A New Chapter

Well, now that all of my students have been told, it is time to announce it to the world. This Friday, September 19th, will be my last day as an Academic Advisor at the Georgia College Center for Student Success. I’ve spent the last week and a half madly fitting in as many advising appointments as possible.

The following Monday, I begin my new journey as the Training Specialist with the Georgia College Department of Human Resources. In this job, I will be conducting needs assessments and implement training and development programs for the university, manage initiative implementation, develop training manuals and course materials, and assist with New Employee Orientation.

My time with CSS has been life changing. My fellow advisors have become my family, both figuratively and literally. Leeann and I both started on the same day, shared an office, and had our friendship grow to the level where our coworkers referred to us as siblings.

Other friendships developed as well. After our move to Lanier Hall, I joined the “BA Corner”  with Rebecca Miles and Chris Lamphere. Eventually, Chris retired, and Nadirah Mayweather filled his slot.

Beyond that, I met my wife through the job. Nikki had been with the department for five weeks when I joined (she had previously been an advisor housed in the Department of Psychological Science for two years). We met that exciting day in August when I first walked into The Bone House. It took a while, but eventually a friendship, then relationship blossomed.

Beyond my colleagues, it has been a true honor to work with some of the students that have come across my path. Watching them learn, grow, and mature has been an immensely rewarding experience.

Likewise, I am grateful for my own growth and learning experiences over the last three years. The mentors I have had in the department have taught me valuable life lessons and experience. They were standing next to me and behind me on the rough days, and celebrating with me on the good.

Monday starts a new chapter in my life. But I will never forget the events of the chapter that is now drawing to a close. And for those events, lessons, and memories, I will always be grateful.

My new job

Well, it is the start of a new academic term and a new professional journey in my life. This blog started out as a hobby, and it was a really ironic choice of topics. Over the past few weeks, I have accepted employment, started a job, and began the process of slowly settling into a new environment.

What does that have to do with this project, you may ask? Well… Every great once in a while, there is an opportunity to merge your interest and hobbies AND get paid to do it. That is exactly what happened with this job. When I sat down after graduation and made my skills list, there were three jobs which really jumped out at me in higher education: Instructor of Political Science, Institutional Research Analyst, and Academic Advisor.

I applied for some jobs in each category. I am now pleased to say I am an Academic Advisor for the Center for Student Success of Georgia College in Milledgeville. In other words, I’m now working for my alma mater doing what I had been doing for my friends anyway. To top everything off, I also get to work with the freshmen students in political science, criminal justice, and sociology and teach a few seminar courses. It is an almost perfect mesh.
So, if you happen to be at Georgia College, come by and visit me in The Bone House. I’ve put my school webpage in the links list. It also has all my new contact information. Once I get settled in, you will be able to expect quite a few more posts, not only in the area of political science and public administration, but also in the field of student success.

Social Networking in the Job Search

During the process of my job search, my father has remarked more times than I can count that he would not be able to find a job today. There is simply too much technology involved. Everyone is on social networking. Most applications processes begin online. In short, you have to understand technology, computers, and internet tools like social networking in order to have an effective job search.
The first thing you need to do, if you have not already done it, is to clean up your current social network accounts. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (yikes, I can’t believe I just cited them) has an excellent article on this topic. But basically, you are not networking with classmates anymore. You are now networking with potential employers, and your online personality should reflect that.

Something that helped me in this area was separate accounts. It was a little confusing at first, but eventually it becomes second nature. I locked down my old profile, went to the strictest privacy settings available, and then started a new profile from scratch. I included some old pictures, most of which demonstrating my community involvement and conferences. This is now the only account that shows up in general searches. My old account is for family and extremely close friends only.

As far as social networking for a job search, you at least need a LinkedIn account. I would also encourage you to make use of Facebook and Twitter as well. They both allow you to connect with leaders in your field.  I mean, it IS called social NETWORKING. As long as you maintain a professional demeanor, it can’t hurt.

Finally, I strongly encourage you to create a personal webpage for your resume and related documents. Mine has also been expanded to include a class webpage for my students as well. While LinkedIn has a lot of powerful features, there is only so much a social networking site, even one based on promoting your resume, can accomplish. They do not have an area for everything. That’s where a fully customizable website can come in handy.

I have mine broken down into Resume and CV, Research, and Teaching. I then have the research and teaching broken down further into types of research and courses I have taught in further sub-pages. While you may be terrified at the thought of HTML coding and building a website from scratch, you will be pleased to know now it is not necessary. My webpage is hosted by Google Sites and I had my custom URL point to it. Webs and Wix will both do basically the same thing. Wix is even flash based, so it is a bit more appealing. I used Google mainly because it is the same basic system as Blogger and I can use the same template on both sites, and they flow together better. One added bonus is that Google indexes their own sites and ranks them higher than other sites. This means that most searches of generic terms related to me (“MPA Resume” or “Simpson MPA”) I am generally in the top three results. If you conduct a search for “MPA Georgia” I am a bit further down in the results, but I am still in the first individuals (instead of university programs) listed.

It all comes down to getting your name into the market in a positive light. If you can do that, use any methods available to do so. If the technology becomes a barrier, don’t use it. It is better not to have a web presence than to have a major web presence and it be presenting you in an unprofessional, immature, or unreliable light.

