Using FUNemployment as a Journey to Self-Discovery

Raven Johnson

June 26, 2018

I would like to preface this post by saying that my job search journey may look a lot different from yours, however, I hope that you gain some insight on how to navigate the search process and believe in yourself and your ability. 

It’s interesting. I believe that graduate students in Higher Education/Student Affairs programs are the MOST qualified for a job upon graduation. Our programs are uniquely designed to incorporate “theory to practice”, meaning that we learn all of these great theories that guide our work in the field of Student Affairs and are expected to implement these theories in our graduate assistantship work. Which leads me to my second point...MOST programs require you to have a graduate assistantship. For those of you who do not know what this is, it’s basically a fancy term for “our college/university will pay you pennies and give you a tuition waiver if you work for our university and contribute to the mission and goals of a specific office or department AND you will be fully prepared to enter into the workforce with all rights, privileges, honors appertaining thereto in consideration of the satisfactory completion of the graduate assistantship and academic requirements of the faculty of your program”.  As a graduate student, we are positioned to be paraprofessionals, giving our all to planning programs, conducting assessment, advising and supervising students as well as being a resource and advocate for our students. I had an amazing graduate assistantship experience in which I was able to develop new programs, and be an integral part of my office. I took advantage of any volunteer opportunities, internships, etc. I also had really great supervisors! 

Being a paraprofessional equips us with the tools needed to succeed in the field. Therefore, when it is time to beginning the job search, we truly believe that we are uniquely qualified to obtain a position quickly and efficiently, so when we do not get a job right out of graduate school, we tend to feel defeated or less than. I want to let you know that there is a light at the end of the job search tunnel! Let me share my job search journey with you:

I graduated on May 6, 2017 with a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction, College Student Affairs from the University of South Florida. While I had the distinct opportunity to work under one of my mentors for a little while, I accepted a full-time position, with benefits and all of those other things I do not understand, on November 15, 2017 with a start date of January 2, 2018. This means, if you understand simple arithmetic, that I did not start this position for about 241 days after graduation. Now that all of that math is behind us (I am in student affairs for a reason), let’s discuss those grueling 7 or so months that lead to this.

If you ask any of my cohort members, I was super excited to be FUNemployed and was in no rush to find a job. I was extremely uninterested in any of the stress that others were facing about the job search and exceptionally unbothered by the fact that I did not have a job lined up after graduation. I had saved money that I thought would last me through the summer (because I just knew I would have a job by July 1). I had a few interviews and an on-campus interview lined up when I left, so I knew one of those was the one. Wrong. I remember getting a call from the director from my second on-campus interview, just knowing that they would say I got it. I was sitting in my car in an empty parking lot, crying about heartbreak (you know, so normal), and then my phone rang. I answered it thinking, “This is it! This is a sign from GOD that it’s my time to start over with a new life, in a new city with new people and a new attitude!” Nope, I was rejected. After two failed on campuses, and depleting my savings, my entire world collapsed before my eyes...or so I thought. I was not used to rejection, especially in the past two years, since I was thriving in graduate school and “living my best life” as us millennials like to say. I thought my extensive resume, experience and “Woo” Strength would certainly get me a job in no time! Well, that certainly wasn’t the case, and although things got tough, this was one of the most developmental times of my life. I definitely began a journey of self-discovery! Below, I have provided some tips to using this time wisely. In addition, I am providing some links to books, podcasts, apps and articles that helped me make the most of my time of self-discovery

Tips & Tricks:

  1. Humble Yourself. There are about 12,000 student affairs jobs open with about double that in the amount of students graduating from student affairs programs. While I know you are amazingly qualified for all positions you applied for, there may be someone else that is more qualified at that time. 
  2. Save. It may be a little late in the game, but I saved money before graduation in order to prepare myself for FUNemployment. If you do not currently have a job, try finding a temporary position at a retail store, Postmates, Uber, or maybe a waitress. While these are not ideal for Masters-holding professionals, it is a part of the humbling process for sure!
  3. Invest in yourself. During my unemployment, I went for many walks, read a few books and really got to know and understand myself, my wants and needs. These realizations were for my personal and professional growth and honestly helped me perform a lot better in interviews. 
  4. Stay in touch with your “board of directors”. I have amazing mentors and previous supervisors who pour into me constantly. When I was feeling down about the search, I could call them to vent and gain good insight on my next steps. I spent a lot of time in my undergraduate Fraternity & Sorority life office, filling in applications and participating in mock interviews with the staff. Use your people! 
  5. Make a Google Drive (or some type of share drive) to keep track of all of the places you are applying or have applied. Each folder should contain the job description, resume you are using for that particular job, cover letter, and notes from phone/on-campus interviews. Then, make another folder called “Declined” and add all of the places you have been denied! I have found this to be so helpful in my search as I was able to go back and see what mistakes I may have made and not repeat them. I shared this folder with my mentors and other colleagues so that have easy access to what my search is looking like when I ask for help. Transparency is KEY! I am happy to share my folder with you.
  6. Know your worth. It is very common for us to just take a job out of desperation, whatever it may be. You worked really hard to obtain your Master’s degree, so you should also work hard to obtain the best position. It may be tempting to take a full-time desk job at a doctor’s office, but I encourage you to stay the course!

Resources...because life (and adulting) is hard:

●     Tia Mowry’s Cookbook

●     The Untethered Soul 

●     The Power of NOW

●     Byrd Career Consulting

●     Oprah’s Supersoul Conversations 

●     Deep Breathing for Stress Management

●     It Had to Happen Sermon by Steven Furtick

●     Dysfunction Comfort Sermon by Steven Furtick

●     Yoga with Adrienne 

●     Headspace App

●     Side Hustle Pro Podcast

Raven Johnson (she/her/hers) is the Coordinator for Student Leadership Program at the University of West Georgia. Raven is involved with NPGS’ conference committee with NASPA. She enjoys long walks, reading blogs and books, watching Netflix, and Cafe Bustelo coffee. She can be reached at [email protected]

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