So You’re In Grad School: January

Hello there grad students. You’re probably feeling on top of the world right now. You’ve finished your finals, you’re on break, and you have some time before you need to start planning what comes next. THat all sounds wonderful. Take a moment, relax, and breath in deep. Let it out niiiccceee and slllooowwwww. Okay, moment’s over! Time to get back to work.

If you’re a first year…

Congratulations, you’ve survived your first semester of grad school! You probably see all your second year friends starting to panic about job searches and conferences. You might be thinking that you have an entire year before you have to start worrying about any of that. Sorry to bust your bubble, but there are things you should be doing now.

What are you doing this summer? If you plan on being an ACUHO-I intern or NODA intern, the deadline to register is fast approaching and soon it will be time to start making contact with schools. When applying, try to find a school that is completely different that the one you attend so you can get a completely different experience. Small schools, big schools, public schools, private schools…they all operate differently. You might find out that you like a different experience. If you don’t like it, remember, it’s only for the summer and you will know what you want when looking for your first professional job.

You also might want to start thinking about next year. Many grad programs require an internship at some point during your second year. If you plan on doing this internship at your current institution, start making connections with different departments on campus. If you attend school in a more urban area, you could possibly do this internship at another school as well.

If you have an assistantship, now is a perfect time to assess your experience. Maybe you don’t like the area of student affairs that you’re in. Is there a way you can find a different assistantship for next year? If not, is there a way to add or change your job responsibilities so it can line up with what you want to do? If you’re in Residence Life like I was, you might want to try supervising a different group of students or overseeing a different type of housing.

If you’re a second year…

I probably don’t have to tell you that it’s about to get real busy. Right about now you should be going over your resume with a fine tooth comb. Find someone, whether its a professor, supervisor, or mentor, to help you with your resume and possibly with cover letters. Also, don’t forget to update your list of references. You may want to ask your supervisor from summer or internship supervisor to serve as a reference.

There aren’t too many job listings out yet, but always check to see what is out there. You might want to use this time to devise some sort of organization system for your job search. I made a spread sheet with columns for school, brief job description, any deadlines or special requirements (look out for these!), and the dates that I applied, heard back, and any dates for interviews (fingers crossed). It’s best to come up with a system that works for you BEFORE you start applying to different jobs and wind up missing deadlines or forgetting to send thank you cards for interviews.

If you’re going to TPE or ACPA, hopefully you’ve already made your reservations! Plane tickets can be expensive. While you still have some time until those conferences, it’s never too soon to start preparing. Find someone to practice interviews with or see if you can arrange for career services to hold a program for you and your classmates. Also, you might want to see if there are any regional or career-specific job search conferences. I signed up for a regional conference as sort of a practice for TPE, but it’s where I wound up finding my job!

Best of luck and be sure to tell me about your adventures in the comments. Also, feel free to send questions my way!

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