Job Search – Application Folders

When you being your job search, you will need to create a massive amount of documents. Wait, I take that back. You should have been creating these documents long before your job search. While they vary slightly based on your field, the basics are still the same. This is something that you will keep with you and keep updated as you progress through your career. 

  • Resume
  • References
  • Work History
  • Extracurricular and Volunteer History
  • Transcripts
  • For those staying in academics
    • Curriculum Vitae
    • Teaching Statement
    • Research Statement
    • Evaluations (If you student taught)
There are a multitude of resources (here and here) out there on preparing an effective resume.  Most word processors have fairly good templates to use, or in my case, I wanted mine to look a bit different than the standard, so I created my own. I can’t exactly take credit for it, I saw something like it elsewhere (honestly can’t remember were at this point) and adapted it for what my purposes. Make sure it is readable, but make it match your personality. My resume can be found here. 
For references, you will need an assortment of individuals. I have a list of people I can pull for references in different type of positions. I have academic (former professors), professional (coworkers and research partners), character (personal friends), and political (elected officials). I sometimes mix and match, and I have some individuals on more than one list. Say, if I’m going for a teaching job, one of my references I have known for six years (character), he used to be my professor (academic), and we are currently doing research together (professional). 
Work History is something you will probably never actually send out, but to me it is one of the most valuable. It is a list of very job you have ever held, with ever function of that job listed. You include all the location information for the company, your supervisors name and contact information, and a secondary contact’s name and contact information. Why? Because some application systems now require it. Even though you may upload a resume, they still want the more detailed information. If you have it all prepared in a single document, you can simply copy and paste it into the online form. Like your Work History, you also need a record of your Extracurricular and Volunteer History. If you are in a large number of groups in college, it is easy to lose count. I honestly thing mine is still missing some of the things I did the first few years because I didn’t write any of it down until late in my junior year. 
Most jobs that require a certain level of education, especially in education and government service, require a transcript to verify education. As soon as my degree posted I requested 10 official copies. One I opened and scanned into a PDF file that is stored on my computer. If I need an unoffical copy, I print one. If I need it to be emailed, it is easily done. And if, for some reason, an official copy is required, I have them at my disposal. 
Finally are the specific to academia documents. These are a very unique beast, so I will leave you with some of the sites I used with compiling mine. The Division of Education Studies at Emory University has a good overview of what goes into a CV and how to format it. Perdue University also has some good information, as do the good bloggers at Fumbling Towards Tenure Track. 
I called it a folder. You actually need two (or three) folders. Keep all your job search information in one folder on your computer. I have subfolders set up with current documents and former documents. I also have a layer of folders for applications I’m currently drafting (find a posting, save it as a PDF in a new folder named the title and institution), pending applications (for ones that I have submitted, and have not yet been filled), Interviewed (move the folders from pending for jobs where I receive an interview, then look to see if I did anything different in the cover letter), and Abandoned (for jobs that have been filled, or I haven’t heard anything from in a long time).  
You notice I didn’t mention Cover Letters in documents to prepare ahead of time. Each letter has to be customized for the individual position. But, that is why I name the folders by title. It is easy to find letters you have prepared for similar positions as you go through your search. 
Finally, you need to print copies of the documents to keep as a backup. Things happen with electronic storage. With something that needs to stick with you throughout your career, and with changing file formats, a hard copy to reference in the future may come in handy. It is also a good idea to use a service such as Dropbox to not only backup your files, but also to be able to access the files from other than your normal computer. For example, there was an occasion when I was house sitting and only had my netbook with me when a job posted for only 3 days. I was still able to access my files and and complete the application. Then, by uploading the completed packets back to Dropbox, it was waiting for me on my main computer when I returned home. 
Up next, more uses of technology for your job search.

Things to keep on your mind, besides academics

Your in the middle of grad school. More than likely, if your institution follows the semester system, you are up against the wall of term papers and final exams. For some, this may be your last semester. Then, the real world begins. This time last year, I was facing that situation. I was terrified. Graduating into this economy is not easy. I have applied for more jobs than I feel comfortable posting the number in the last year, and only received interviews from a select few. Several of those interviews had the posting canceled before an offer could be extended. It is a tough market.

With this in mind, you need to be able to focus your efforts. I have a huge expandable file sitting on my desk. In it, everything is quasi-neatly filed away. Copies of hard copy applications I have filed, rejection letters, and job postings each have their own folder. Also, I have a few other folders. I have a hard copy of each of my main documents. I also have one HUGE document that I do not actually send anywhere, but it is easy for me to reference while I am filling out online applications. The next several posts are each going to cover an aspect of the job search. It is a process through which I am still journeying, but hopefully my experiences will be able to help some of you.

The idea to keep everything in a massive folder actually came from a College Hacks post about maintaining an Ego Folder. It occurred to me that the same items which would help boost a discouraged ego, would also be the same things which would appeal to a recruiter. Thus my job search folder was born.

This thought process is going to need to be a series, so here is a basic outline of what I am going to cover. First, I will go over the basic job search documents you need to prepare before you even start applying for positions. Then, I will go over using technology, including social networking, to aid in your job search. Finally, I will get into how to find jobs, especially in government and higher education.

So, up next, how to start your job search folder.