Securing the Bag: Tips for Beginning the Job Search Process

Dear Sista Friend,

This time last year I was hyping myself up about starting my job search.  During my last year of graduate school, “the search” was all that anyone ever really cared to discuss.  The “if, when, and where” Faith would find a job. They did not bother to ask me how I was doing or how I was feeling….for some reason, they were more concerned with where I had plans of applying to, what kind of jobs I was looking for and how they could be “supportive” (I was grateful, but some of the advice was unsolicited.). My job search process had many layers, so I thought that I would share my successes and roadblocks during my journey.  I have a lot of thoughts on this, so definitely check back in as there will be a series of posts related to this topic.

Starting the job search really required me to be introspective about what I wanted out of life.  I realized that I had to have a picture of what I wanted my life to look like…even just three years out –I had to make plans. My masters degree is in Higher Education and Student Affairs, and my assistantship for two years was spent working in a live-in position in university housing.  The field of student affairs is so large; there are many different sectors that I could have potentially entered into as a new professional, which required me to assess what I wanted my future to look like.  If you know me, you know that any type of life planning is difficult for me. As time drew closer, I had to reckon with the possibility of working in residence life full time (something I had been against since undergrad….that’s a story for a different time), or branching out into something different.

Before revamping your resume, before brushing off your cover letter and reaching out to your references, here are some things worth considering and some questions you may want to ask yourself:

What are your non negotiables?

What is important to you? This can be a hard self assessment, but I believe that it is an important one. In looking into your professional growth, what things are you willing to accept and what things are off limits? What are your non- negotiables? I am a city girl and have lived in Houston all of my life, then I relocated to Dallas for undergrad and Columbus, Ohio for graduate school (don’t believe the hype, Columbus is very much a city). There is no way that I could live in a small or rural area and be happy. I interviewed at institutions that were located in off-the-grid places in an attempt at challenging myself but the minute I walked on campus, I knew that I could not work there.

Do some research about jobs in your field to establish what realistic compensation looks like for your education and work experience…do not be tricked into settling for less when you are worth more. Evaluate what you believe is a reasonable time commitment and what you value in an institution and a department. For example, if diversity is important to you, do not settle for a place that has no interest in hiring diverse people or that is not commited to doing diversity work.

Who are your people? Find your own Personal Board of Directors.

When I was job searching, everyone came out of the woodwork to give tips and tricks on what I should be doing.  For the most part, people’s advice was much appreciated but there came a point where I started listening to everyone else’s voice and not my own. I created my own personal board of directors! These are the type of people that were on my team to help me succeed:

Professional Experts

As a new professional, I knew that I did not have it all together.  I knew that when it came down to understanding what experiences I needed to have, how to stand out in an interview or how to negotiate salary and job expectations, I would need extra support.  This is where my mentors came in.  They were experienced and had been in my shoes before and could help me better understand how to navigate the job search process because of their prior success. They understood many of the intricacies that I did not fully think about or understand.  When starting the job search process,  identify people who have taken a similar journey,hold a position that you hope to obtain, and lean on them for their insight and guidance.

Application Reviewers

Never submit an application without the honest feedback of someone that you trust.  Writing resumes and cover letters often feels like a never ending task in the job search. Have a few trusted friends and mentors in rotation who are willing to read over your resume and application. With this, know that people have different expectations and experiences with how they believe resumes and cover letters should look — assess what works for you and your profession and go with that.

Motivators & Cheerleaders

My personal board also consisted of my motivators and cheerleaders.  Although they did not fully understand my job search process, when things got tough I knew that I could go to them to lift my spirit. Don’t underestimate the stress that comes with the job search. Like most things, you need people who are going to remind you that things will work out in your favor..

Silence Your Fears

When you are exploring the possibility of obtaining a new job or entering a new profession, self doubt and/or the imposter syndrome can often be ever present and discouraging.  Questions that can ring loudly: What if I am not qualified enough? What if my experiences aren’t what they are looking for? How will I survive in new city or new environment? Embarking on a new journey can be both scary and fulfilling. Submit the application. Go on the job interview. Talk to other employees.  Never count yourself out (my friends say “don’t self-select out); your potential may be exactly what an organization is looking for and you may never know if you don’t take the first step. Think again about your non-negotiables and evaluate if you are operating out of fear or faith — it makes the difference.

I wish you the best of luck on your job search and I hope these tips are helpful!

Your Sista Friend,



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