Note: This blog post was originally published back in March 2013 during my Job Search Conversation blog series. Tonight I was going back to read the words of these fine Higher Education professionals and I noticed something…the word DRAFT and Preston’s name. Confused to clicked away and realized this post was no longer live. So now I bring to you my interview with Preston! (Please check out my other interviews here)

Meet Preston:

Preston Ramsey is a Higher Education professional. He has been involved in higher education for a total of four years (2 as a graduate student and 2 as a graduate professional).

He attended Bowling Green State University for undergrad where he studied Human Development and Family Studies.

I was able to have a Skype (and phone due to difficulties) conversation with Preston about the job search. Below are some things that he had to say about the questions I asked.

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

Know Yourself

Something that I wish someone had helped me with before I began my job search was this idea of knowing myself and knowing exactly what I was looking for in a position. For the longest time, I was casting a pretty large net and looking for anything I could catch, so long as it was student affairs/student life related. This was a great strategy – or so it seemed – but it wasn’t really effective. It wasn’t until I was in my current position for nearly a year when my supervisor asked point-blank to list three content areas in which I was interested and/or seeking a position. Adopting this approach has helped my search remain focused and controlled.

Do Your Homework

Homework for class stinks sometimes, but it has to get done. It can be the same with the job search. While it’s significantly different, it is of great benefit to do your background homework when looking at and applying for jobs – even more so if you get an on-campus interview or the job offer itself. Knowing the environment, the campus, the people with whom you would be working – just a few of the pieces of the job search puzzle which are integral to knowing whether or not a particular position is the right one.

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

Your resume will (most likely) never be 100% finished. It is a living document that should constantly be evolving.  Same with your cover letters. Each pair (cover letter and resume) should reflect the position for which you are applying. It conveys the mindset that you are actually putting thought into your application, rather than utilizing the same basic framework for every available position. Additionally, avoid simply re-stating your resume in your cover letter. They are two separate documents for a reason. Instead, ensure that you have a handle of what the employer is seeking and share how you either A) have done the job or something similar in the past OR B) will accomplish these tasks when you are hired. Again, this shows initiative, unique train of thought, and a genuine interest in the position.

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

Prep EVERYTHING

It sounds cliché, but it really is the best advice I can give here. The search committee knows what they are looking for – now it is up to you to show that you can deliver. The best way to do this is to be as prepared as possible before you walk in (or answer the call if over the phone/Skype). Think of any possible question you could get asked during the interview – whether it relates to your resume or not – and be prepared. Nothing is worse than going into an interview with little to no prep work to support you. Plus, the interviewer can tell if you’ve done your prep work or not, so it is a plus for you do just buckle down, prep as best you can, and show that you’re ready.

On campus- what’s it all about?

The on-campus interview is show time. This is their house, their rules, but it’s your stage. The spotlight is on you ALL day. This is your opportunity to not only win over your potential future employer and co-workers, but also future students and other connections on campus with whom you might work closely with in the future. I might sound like a broken record at this point, but doing your background research (doing your homework) is absolutely essential. Know the people you will interact with as best as you possibly can before arriving on campus. Take notes about things you learn about different individuals and incorporate those things into conversations where applicable. Be aware of your surroundings – the campus environment and surrounding community. Find out the pros and cons about campus – understanding that you might find out more pros than cons. Remember, they’re trying to sell their campus to you just as much as you are trying to convince them that you’re the best person for the job.

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

I would say that I’ve encountered two significant challenges during the search that ultimately led to my current position. The first of which involves fellow job searchers and applying for the same openings. Yes, this will happen, but it does not automatically mean that you and your colleague(s) should automatically cease all contact. Rather than have it as an elephant in the room, embrace it and utilize this opportunity to show support. Your colleague(s) will appreciate it and will likely show support in return. Even if at the end of the day it’s still business, there’s no reason why it should jeopardize your relationship.

The second significantly difficult situation I faced during my job search was remaining positive. I was searching for nearly a year and a half and there were MANY days when I wanted to just throw in the towel and give up. All the other members of my cohort had landed jobs except me – and within a relatively decent timeframe. So, how was I able to push forward despite the on-going setbacks? First, I was fortunate to have an amazing support system of family, friends, etc. Without this support, I probably would have inevitably given up. Secondly, I remained motivated by my drive to land that first “big gig”. Ultimately, I made it to the “big show” and those experiences that have led me here have also helped shaped my professional experience.

What are some resources you found helpful that others might as well?

Don’t be afraid to talk with professionals and/or other job seekers to gain insight or advice on how to better yourself. When it is all said and done, we’re all on the same team – working together to enhance the collegiate student experience.

Set-up custom job search agents on sites such as HigherEdJobs.com and Chronicle.com. These are the two sites I frequented regularly during my search and still serve as my go-to when I look to see what positions are out there.

If your institution(s) offer career assistance to alumni – USE IT! You would be surprised how many resources go unused because people either A) don’t know that they are available or B) are unsure how to approach getting assistance.

What advice would you give to a grad student who is in the job search:

In addition to all of the above, just be you. Believe it or not, employers are people too. They don’t want a robot or a “yes person”. Employers are looking for someone who will be a good fit and can/will get the job done. Be yourself and share with the potential employer how you will do just that.

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