Why does the Student Affairs Job Search take so long?
Millennia? Years? Months?
If you haven’t been there before, then brace yourself for the dreaded LENGTH of the student affairs job search!
This search (like many job searches in academia) is a long one. On average the student affairs job search takes about 119 days.
But why does the student affairs job search take such a long time? Why does it often feel like the hiring manager or search committee are dragging their feet? The short answer is: plurality.
Stewart (2012) discussed this from the institutional side. Exactly how much information should search committees share with their applicants over the long process? Turns out that revealing too much information might be good for you… but also bad for them.
This means that committees will more often than not keep their feedback to themselves. In fact, the existence of the search committee as a whole is one that depends on one of higher education’s most cherished principles: shared governance.
In the shared governance model, the duty of the job search is shared by multiple individuals. Those individuals form the search committee with a chairperson in charge. This is academia’s dedication to inclusivity as a well as plurality in the job search process.
Reed (2012) indicated three principles that guide search committees: 1. input is a good thing, the more the better, 2. there is a lot of talent out there, and 3. the world is a litigious place; and a process like a search committee helps keep everyone in check.
However, if you’ve ever tried to put together a committee, you know just how hard it is to schedule all members together. So making sure that everyone can weigh in on a particular candidate, interview, or reference can make for daunting task.
The higher education search process directly contrasts the private sector. Here, large companies often employ human resource professionals whose entire jobs are to fill these vacant slots.
However, in higher education, we don’t task a single person for this important duty. That is only trusted to multiple individuals. What we are left with is: the committee.
As such, needing to coordinate feedback, schedules, course loads, programming, calendars, and all of the other responsibilities necessary for running a fully functioning student affairs program can often get in the way of fulfilling this responsibility: conducting the search.
What You Can Do?
The student affairs job search takes forever! So what can you do about it?
Part of dealing with the length of the job search is knowing that the entire search (your search) is a process. There are elements in that process that you can control, and those that you can’t.
Most entry level student affairs professionals become burnt out on the job search because they begin to link their success to someone else’s behavior. This is something that is outside your power that you can’t control. The most common consideration is actually getting a job. But that decision isn’t totally in your control. But there are things that are in your control that will help change your mindset.
One of those aspects is positive thinking. As an example: consider the number of applications, cover letters, and resumes that you send out over a span of several weeks. Not one of them contacted you. Because of that, there are two outcomes here.
You can go the negative route and say “There must be something horrible with me! That’s why I’m not getting any responses!”
Or you can go the positive route: “The more shots I take the more likely I am to hit something!”
The same can be said with getting actual phone screens or on campus interviews. You may be the finalist for numerous job searches but come up short. A negatively oriented person would think that at this rate they are never going to be able to land a position. Whereas a positively oriented person would think “I’m landing all of these interviews, I must be doing something right!”
Getting into a negatively oriented mindset can begin to wear you down. But remember to take care of the basics such as your physical health, social connections, and hobbies you enjoy. Forgetting to take care of these can make you irritable, and send you further down the negativity spiral. Both of those outcomes won’t help you in the long run.
You are never the only person who is out there looking for a job. Thousands of entry level student affairs professionals look for their first position every year. You aren’t the first one to experience this and you won’t be the last!
Remember that the length of the student affairs job search is tied closely to higher education’s oldest principles of plurality and shared governance: many people are asked to weigh in and provide their input on candidates. One day you will be in the same position. This is because institutions want their next hire to be someone that they can all welcome and work with.
The student affairs job search is a process. The outcome is the job. Your orientation is dependent on what you can accomplish today. Not the decision of someone else.
So go into your job search asking yourself “What will I accomplish today?” If you want to send out 2 applications, then so be it. If it is to conduct an informational interview with a director then set it up. If it is to review and edit your resume then start on page one.
It’s about the small wins along the way that will add up to your eventual success.
Block, M. S. (2015). The Student Affairs Job Search. Retrieved October 18, 2018, from https://www.higheredjobs.com/articles/articleDisplay.cfm?ID=669
Cardy, A. (2016). 2 Mindset Changes That'll Make Your Long Job Search a Little Less Stressful. Retrieved October 16, 2018, from https://www.themuse.com/advice/2-mindset-changes-thatll-make-your-long-job-search-a-little-less-stressful
Foss, J. (2015). How to Survive an Endless Job Hunt Without Losing It. Retrieved October 16, 2018, from https://www.themuse.com/advice/how-to-survive-an-endless-job-hunt-without-losing-it
Reed, M. (2012) Why Searches Take So Long | Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved October 16, 2018, from https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/confessions-community-college-dean/why-searches-take-so-long
Stewart, K. E. (2012). What’s Taking Them So Long? Retrieved October 16, 2018, from https://www.chronicle.com/blogs/onhiring/whats-taking-them-so-long/30731