Welcome to the new school year!
Not long ago, I celebrated my one-year K anniversary; I started on September 1st, 2020. When I initially interviewed for my position, I did so virtually. From my first conversation with the search committee chair to my full-day interview, every meeting I had was either on the phone or on Zoom. I did my research on Kalamazoo College, met wonderful people, and still dressed up for an in-person interview, even though I never left my bedroom.
When I was hired, I was living in Florida; I then began my job as CCPD Director while still living there. For two and a half months, I engaged remotely with my new K colleagues. Then, my family and I moved to Michigan. We purchased our Michigan home sight-unseen; our realtor FaceTimed with us several times, but when we arrived in November, we had never physically set foot inside the house. As you might expect, there were unanticipated surprises: unpleasant paint colors that hadn’t been detected from a phone’s camera, inconsistent carpeting throughout, and small fixes that we simply couldn’t have noticed from even several virtual tours. So, we got to work renovating and updating the house. All while I continued to work at K, remotely.
For the next few months, I would continue to work from home and learn about K, meet more amazing colleagues, and strategize with my CCPD colleagues on how best to help students and alumni navigate career and professional development amidst a pandemic that kept us isolated, anxious, and staring at screens all day.
It wasn’t until June of 2021 that I was able to start meeting my coworkers in person. Each day that I went to my physical office, I would run into people I had worked with for nine months, but had never actually met in person. Some people wouldn’t recognize me because I was wearing a mask, and others would stop and say, “You look familiar to me.” I would then frame my face with my hands and say, “Imagine me as a box on Teams. I’m Tricia, the new-ish CCPD Director.” “Oh yeah! So nice to finally meet you,” they’d say. Whenever I’d attend a meeting in person, the meetings always seemed to last a little longer even though I’d been working with my colleagues for months now – all because now, in person, we could engage more spontaneously and more naturally, about life, my transition to K, and of course, work.
Why do I share this with you in my first Letter from the Director of this academic year? Well, because this experience might seem a bit awkward and strange, but it just might be the future of work for many, and even you. Perhaps, long after the pandemic (can’t wait for that!), virtual interviews may just be more common because employers have found that they are efficient, relatively easy, and often cheaper than meeting with someone in person. You might get hired for a job that is 100% remote, hybrid, or one that allows you to work from a distance for a certain period of time, and then relocate so you can work in-person. You might complete all of your new hire training and onboarding virtually. You might not meet your boss or your coworkers until months into your role. And then, when you do, you might be wearing a mask (gosh, I hope not, but who knows?). You may receive multiple job offers (that’s the dream!) and choose the one that is most flexible for you, the one that gives you the option to work from home or allow you to select a customized option.
The world of work is continuing to evolve every day. Industry standards are changing. Hiring managers are choosing different recruitment practices and procedures. Job duties are looking different. And, trying to prepare for this uncertain work environment can make anyone nervous. Believe me: I have been working as a professional in higher education for quite some time, and I still tripped over my words in a Zoom interview; the process of fully virtual engagement is still new to many of us!
But, here is where you, as a Kalamazoo College student, have all the advantage: you are not alone. The Center for Career & Professional Development is here for you, to help you discover your talents, build your professional networks, and connect your K experience in a way that stands out to employers and graduate schools. Can it be intimidating to set up an appointment with an adult to talk about your future? Yes. Might it be scary to think about preparing for a job search, no matter how old you are? Yes. Do you sometimes not even know where to start? Yep. I’ve been there, I get it, and my team and I are here for you.
So, where do you start? Your first step should be into our new Career Studio, which officially opens Week 2. Located in Dewing 004 (the ground floor, or basement level), the Career Studio is staffed by your peers, student Career Ambassadors. They are excited to greet you, get to know you, and provide guidance on major and career exploration, resume reviews, job and internship searches, and so much more. The Studio is open Monday through Friday from 10 am – 2 pm, and you don’t need an appointment; you are welcome to stop by, stay as long as you’d like (until 2 I mean ), and visit frequently. We’re hoping that this space will provide you with a welcoming, calming, and comfortable atmosphere where you can bring your future-focused questions and get some practical advice on steps you can take to get you where you want to go. And feel free to bring a friend, if that makes it easier!
The world looks different today than it did a year ago. And figuring out who you are is never easy, especially when we’ve all been so isolated from the human engagement and interaction that we were used to. But, instead of putting it off until later, why not get ahead of it? Why not give the Studio a try? Why not start now, with the help of your friends in the CCPD? You will find that your dreams, your skills, and your insights are just what this changing world needs right now.
See you soon,