5 Things You Think Will Make You Happier at Work (And Actually Do)

I came across this article yeImagesterday on my metro-ride home and read it in about three minutes.  If you didn't click the link already, the article is entitled, "5 Things You Think Will Make You Happier at Work (But Actually Won't)."

This writer succeeds in two areas: 1) writing for FastCo and 2) setting newly-minted job seekers up for failure.

Enrollment management and career services, in my opinion, are inextricably linked. As the world of higher education continues to shift, institutional outcomes are becoming more apparent as key decision factors in prospective students' decisions. As an aside seven sentences into this post, I was excited to see today that my alma mater's AVP of EM has a new title, AVP of EM and Career Services. I think this is a path more institutions should take.

But back to the article. It's timely as we've just celebrated Winter Commencements across the nation. Those students are looking for jobs, and articles like the one I'm about to dissect are a really big problem.

The writer suggests that the following things do not [always] make for a happier you:

1. A shorter workweek 2. More vacation time 3. A promotion or raise 4. A new job 5. "More Meaningful" Work

To all of the winter graduates, I have the following to say:

This is bogus. Particularly number 5.

So, in reverse:

5. Finding "meaningful" (and I'm not sure why she put it in quotes) work should be your primary objective. Doing what you love provides you, and I know from direct experience, with a sense of purpose and provides worthwhile goals to set and attain. #EMchat and an unannounced work-in-progress provide me with an unimaginable sense of professional self-worth. If your actual career isn't providing that for you, get a hobby. Celebrate your passion in whatever manner you need to, but make sure that you never let it die. It might take some time to get things figured out on your professional front, but always make sure it aligns with your personal ethics and aspirations.

4. A new job won't always provide you happiness, she's right. But, if you're job seeking, hopefully you're looking for a career that provides you with #5 above. A new job comes with a smorgasbord of new experiences to work through, including all nouns: people, places, and things. No job will be perfect. And you know what? If it's not what you're looking for, leave. In one of my less-proud moments, I quit a job after 3.5 weeks because I knew it was an awful fit for me. I'm happier because of that. Much. Happier.

3. A promotion or raise. "Money doesn't buy happiness and titles are just words." That's not a quote from the article, just something I read somewhere, once. The author points out that once we get a raise, we're cool with it for a while and then set a new goal for success. Here's a fact: no matter what job you have (or if you don't have one yet), if you are not continually setting, reassessing, and enhancing your goals, you're career will be stagnant. Whether you want more money, more responsibility, or more challenges, set each goal higher than the one before. It's not a crime to want more, and you shouldn't feel guilty for recognizing your ability and worth. Anyone who tells you otherwise is, well, wrong.

2 & 1. We can lump these together. A shorter workweek and more vacation time. The argument here is that we don't know HOW to use our time off. Okay, that's understandable. Here's how you do it: unplug from work. Aside from the fact that my work phone is a Blackberry and the worst device ever known to man, I don't take it home with me on weekends or vacations. If there's a real work emergency, I'm still accessible. If you're answering emails on weekends and vacation and you don't absolutely love your job, that's on you. The author makes this point, that we need to make sure we make sure we're fully engaged in our time off. Well, if you do that, a shorter workweek and more vacation time will absolutely make you happier.

So here's my advice--based on my experiences--to new graduates (and congrats, by the way!):

  • Don't settle for a job that doesn't provide you with meaning, either personally or professionally.
  • Don't take a job that pays you less than you believe you're worth. The only time this is semi-acceptable is if you need to break into an industry and that's the only option. In that case, set your goals high and move fast.
  • If you work for a shitty boss, whether they're ineffective managers, road blocks to your career, or just a miserable, mean person, you don't need to pay your dues unless you REALLY want to. Quit.
  • Use your vacation days every year. Negotiate a flex schedule if possible. Do this before you're hired.
  • Get a mentor. Whether formal or informal, find people in your life who will offer advice, motivate you, and help you succeed.
  • Don't read articles that tell you what won't make you happy in a career. Read ones that suggest avenues for success and happiness. Your job should be a positive experience. The things you read about it should be, too.
  • Be selfish--it's your career, your future, and your life.



Why Culture is Everything

“Culture is one thing and varnish is another” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I don’t typically like to start anything I write with a quote. I think it’s cliché and predictable and really just doesn’t fit well with my style of writing—it works quite well for others. But here I am, starting this post with a quote.

I’ve wanted to write a post on the importance of culture in the workplace for almost a year now. I know this isn’t directly related to a topic in higher ed, but there are so many members of the #EMchat community who are in the job hunt, and to be honest, I don’t think there is a more important thing to consider when looking for a position.

