Make Me A Match
For the past three weeks, I have been interviewing like it’s my job (to land a job) in high-energy, high-stress, and high-occupancy rooms like this…To say the least, it’s been intense. But, the over 30 interviews I’ve participated in have made me seriously think…how much can I actually tell about an institution, a place, a coworker from a 20-60 minute interview time slot in a convention center? Am I really supposed to have “that feeling” that tells me this is the right fit?
For those looking to enter the field of higher education & student affairs like me, the phrase Institutional Fit is thrown around left and right, but what does it really mean?
There are the more concreate aspects of institutional fit that influence whether or not an institution or organization is a fit for you:
- Size of Student Population: This is pretty obvious, but are you looking for a more intimate, small student population where everyone knows your name, or are you looking for a larger population where you may not necessarily see the same person twice?
- Highest Degree Granted: Is it important for your institution to have a more liberal arts focus? Or, do you value higher degrees of learning through doctoral programs?
- Distribution of Effort (Teaching, Research, Service): Ask yourself, which aspects of higher education do you value most? Is it more important for you to work at an institution that places most of its resources on teaching, service, or research?
- Religious Affiliation: Are you open to a religiously affiliated institution, or is that a deal breaker? What role does the institution’s religious affiliation play in the everyday workings of the school?
- Admissions Requirements: Do you see yourself at a highly competitive or open admissions institution, or somewhere in between the two?
*Above information adapted from the University of Kentucky’s Institutional Fit Rubric
Then, there are the less tangible aspects of institutional fit:
- Campus Culture: Is there a strong sense of tradition and community on campus? Are students engaged in extra curricular activities, or is it primarily a commuter campus?
- The People/Work Environment: Are you looking to be friends with those in your office? Does the office operate with a culture of collaboration or autonomy?
- Values/Mission: Do you personally align with the mission and core values of the institution?
Finally, there’s that feeling that touches your core and affirms that this institution or organization is the right place for you. For me, it’s important to listen to those feelings. A job may have everything on paper, but you may lack that feeling.
As I dove straight into the job search over the past few weeks, I’ve been learning to take the process one step at a time.
Try looking at interviewing like dating…
That first 20-30 minute interview is a first date, where you’re really just trying to get to know each other.
The second round interview is dinner and a movie. Both parties already feel like there might be something there, but it’s just a way to get to a deeper level.
The on-campus interview = the ultimate goal. At this stage, it’s time to meet the family in order to determine whether or not you can really see yourself fitting in…
If we look at interviewing as dating, it’s more natural to make “fit” and compatibility a priority in the process. I don’t know about you, but I don’t date someone that I don’t want to spend lots of time with or genuinely feel comfortable around. So, why would I work at an institution that I don’t want to spend time at or feel comfortable with?
Sometimes, you can get that gut “feeling” during the first or second interview, but other times, it takes meeting the parents and getting at the true culture and environment at the institution that helps you make that big decision.
The best part about dating, interviewing, and the job search is that you’re not jumping straight into marriage. If things aren’t quite what they seem and it doesn’t work out, you can start looking for another job…or date…