What do you need to do to prepare for the next job, after you get your first? I share three tips on what to do to help you prepare for your NEXT job after you land the first! Part of the First Gen Pros Series.
Readers of the blog were recently asked to recommend topics to explore. This topic is from Beth, who asked to read more about how to prepare for your next career move after you land your first job. The first part explores the top three things that I have found that will help you in your next career move. The next part will explore how to manage a career change if you leave Student Affairs.
For a first generation professional, the job search process is completely fraught with the unknown. You need to learn how to network, highlight strengths in an office environment you’ve never known before, figure out the changing interviews and the vacuum of information after each campus visit. Once you land that first job, you think it’s going to be okay.
Until you realize that you have no idea how to get the next job. And the fear and anxiety start again.
Like Alexis, I often wondered what was happening to me when I saw all my friends advancing in their careers when I wasn’t.
I know this is what happened to me after landing my first real post-masters degree job. I wasn’t sure how my friends in the field were going about finding assistant director or associate director roles. No one had ever talked to me about tailoring my professional development to land the next job. And I wasn’t working for an entirely supportive supervisor who was going to guide me through any sort of next-steps process.
Ultimately I was able to figure out what I needed to do next. It wasn’t an easy process to figure out alone, so I wouldn’t recommend that immediately! And I believe these these tips can help any first generation professional looking to advance within the student affairs field.
Three Top Tips for Landing the Next Job as a New Professional
I wrote about using a professional development plan to help you level-up to the next job. I believe that the professional development plan is the cornerstone of any personal goals you have for your professional development. But there are three specific things I think you should do to advance your career on your own terms
Use Your Network
For the first three years I was a member of a national student affairs association, I focused solely on improving my work with students. I believed this was the best use of my time, especially if the institution was paying for my membership.
Boy, was I wrong.
It wasn’t until I began attending the annual conventions and focusing on what I could gain professionally that I began to view my membership differently. My professional colleagues, some doing the work I was doing, became a great sounding board for me. I could be transparent with them about what I wanted to do. Or what I needed to do. I could listen to their feedback and put some of their work into action on my own campus. When we were job-searching, we often shared what we learned in our own interviews to help each other out for their own interviews.
Even though my peers were often competition for jobs I was applying form we believed we were stronger helping each other like family. Twenty years later, we are still doing the same level of support.
When I began to see that my peers were not my competition, but were instead people who would tell me the truth, I began to learn that developing a network of professionals was only going to help me. How it helped me students was important, but I could only improve in my work with students when I focused on what I was doing to improve myself.
I encourage any reader to really look at how transparent you are among your professional peers. Do they know and understand what you want and need professionally? Or are you only presenting a ‘perfect’ version of yourself to them? Ask yourself what more you could share with your peers in your professional network and then do it!
Ask Yourself Critical Questions
After working in multicultural education for five years, and knowing my final year was going to be at the last at the college, I had to ask myself many critical questions. And I mean I had to dig deep for the answers.
Was I ready for an assistant director role?
Did I want to continue specializing in a single department model professionally?
Did I really want to stay working in that department? Or would I be willing to move across the country (again) for a job?
These moments of self-reflection, asking myself tough questions, were important for me and my career development.
While starting this blog, I have had to reflect on these questions often. Revisiting them fifteen years later doesn’t make it any easier to think about. I felt scared I would never find work again. Moving across the country would cost money I didn’t have. I now had a little brother living with me to worry about. And yet, I knew that staying in that city and even working at the college was not an option for me. Not if I wanted to value my self-respect and integrity as a professional.
In asking myself tough questions, I began to own my own professional narrative. I knew what I wanted because I put the time into looking at my options. For most of my career, I had allowed the environment to determine what I achieved. Or what I was worth. But once I began to own the narrative, I felt my confidence on myself matching what I was worth.
Be Direct and Know Your Dealbreaker
When I worked at the next college, I thought I would be there for years. I learned a great deal about myself professionally, especially what I was capable of achieving when I focused my professional plans with my professional achievements. It was a great place to work.
Until it wasn’t.
I chronicled this institution in a blog post about institutional politics. I won’t re-hash the situations I outlined previously but I will give some background on when I knew it was time to move on.
Seriously I can’t improve on Cher if I tried. It’s important to know why you want to move on and what your deal-breaker is to know when to move on.
By my final year working at the college, I had worked in higher education for over ten years. I had worked in several departments and sometimes did this simultaneously. In my assessment of the division, I knew the division needed a director of first year programs to coordinate half of the work I did if the institution wanted to advance its agenda.
So I asked for a re-alignment of my position with a new title. And I was told no.
Lesson Learned: Sometimes It’s Not All About You
But being told no had nothing to do with my assessment. Actually, it had everything to do with the institutional politics that surrounded me. And in that moment I realized that the work I did would never to be evaluated fairly that benefitted me. It would always benefit the highest person in the organization, even if it meant personal sacrifice. I outlined the dealbreaker in the institutional politics post.
Personally, I believe that staying in a work environment that doesn’t value you or your skills is going to be worse than jumping into something unknown. I felt grateful I had a Plan B, by going to graduate school. But for others, it might be a great time to evaluate what your Plan B options. I’ll go more in depth in the following post.
Continue the Conversation
We all need different things to happen in our lives in order to level up our careers. For some, it’s learning how to characterize strengths. For others, it could be learning how to self-advocate and negotiate for a better title or pay. Do you need some help figuring out what you need to do?
I have worked with mid-level career professionals for nearly ten years, helping them reconsider their strengths and ways to learn new skills. I can review your resume and cover letter, and give pointers on how to better answer questions during in-person interviews.
Schedule an introductory meeting so we can discuss a plan that works best for you.