeking their first position, and new professionals are looking for a change. As a soon to be graduate myself, the impending process is both exciting and terrifying. My job search is further complicated by being in a dual higher education career relationship.
Dual career searches can be difficult under the best of circumstances, but when one of the people involved works in a live-in position such as a Residence Hall Director, there are additional factors that may need to be considered when searching for the best fit. The following are 5 questions that could deserve exploration during a dual career search.
1) What are the institution’s rules about partners/spouses/significant others?
When my husband and I started his first residence life job search we were only engaged, and many institutions refused to allow me to live with him until we were legally married. Institutions may post in their job description that they allow live-in partners, but without the specific details as to what exactly that means. It’s important to make sure that their policies align with your needs.
2) What is the institution willing to provide your significant other?
While this may sound materialistic, this can be an important factor when determining whether or not an institution will work with your needs. If you, as the staff member receive a full meal plan, but your significant other receives nothing, what does that mean for meal planning, grocery bills, etc. With student loan payments to make, no one wants to turn down a free meal, but eating separately every night isn’t a lot of fun. It may also be important to know whether or not the institution is equipped and able to assist your significant other in the job search process. Do they have community connections or other dual career search help? Some institutions are only used to working with faculty positions and therefore, may not be prepared.
3) Where is the staff apartment located?
Anyone familiar with working in res life knows that privacy in the residence halls can be hit or miss. Looking at the location of the staff apartments in the residence hall can provide crucial information as to the level of comfort both you and your significant other may feel as they go about their day. While we would like to think that relationships are perfect and we will never fight with our partners, the reality is that it’s going to happen. Will the apartment be surrounded by student rooms on all sides, or is the apartment tucked away in a more secluded corner? If your significant other doesn’t work in higher education, being surrounded by college students 24/7 could be overwhelming and a more secluded location may be just the thing to make them feel more at home.
4) How involved does your significant other want to be and/or how involved can they be?
It’s important to have the discussion with your significant other about how involved they want to be with your coworkers and your student staff. It can be really difficult to separate work and home when you live in the place you work, so how much of that are you both comfortable with bringing home? Does your significant other want to get to know your RA’s or attend outings with your coworkers? Or would they like a more traditional set up where work is work, and home is home? It is also important to gauge the culture of the department. It may not be common practice to include significant others in staff events, or it may be expected. You should gauge the level of expectation, as well as what your significant other feels comfortable with, and this can be a great question to ask potential colleagues during casual conversation during the interview process.
5) Will your significant other be working at the same institution?
If your significant other does work in higher education, it may be important to consider whether or not having them working at the same institution. Living-in may lead to uncomfortable situations for them and/or their students depending on their functional area. Students in crisis or students going through the conduct process may not feel comfortable seeing their counselor or conduct mediator every time they step outside their front door. Likewise, it may make it hard for your significant other to disconnect at the end of a hard day knowing their students live all around them. While this can definitely be a struggle for someone working in res life, it comes as a known part of the job and may be a difficult adjustment for someone without that background.
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Louise Cracknell is currently a graduate student at Boston University in the Educational Leadership and Policy Studies: Higher Education Administration program. She loves traveling, craft breweries, collecting vinyl records, and gummy bears.
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