5 Reflections of Gratitude from 5 Days at TPE Onsite

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    Andrea Reyes
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It’s been a week since participating in the TPE Onsite event. Returning back to my campus, many cohort mates and supervisors have asked me how it was. I’ve been reflecting on my experiences, and it has been lovely sharing my TPE moments with those who ask because it further affirms how supportive members of the Student Affairs community are.

I’m very grateful that TPE has been a part of my job search journey. There are five specific memories of gratitude, one from each day, that I’ve kept with me since.

Wednesday, March 8th

I attended the TPE Onsite Boot Camp, a series of guided workshops from current, seasoned Student Affairs professionals. It included a session to develop thoughtful questions for employers, time to practice interviews, and a session devoted to our strengths and how to talk about them. Wednesday was the day before onsite interviews and socials kicked off, so this was the “last” practice space to hone in on our interview style and practice sharing work-related examples. A friend I met through TPE, Anthony, sat with me throughout the sessions to collaborate with and bounce feedback off of each other. Boot Camp was a great place for me to get into focus and gear up my confidence! I was there for a reason, and by the end of Boot Camp, I felt ready and excited! My day ended with a phone call from my mentor who was back in California, 1,282 miles away. Through our conversation, I could still feel her support and warmth. I fell asleep with a smile on my face from such an encouraging day.

Thursday, March 9th

It was Day 1 of TPE Onsite interviews. My bag was packed with Thank You cards, my pad folio, five pens (because you never know who needs one or when you’ll run out of ink), and a lunch I made the night before. My first interview was at 9:30 a.m., so when 9:10 a.m. arrived, I journeyed my way for the first time to the Candidate Waiting Room. Walking past the black curtain walls, the dividers of different interview spaces, I had found the Candidate Waiting Room—which felt like a runway! One by one, employers were calling out candidate’s names and introducing their institution’s name with high spirits. As time ticked, one-by-one candidates left with their potential future employer. I was excited for them, often giving a thumb’s up on their way out. Another part of me also began to question myself: Should I have applied for more positions and schools? Can I actually do this? I then looked to my right and saw a member of the institution with which I was interviewing, holding up a Frisbee with their institution’s logo and colors on it. The employer and I made eye contact and a huge smile grew on my face. I stood up, grabbed my bag, and extended my hand to the employer. In a nano-second, I felt like myself again: excited, happy, ready to go, and ready to grow! Meeting with the first employer was the official moment for me at TPE Onsite: I am here and the moment is now. For weeks beforehand, stories of TPE Onsite have been circling, practice questions have been answered, and it felt amazing to finally not be navigating the mystery and unknown of the TPE Onsite event: to actually be an active participant in the present moment! I had a wonderful time meeting employers and fellow candidates. Handshakes were given, laughs were shared, Thank You cards were written in the community at the Candidate Work Room tables; all of these moments added up to an incredible first day at TPE Onsite. The evening following granted time for reflection and institution studying. I felt so grateful to be at TPE Onsite, to have already met so many passionate candidates and such caring employers.

Friday, March 10th

Day 2 of TPE Onsite, I was met with good news—I was offered a few second-round interviews. After a quick mini happy dance and making interview appointments, I went to the Coach’s Corner. Throughout each day of TPE Onsite, different professionals were available for candidates who needed coaching. I was really thankful for the opportunity to process with an experienced professional, one-on-one, in real time. I met with one “coach”, who helped me develop specific questions for one of my second-round interviews. She was so helpful and understanding of how important it was for me to infuse my values in my questions in order to determine campus-fit. Later that afternoon, I received an email from another career placement process that I was participating in outside of TPE Onsite. I had trouble thinking of a response to their email, so I made my way back to the Coach’s Corner and asked a coach if they felt comfortable helping me with a job that was not TPE related. She was delighted to help. I sat with her and shared my thoughts about the other career placement process I was in. She empathized with me, and really listened to what I was dealing with. We sat together and drafted a few statements I could use in my email response. After meeting with her, I felt a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. That night, I wrote emails to my two coaches who helped me that day to thank them for their time and guidance! I was really grateful for them because I always feel supported in one-on-one settings. I’m really glad TPE offered a “coaching” area for candidates like me who thrive from processing one-on-one!

Saturday, March 11th

Day 3 of TPE Onsite, I had an hour-long second-round interview. Throughout the interview and afterward, I really felt our time together was genuine: there was laughter, storytelling, and an overall warm feeling. I enjoyed spending time with the interview team and hearing more about their experiences at the institution and town. While I was filled with affirmation and hope about this particular school and position, I also needed to ground myself: it’s ok if this doesn’t work out. It can be hard to hold multiple truths: to feel such a strong connection and to understand that I may also not be the candidate they need. Whatever the outcome is, what I deeply cherish is the actuality of feeling a sense of home and belonging at a future campus…that a sense of alignment can be achieved! It may or may not be this campus or this type of position, but it’s possible to feel campus fit. It gave me hope, and it was a reminder that Student Affairs is not just about the work, it’s about community. TPE gave me a taste of what finding, and potentially belonging, in a community could feel like.

Sunday, March 12th

Day 4 of TPE Onsite was also the day I checked in for the NASPA Annual Conference. It was neat to witness the transition from the TPE Onsite event to the NASPA conference! I checked-out of TPE Onsite and closed my candidate mailbox, which a friend of mine took a picture of me doing for memory’s sake! Next, we got in line to check-in for the NASPA conference, where I ran into my best friend who currently works as a Residence Hall Director on the east coast. Then, in an instant, another friend joined our conversation, who I didn’t realize was a mutual friend of ours! Three different individuals at different stages of our career, in three different geographical locations—we were all somehow connected to one another. This interaction foreshadowed the rest of my experience on Sunday and throughout the NASPA conference: Student Affairs is a small world! We’re a community that wants to get to know one another. While I had an event ID number, there was never a moment where I felt like a number—and I’m incredibly grateful.

I’m really thankful for my TPE experience. I learned a lot about myself and met so many special individuals and institutions. At the end of the day, both candidates and employers want to support students and are looking for someone to do that alongside them. I highly recommend The Placement Exchange for those who want to try something new and who want to challenge themselves. TPE Onsite is an experience I will never forget!

Best wishes to all candidates and employers out there who are participating in job searches and selection process! We can do this! 

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