When is the appropriate time to move on to your next job? One of my grad school professors advised our cohort that we should have only one one-year job in our lifetime.
It makes sense. If you were a hiring employer and saw a candidate jumping from one job to another after a year, you may be hesitant to hire them. In grad school, I told myself I would never want to leave any job after one year. Well, unfortunately, that was when I thought I would be in a different functional area right after graduation.
When applying for graduate schools in student affairs, I knew I wanted to work in multicultural student services. I applied to a couple of multicultural affairs graduate assistantships, but they were not an excellent fit for me. After some personal discouragement and advice from mentors, I took a step back and reflected. I knew I had to start my student affairs journey somewhere; after all, I wanted to work with college students. With that in mind, I decided to pursue another functional area that I also enjoyed during my time as an Resident Advisor: residence life.
Working in residence life as a graduate assistant was probably the best experience I could have gotten as a graduate student.
I valued the skills I developed. It’s definitely a strong foundation to have in student affairs. However, I still wanted to get my hands dirty working in multicultural affairs. That led me to a semester-long practicum in multicultural affairs at my grad school and then a valuable year-long internship at an ivy league school. Having both of those experiences and absorbing everything I learned in my diversity classes, my burning passion for multicultural affairs grew even stronger. I knew I needed to apply for multicultural affairs positions.
Unfortunately, I hit another bump in the road during my post-grad job search.
I heard that multicultural affairs jobs were very hard to come by.
After many weeks of searching, I found that to be quite true. The positions that did show up were very competitive. I had interviews at The Placement Exchange (TPE), over the phone, second round Skype calls, and even had an on-campuses; all of them unsuccessful. I felt hopeless and disappointed in myself. I wanted a job that fulfilled my passion and I needed a job to help pay for my grad school loans. That’s when I made the decision to add residence life to my #sasearch.
I applied to many reslife jobs with campus climates that would help me support underrepresented students and grow as a professional. Interviews were pouring in and I could see the end of my grad school career coming to an end. I applied to be a hall director at an institution in my home state. I loved everything about it. It would give me job security and a step in the right direction.
The hiring process went quick and I felt a strong pressure to secure a job. Luckily, I was given a job offer, and I accepted it after a couple of days (the Monday after my graduate school Commencement nonetheless!).
I was an excited new professional who was working with some amazing co-workers, supervisors, and students. They were supportive, passionate, and willing to help me grow. It was everything a new professional could have asked for. However, in my heart, something did not feel right. My mental sanity was challenged.
The party culture, students’ mental health, and campus demographic had pushed me to a very unhealthy lifestyle. I lacked sleep and internal motivation. I looked for any excuse to stay in on the weekends or to get away from it all.
Furthermore, the dynamic of being one of few staff of color in the department and institution made me feel unsupported.
Pair that with the many conversations I had with students who also felt the similarly, my passion for diversity work grew even stronger. After only four months in the position, I made the conscious decision to selectively apply for positions in multicultural affairs.
I kept chugging along in the position. I committed to my job and developed myself as a supervisor. I applied to one or two jobs here and there, but nothing came out of them. To keep me motivated, I started a colleagues of color group to get that support I needed. I also asked my supervisors to provide me opportunities to do more diversity and social justice work. For the following RA training, I was fortunate enough to present our diversity section to 90 RAs. I received many personal compliments from staff about my educational and engaging presentation. That’s the moment I knew I was ready.
Two months into my second year, the director of my internship at the ivy league contacted me and said a position was open in the office and that I should apply. It was the opportunity to work with first-year and sophomore students and to develop a social justice peer education program. The job was perfect. It was essentially a lateral move with a smaller salary/benefits package since housing is not provided (if you have been in Residence Life for a while, you almost forget that housing usually isn’t provided in other parts of student affairs). However, there was no hesitation. I submitted my application a few days later.
After rescheduling the first-round Skype interview, confirming with them that I still wanted to go through the process despite the salary (I would be moving back home with my parents), anxiously informing my current supervisors that I got an on-campus, having unsuspecting traffic during my on-campus day, and being nervous as hell in a familiar environment, I was still confident that this was the job for me. All that was left was playing the waiting game.
I was still working hard at my job. The longer I waited, the less expectations I had about the interview. Towards the end of the waiting game, however, – when I felt all hope was lost – I received a phone call from the director on a Friday afternoon. I got an offer and I accepted it! I was overjoyed and excited, especially for the sheer fact that after three years of searching, I will finally be DOING (not pursuing) my passion.
I am now at Brown University as the Coordinator for First Year and Sophomore Programs at the Brown Center for Students of Color. I was welcomed with open arms. I am happier now because I am working on projects and tasks that make a difference and keep me motivated.
To be honest, it was hard leaving halfway through the year and I felt guilty leaving the department in that predicament.
There were a couple of times when I wished this opportunity came at the end of the academic year. However, I knew I trained my RAs well and helped prepare the new person in my position to be successful. Everything worked out in the end.
Conclusively, I want to highlight lessons I’ve learned throughout this whole experience:
1. Life is a Journey. Expect detours (and potholes!)
It is okay to not have your dream job the first time around. In certain circumstances, you need to make difficult life decisions. For me, I could not be unemployed for financial reasons. Furthermore, I did take a financial cut to pursue my passion. That is a price I am willing to pay for a personal benefit (plus getting home cooked meal is a bonus!).
2. Still Perform Your Job
Your supervisor is a testament of your current work. Student affairs can seem like a small world, and if you burn one bridge, an ember might fly and another bridge may catch on fire. I was still putting 100% in my job, especially when I got the job offer. To this day, I still consider many of my past co-workers as close colleagues in the field, and I know they can attest to my great work.
3. Never Give Up On Your Passion
I may have settled with my first job, but I never gave up on my passion in working in multicultural affairs. If it is your passion, you will do whatever you can to get into it. I developed a colleagues of color group and asked for opportunities in diversity and multicultural education.
You never know what you are able to accomplish if you don’t ask or pursue it yourself.
Life has different paths for different people. I hope my story helped you in one way or another. Best of luck as you navigate this unpredictable, but influential world of student affairs.
“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.“ -Harriet Tubman
About the Author:
Anthony works at Brown University as the Coordinator for First Year and Sophomore Programs at the Brown Center for Students of Color. He received his B.S. in Actuarial Mathematics from Bryant University and his M.S. in College Student Personnel at the University of Rhode Island. Anthony has a strong passion for social justice, specifically with communities of color. He is proud to be a first generation college student and hopes to one day inspire other students of color to succeed in whatever endeavors they choose to pursue. Check out Anthony’s blog for past work, projects and insight into student affairs!