I started working when I was 13 as a bus boy in a local restaurant. I somehow conned the owner into letting me wait tables when I was 15. I started working in my university’s admissions office my freshman year, was an RA for a year, worked in the writing center from sophomore year on, was a grad assistant for institutional advancement, waited tables at a fine dining restaurant and then eventually a crab house at the beach during the summers (greatest. gig. ever.), and now I’m hanging out at the Senate as a contractor. So, while I’m not an expert on the job hunt, these opportunities have afforded me the chance to see how important culture is in ANY job and how it can make or break your experience as an employee.

Culture isn’t part of a company; culture IS a company. Our jobs are defined by the environments in which we work, the colleagues with whom we spend our time, and the experiences we have each day in our offices. Culture should be defined by leadership but should be practiced across the corporate spectrum. It should be embedded in work ethic, communications, and should be visible to those outside of the company (or institution).

I have been incredibly lucky in my life to have always worked with people with whom I am able to connect and I’m currently in a phenomenal position. I’m a serious extrovert, so that probably helps. For me, culture is about people and how employees are treated. Culture is about mentorship opportunities, opportunities to share and collaborate, and opportunities to be heard.

Looking for your first job out of college is intimidating. Heck, looking for any job is intimidating. It’s a daunting task with catered resumes and tons of cover letters. When you get to the interview the intimidation factor increases. But, when it’s your chance to ask the questions, make sure you ask about culture. Think about what culture means to you. If a company or institution doesn’t fit your definition, don’t waste your time.

I’ve left two positions in my life because the culture wasn’t a right fit. The varnish Emerson writes of was too shiny, too smooth. I don’t regret those experiences because I was still able to build meaningful relationships. I do regret not being able to see past the varnish. Companies and institutions want to find the right fit for them. Make sure that they’re the right fit for you.

Good luck on your journey!

Job Searching Strategies-Tips, Insights & Ideas

Job searching can be slightly different for anyone who is looking for that ‘perfect fit.’ I have to admit I was a tad bit naive during the beginning of my job search process. In time, though, I lost my ‘nervousness’ and ‘gooey eyes.’ I began to understand the process and begin to get down to business. So, here is a Top Five List of Job Searching Strategies. These top five tips are the ‘ideas and insights’ that are helping me get through my current job searching. If you want to know the background story of who I am, please check out my first blog posting.

1. The Phone Interview

The art of a phone interview is one learned over time. It’s like a dance with many steps and with enough practice; the dance becomes fluid, natural, and ends with a great overture of applause at the end.

Conduct your phone interview in a quiet place with no distractions and preferably, a landline because let’s face it; drop calls are the norm these days.

Have the job description in front of you with notes about the department, university, and any other facts that will help you understand the university as a whole.

Your resume should be nearby as it will guide you through the interview and provide you with key words to highlight your experiences and help you answer their questions.

Above all, try to be yourself and see this as an opportunity to let your personality shine. I have had search committees conduct professional interviews and not so professional interviews. You really have to just have a go with the flow and truly expect all sorts of questions, but more importantly, always stay true to yourself.

Finally, it’s important to reflect with a family member, peer, or colleague after a phone interview so you know what strategies to keep for next time. Sometimes when I thought I did horrible during a phone interview, I was called for an on- campus interview. You just never know what the search committee interprets and what you interpret.

2. On-Campus Interview

Naturally, the on-campus interview is a great way for you to see the campus, the culture, the staff, faculty and community in living color.

Remember you’re on an interview from the time you step off that plane, car, bus, train until you leave to go back home.

Student Affairs is a very small world and you never know who will be listening or seeing you in person.

Also keep in mind, the entire time that you’re interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you.Over the course of my three year job search, I have had eight on campus interviews. And I have had both unprofessional and professional on campus interviews given by universities. It just happens and we can’t pretend it doesn’t.

Still, in those unprofessional situations, you have to just remain yourself throughout the entire process and not blow off the interview just because you don’t like the environment. Organizations change all the time and you could end up working with a whole new group of people someday who used to work at that particular institution.

3. Networking

This piece of advice, believe it or not, has been the hardest part for me. I am a shy person by nature so at the beginning of my job search, I was very reluctant to network and ask for help. Soon I realized, though, that networking was the only way to get my name on peoples’ radar and to let them know that I am job searching.

I started with Twitter where I was introduced by a friend who, in-turn, introduced me to #sachat, weekly chat. This chat, #sachat weekly chat, invites student affair professionals from across the country to participate in a thought-provoking discussion guided by a series of questions. I have met a wonderful group of student affair professionals through twitter and I am very thankful to for their support.

I have also been a member or NASPA since 2010 and I have recently joined as a board member of a Knowledge Community to keep my membership active.

4. Mentoring

Mentoring is something that really keeps my sanity. When I have someone I can vent to and seek advice from, I can settle a lot of my fears about this job search. I have about four mentors who are at different stages of their student affairs career which gives me a very well-rounded viewpoint.

I am thankful for their encouraging, tweets, phone calls, emails and cheerleading attitude because it gets me by on a daily basis. It’s important to seek out at least one mentor who is a professional in our field that can be your guide and professional confidant.

