My seventh @SAFirstYears blog post – published date of 3/6/2012:
One year ago today, I arrived in Philadelphia with three good friends, all crammed into a car full of our suits, shoes, interview materials, and snacks galore.
As this blog is geared towards first year professionals (and graduate students who will becoming first year professionals oh so shortly), I feel it is only appropriate to reflect on my TPE (The Placement Exchange) journey one year ago, and offer a few tidbits of advice. I, by no means, consider myself a job searching expert, and I generally am not one to offer advice unsolicited. However, I got a job, so I figure I can say a few things.
To all the graduate students searching, I could say:
“Do your research on each institution.”
“Wear clothes that fit. Don’t wear clothes that are too tight or too big.”
“Wear classy shoes. Don’t wear bad (uncomfortable, unsightly) shoes.”
“Be careful what you say in an elevator… or in the waiting area… or at the restaurant a block from the convention center.”
But, I am going to focus on a few other concepts. Yes, the thoughts above are good. But hopefully your mentors have already been coaching you with those basics before TPE. If not, well then there you go.
Here’s my advice.
Know what you want.
Think about your goals. Will this position be able to fulfill those goals? If you are not quite sure (as I alluded in my last post), do some thinking. Employers are going to ask. Even if you don’t know, there are ways to phrase it to make you answer prepared and thoughtful.
You have to fit with them, but they have to fit with you.
Employers are not the only ones doing interviews. You are also interviewing them. Ask questions about things that matter to you. If you don’t ask, then you won’t know until it’s too late.
The temptation to jump at the first (or second, third, forth, and fifth) on-campus interview offer will be there. It’s awesome to know someone is interested in you. But are you truly interested?: Are you interested in the institution, in the department, in the professional staff, in the student body, and in the location? If you know after the first interview that you aren’t interested, don’t accept the on-campus offer. It’s not worth it. (On-campus interviews are time consuming, and may require personal expenditures from you.)
Or maybe you thought it was a good fit after your TPE or phone interview, but then you realize it definitely is NOT after your on-campus. Even if it is your ONLY job offer (right now) and they need an answer before other institutions get back to you about your status, don’t accept it. This could mean being in limbo for a few weeks (yes, stressful), but it’s NOT WORTH IT.
Ultimately, make sure you’ll be happy.
Only you know what can make you truly happy. If you are loving an institution, but also have an uneasy feeling about it: maybe it’s just not meant to be. Ask more questions, do more research. We are all meant to end up at the right place. (This includes other people searching. I promise they are looking for a different combination of things than you.) Trust your intuition. It wins, every time.
Happy searching! And good luck!