The exciting yet terrifying two months before graduation
By Farzin Hossain
Graduate Assistant@ John Jay College of Criminal Justice
Graduate Resident Director @ Pratt Institute
NYU Class of 2013 Graduate: Higher Education and Student Affairs Program
I cannot believe how quickly two years has gone by. I still remember how nervous I had been during recruitment weekend; the thought of not getting an internship was very frightening but here I am two years later ready to graduate and begin my professional career!
In less than 2 months I will be graduating with my Master’s in Higher Education and Student Affairs from New York University. The past two years have been filled with moments of joy, stress, and anticipation but I would not change it for anything. I am truly grateful for having the opportunity to further expand my knowledge and skills, in the classroom and through my internships. The friends I’ve made, my wonderful supervisors, and the students I’ve advised will always have a special place in my heart. With all this reminiscing I then remember that it is also time to apply for jobs and again the stress and fear of not finding one is daunting; which I am sure all my fellow graduate students understand.
There really is no best way to prepare for the job hunt but I cannot stress the importance of starting early enough. I started the process of editing my cover letters and resume in January. I made sure I gave myself deadlines for this process and wrote those down on my planner because I knew if I didn’t it would not get done. After speaking to many professional staff members I decided to start applying for jobs late February (and I am continuing to do so). Another very important part of submitting applications is editing and re-editing your cover letters and resume. I recently decided to re-format some parts of my resume and I thought I had fixed all the mistakes and errors, but I was wrong. Last week I went to check on one of the jobs I had applied for and I realized I forgot to add one word to one of the bullet points, which made a big difference in that specific sentence. I was so mad at myself because I had applied to 5 different positions using that same resume. So lesson learned, edit, read and re-read everything before submitting an application. You never know what word you may have accidently deleted while trying to add another bullet point.
While I currently work as a Graduate Resident Director at Pratt Institute I realized that Residential Life was just not for me. I wanted to transition into Orientation, Academic Advising, or departments that specifically work with disadvantaged students. Through my residential life experience I have learned so much; where else would I be able to directly supervise a staff of eight wonderful resident assistants, be responsible for the safety and security for a building of 600 residents and gain critical crisis management skills?! I cannot be more thankful for having the opportunity to serve as a Resident Director, but like all things it was time for a change. I was and am very afraid that because I have worked in Residential Life for quite some time other departments will not want to hire me. After speaking to many individuals I realized that it is the skills you gain and the experiences you transmit that matter; it’s all about those transferrable skills! So if you are like me, trying to change departments, it is vital that you take the time to think about your experiences and how you can relate those to your new experiences.
Since I knew I did not want to work in Residential Life I made the effort to find internships in other departments. During my time at Pratt I also worked part time at Queensborough Community College as a transfer advisor where I was served as an advisor and guided students through the transfer process from a two- year institution to a four-year institution. I currently work at John Jay College as a graduate assistant in the Office of Student Transitions Programs and work with two other staff members with planning for orientation, prospective student workshops, and commencement. All these internships gave me the opportunity to further expand my knowledge and skills. I can graduate and say that I worked with students from many different backgrounds, cultures and ethnicities, education level, and economic statues. Although managing two internships and a full time class schedule may be overwhelming it is do-able and well worth it. I do not recommend that you just take on a dozen things just for the sake of doing it, but you should see what you are interested in and take a shot at something different!
So here I am, 40 days before graduation without a full-time position. Although I am confident that things will eventually fall into place, it’s the toughest when all those around you are already being offered positions. I am so happy and proud of my friends, but at the same time this makes me freak out even more. Three out of the seven days in my week I am in stress mode and feel rather incompetent because I am still job hunting; but I have to understand that when the time is right I will find my right fit. Until about 4 weeks ago I had no confidence in myself and then I started getting calls for interviews. This of course makes everything better, until you don’t hear from them for weeks (don’t worry this is very normal; or so they say). There really isn’t any way to not be stressed or have those panic moments; you just have to accept it. There are tons of higher education graduate students who are going through what I am going through. I just keep telling myself it is all a matter of time.
As for the first year graduate students, one of the most important things you can do while you are in graduate school is network in your classes, internships, jobs, and especially conferences. You never know who you will meet and who will become a mentor and offer their advice and guidance. One thing I wish I did more is definitely networking, and in graduate school it’s not as easy as it was in undergrad. No one is making you volunteer or encouraging you to take on more initiatives; you have to push yourself- to find a mentor, ask questions, and take on challenges. If you’re shy- step out of your shell, if you’re introverted- start working on those people skills!
If you are also on the transition from graduate school to a professional career- GOOD LUCK! This will all be over, hopefully, in the next couple months. I am sending my positive vibes your way!