In my current role as the primary recruiter for our department I feel very comfortable in assisting undergraduate, graduate and entry-level staff members navigate their future job search. The parameters that guide these type of processes all have some similar components, timelines and steps with the only variation being slight institutional differences.
Over the past six months I have been immersed in my own search for a senior-level position and as that process has recently come to a close I realize how different this type of search process differs from graduate, entry and mid-level. While it is fresh in my mind I want to share a few of my take-always from my own experience.
What a difference one professional level makes, my friends!
Be prepared for a very public search: At this level your candidacy is made very public when you become a finalist. My name, biography and on-campus presentation information was listed on university websites and school newspapers at these institutions. Take-away: Make sure that everyone who needs to know that you are searching is informed and be prepared for other folks to ask you about your candidacy in this process since the information is readily available on-line.
Everyone is a reference: While it is an industry standard to list 3-5 references on your employment application, as many as 20 people may be contacted for informal or character reference checks–with or without your knowledge. Take-away: Do your best work in every situation and be kind to everyone you come in contact with–you never know who will be speaking about you, your work ethic and your reputation.
Checks, checks and more checks: Academic credentials, financial background, criminal record, driving history, a writing sample and fingerprinting have all been a part of my process. Take-away: Especially when a position requires large supervisory or budgetary oversight, the institution has a responsibility to protect themselves. Know that these kinds of checks are part of the process and be prepared to discuss any of these areas with your potential future employer.
Heightened expectations for the on-campus presentation: As a finalist for this type of position a presentation is standard, however I was surprised at the length–up to an hour in some cases (plus Q & A), as well as how many people attended these presentations–anywhere from 30-60, in my experience. Take-away: Prepare for this session in the same way that you would for a conference presentation. Know your stuff and be prepared for high-level questions from people with different perspectives. I received questions from people who worked in Procurement, Library Services as well as faculty members who all represent different constituencies and have different priorities than the practitioners work in Residence Life.
Departmental vs. Divisional needs: One of the biggest lessons I learned in this process is that institutions were looking for not only someone to run a particular unit, but also for someone who could equally represent, support and be a part of a leadership team within Student Affairs. Take-away: Know what you can contribute at a divisional level and be prepared to demonstrate how your leadership abilities can help the division to meet its goals.
This search process was a good reminder of the power of preparation, relationships, reputation, and the importance of having a strong network around you to advise you through the process.
What other tips would you recommend to practitioners seeking employment at the next level? Share them here!