Reflections on TPE

This semester has been a whirlwind. I’m just under 8 weeks away from graduating with my Master’s and a few months away from beginning my first full-time job as a Student Affairs Educator. About two weeks ago, I was preparing to head to San Antonio for The Placement Exchange, a huge Student Affairs job conference. I know it would be great to be back in Texas, but I did not realize all of the other feelings I would have throughout my time there.

Myself and 3 friends (aka VANity Fair) rented a minivan and drove from Oxford to San Antonio leaving Monday March 6th and arrive March 7th. It was a long drive, but it was fun: Full of laughs, great conversation and memories. Once we arrived in San Antonio, we grabbed food and readied ourselves for 4 long days of interviews. All of us knew that we would have very different experiences because we all wanted different things for our job searches and had varying amounts of interviews. But above all else, we knew that we would support each other.

Day 1 of TPE (Thursday)

This was a long day. I had 8 interviews throughout the day and I knew that I wanted to do my best. This was the opportunity to show the employers why I rock and remember to let myself shine. I wore a white pants, a navy shirt with white arrows on it, a white tie, black shoes and a black blazer. I knew I looked good and I felt great. I went into my first interview ready to go. As the day went on, my confidence continued to grow though I found myself growing increasingly tired. I still kept my energy up in the interviews. I ended my day by scheduling 5 2nd round interviews. Definitely a confidence booster.

Day 2 of TPE (Friday)

Friday was similar to Thursday. I had 6 interviews and my day began at 9am. The interviews were great for the most part. I received two notices that I would not be moving forward in the process for two institutions but I told myself that I can’t let myself get down when I have lots for other opportunities ahead of me. I listened to Tori Kelly’s Unbreakable Smile and kept pushing my way through. While I did not attend any socials on Friday night, I readied myself for my interviews on Saturday because I refused to waste the opportunities and blessings I’d received.

Day 3 of TPE/My Last day of interviews (Saturday)

Saturday was by far the longest day and the most exciting for me. I had 6 interviews all of which were great! I felt like I really connected with many of the institutions that day and I worked hard to do my research and prepare. I felt confident throughout the day and even received an invitation to a social which had me ecstatic. I got dinner with my best friend (whom I hadn’t seen since before Christmas) and a colleague. Then I headed to the social. My night ended with me feeling so grateful for the experiences I had. Saturday reminded me that TPE was worth it.

Overall thoughts and feelings:

TPE was a long and draining experience. Every night I just wanted to collapse into bed. As an introvert, it meant being on for 8-12 hours straight which was exhausting. However, it allowed me to interview face to face with over 15 different institutions. I had the opportunity to see colleagues from across the country as we all prep to enter this field post-Masters. I also got to catch up with people from undergrad whom I had not seen in nearly 3 years. I gained so much from TPE and I’m happy to have done. Now will I do it again, I don’t know about that. But at this moment in time, it was truly worth it.

Tips for Surviving

  1. Stay true to yourself: in my TPE experience, I showed my personality through my clothing. I wore White, Bright Red and Turquoise pants to my interviews because I am a vibrant person. Some people tried to tell me to wear a suit, but I would not have felt confident or comfortable in one. In your answers, show the interviewers who you are and what you are passionate about. The more excited you are, the more excited they will be.
  2. Schedule Breaks: TPE has some long days. Schedule breaks between your interviews. Make sure you have time to catch your breath, write thank you cards/emails, and prepare for your next interviews. Make sure you set aside time to eat lunch. You have to keep your energy up and stay focused. You are there to learn about the institutions, network, land on campus interviews and hopefully land a job. You can’t do that if you run yourself ragged.
  3. Don’t compare your experience with others: The job search is different for everyone. Everyone has different non-negotiables, different paths and different needs. The same goes for TPE. One person could enter TPE with 25 pre-scheduled interviews. Another person may enter with 5 interviews. Both are fine. It is possible to add interviews while on-site and cancel interviews. It is not a competition. Everyone will get jobs. It’s just a matter of when. Your job already has your name on it; you just have to find it. Comparison leads to doubt and you should never doubt your abilities. If you can make it through grad school, then you can make it through the job search.
  4. Have fun: Be engaged throughout TPE. The people you are interviewing with and the other candidates are your colleagues. TPE is stressful, but try to have fun. Use your lunch breaks and dinners to explore new places. Go on adventures during your down time. If you can, arrive a day or two early and explore. Meet up with friends. While socials are another interview, utilize them as a time to get to know everyone outside of a work context. Find out who they are as people. Laugh. Listen to music. Dance. Do the things that will get you excited to be there.

My TPE experience was colored by my peers, my colleagues and the prospects that lie ahead of me. I can’t help but be excited for what is to come. Waiting for phone calls for on campus offers is scary. Post-TPE, some will receive phone calls right away. Others will be waiting a little while (partially because NASPA is right after TPE, and because some need to finish their HR phone/Skype interviews before making on campus offers). That is perfectly fine. Just remember that you are enough and that your calls are coming (it’s what I’m reminding myself). TPE isn’t the be all, end all of the job search. It is only one avenue. No matter what keep going. What is meant for you will find you. It’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when and where.

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