Kelley McCarthyKelley McCarthy is currently a Hall Director at St. Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana. She has been involved in higher education for 3 years now. Kelley is a first-year Student Affairs Professional after graduating from Nova Southeastern University in 2012. Before graduate school, Kelley was a Psychology major with a Leadership minor at The University of Saint Joseph in Connecticut.

I was able to sit down and Skype with Kelley about the job search. Below are some things that Kelley had to say about the questions I asked her.

What should I do before I jump into the job search?

First you need to really know who you are as a person- know what your strengths are as a professional. Understand the strengths and skills sets that you possess.  When looking at the numerous job descriptions know who you are so when you look at the descriptions you know what bests fits with you. Another thing that Kelley told me was that it’s OK to be selective in looking at positions.

One thing that Kelley did that I thought was very helpful was that she printed the positions off, used 3 different high lighters to assess her skills with that position. 1 highlighter was used to highlight skills or tasks she had no experience in, 1 was used for what she had some experience in, while the last was used for what she knew a lot about.

Resumes & Cover Letters are tough to get just ‘right’, what are some pieces of advice you have for grads in the search process?

Although it might not be what you are supposed to do, Kelley used the same cover letter template when applying to institutions and changed around a few sentences to meet the needs of job description.

Also, take the time to proof read your cover letters; you don’t want to send ABC University’s cover letter to XYZ University! It is a common mistake but it could also cost you that interview.

Describe some of the toughest situations you’ve faced in the job search.

Being Claustrophobic, Kelley made note that it wasn’t an issue but rather something she had to prepare herself when waiting in the waiting area for interviews at TPE.  A good friend of hers brought her back to the interviewing area to sit and observe the environment which calmed her anxiety and helped her focus on the interview rather than her surroundings.

Social Media is a powerful tool and people’s perception of who you are and be different than how you view yourself. Kelley learned this lesson the hard way when a professional, who she looked up to, sat her down for coffee one morning to talk about perception.  She asked me to think about how others in the community perceived my words and action on social media? She found out most were negative me.  Her comment took her by surprise.  She sat for a moment to think back on some recent tweets and she could see where this perception was coming from. It is important to be aware of what you tweet and the word choices you make. Everyone sees the world differently.

I’ve received word that I am up for an interview, so what should I be doing to help myself prepare for it?

Make a check list of the institution’s facts-mascot, colors, etc. These interviews are really about getting a sense of which you are as a person and how your personality fits in with the rest of the team. That is why it is important to know who you are as a person and how well you can work with others from different backgrounds  and what  strengths you bring to a team.

On campus- what’s it all about?

The institutions send you a schedule of the day and outlines who you will meet. It can range from, students, professionals from other departments, AVPs, HR etc.

Kelley says to make sure and do your research about the department you’re applying for. Take time to understand their mission statement, if they have one and the institutions mission statement. How does your work ethic and values fit into their mission?  How will you live out their mission? It is also important to    have a few questions for the interviewers, one for each person to ask (about their department, their programs, etc) if you can. This shows you have done your research and understands how their department connects with the department your applying for.

Lastly, ask the students questions too!  Mostly about their experience at the institution and why they choose to attend. They have been preparing just as much for this as you.

When you were going through your job search, what were some resources that you found helpful?

Kelley mentioned that she sent out tweet to see if others had good interview questions she could look at to  get an idea of the variety  of possible questions she could ask. She mentions that Twitter, all around, was a good resource for her to use. New professionals were especially helpful and provided her with a lot of advice.

She talked with professionals she knew that were on search committees to discuss the types of questions that could be asked and get a feel for the overall structure of interviews. Having talked with them she was able to help herself with the interviews that she was going on. Hearing the ‘inside scoop’ enabled Kelley to feel comfortable with the process of interviewing.

What advice would you give to a graduate student who is in the job search?

Kelley says in the end, you are the one searching for your job and accepting that position. Don’t worry about the other cohort members; don’t compare yourself to everyone else because everyone’s search is different.

Start & finish the process as you. Don’t put on a fake persona in the interviews and the jobs you are applying for. Be as authentic as you can.  The interviewers want to see who you are and how you will fit into their team.

You will know when it’s the right fit. It might not jump out at you, but when it’s the right fit…you will know.


I’d like to thank Kelley for her time and help, not only to help me but to you my readers and fellow grad students.

Connect with Kelley via Twitter


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