5. Family

My entire family, have been really supportive through my job search. I currently reside with my parents and it’s not easy going back into the household after four years of living on your own during college. However, I am really glad to be able to have a place where I feel safe and secure.

It has been adventure for everyone who has continued to be my cheerleader and knows that one day the cycle will break. You just have to believe in your skill set and know that this journey will have ups and downs, a complete emotional roller coaster that you just have to accept.


In conclusion, these strategies may seem like a no- brainer, but I don’t think you can truly put these strategies to use and realize their potential benefit until you’re actively looking for a job.

Above all, I think it’s important to really ‘go with the flow during’ job interviews. We all get so caught up in ‘landing the job’ and trying to say everything during our interview that is ‘smart and witty’, that we tend to forget the reality of everyday living.

The reality is that your job search might be a long process, involving many bumps along the road.

I think it’s important to continue to be an advocate for YOU along the way. Find part time positions at a university and/or enroll in an internship at your local college.

I tend to give this advice to people who are new to the job search and the student affairs field in general. I usually, though, just get blank stares back in-return. They say things like “this will never happen to me. I will never get a part time position and/or an internship at a local college.” I say, don’t judge a situation until you can picture yourself in the shoes of someone, an employer and/or college administrator who needs help and/or has a new job in mind. You never know until you try….

I am currently a board member of the Student Leader Programs NASPA Knowledge Community and I am working at an internship. That is one of the reasons I am so happy to be a part of #emchat and the student affair twitter community. Even though I don’t have a full time job, my advocacy keeps me grounded and believing that something will break my way as I continue to search for a position in a field I enjoy so much - College Student Affairs.

Introduction to My Job Searching Journey!

Hello Everyone! I first want to write a big “Thank You” to Jennielle Strother and Alex Williams for allowing me to be a contributor to the #EMchat blog. I have been participating in their weekly Thursday night Twitter chats for some time now and it feels great to be a part of the best team on twitter! My name is Lauren Kaplan and I graduated from the University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida with my Masters in College Student Affairs in May, 2010. I came to USF as a transfer student from Valencia College in Orlando, Florida. My time as an undergraduate and graduate student has allowed me to work in a variety of student and academic affairs departments.

Since graduating with my Masters in May, 2010, I have worked part time as an assistant to an Area Coordinator for the Housing and Residence Life Department at the University of Central Florida and as an Admissions Clearance Assistant for the Office of Student Conduct at the University of Central Florida. Currently, I am a Student Development Advisor-Intern at Valencia College in Orlando, Florida.

Upon graduating from my master’s program in May 2010, I have been on a job searching journey.My job searching journey began during my last semester (Spring, 2010) of graduate school when I attended The NASPA Placement Exchange in Chicago, Illinois with my cohort.

For those of you not familiar with The NASPA Placement Exchange (TPE), it is a conference that takes place before the annual conference of NASPA begins. The Placement Exchange takes place over a period of four days where current graduate students from various graduate student affair programs or student affair professionals have the opportunity to interview with employers from different institutions from across the country. You can pre-schedule interviews before you arrive at The Placement Exchange or you can schedule while you’re in attendance. Just because you send your resume and cover letter to an institution before you arrive does not guarantee, though, that you will receive an offer to interview at placement. You can find the position postings by registering with The Placement Exchange website.

While attending NASPA TPE in spring of 2010, I kept an open mind and heart the entire time. Prior to attending the NASPA TPE in Chicago I pre-scheduled interviews with various schools across the country. The positions were mostly for residence life as that tends to be the main positions posted on the TPE job posting website. As a graduate student, I looked at TPE at the time as a great course on how to interview for higher education positions. As a result of those interviews, I did not receive any on campus interviews. However, I was okay with the outcome because I knew that my first TPE was an opportunity to learn how to interview.

Since TPE 2010, I have had eight on campus interviews and dozens of phone interviews. I am always the candidate never the hired. It’s very humbling to be called for an on campus or phone interviews. I truly consider it an honor to be picked out of the 1,000’s of resumes. It just would be nice to be able to call an institution my home of employment.

This past March 2012, I decided to attend TPE in Phoenix, Arizona. This time around I knew what to expect and how to navigate my way through the interview process. I made it a point to network and connect with student affair professionals. I decided to stay for the NASPA conference; this would be my first NASPA conference so I took this opportunity to further put myself out into the world of student affairs and attend sessions on topics I wanted to know more about. Both TPE and NASPA conferences were a wonderful experience. I can’t wait to attend the NASPA conference in 2013 in my hometown of Orlando, Florida.

As a result of this job searching journey or marathon for short, I would like to help other graduate students or current student affair job seekers along in this process. It’s important that we stick together! My former College Student Affairs Professor, with each step in this process has always told me “Maybe it’s your turn” and that phrase has not only kept me motivated, but when the timing is right, it will be. I will write next month on “Job Searching Strategies”