A TPE First-Timer…

Veratta Pegram-Floyd

My name is Veratta Pegram-Floyd and I am an SDA alumna from the class of 2013, as well as a double alumna from SU, with an undergraduate degree in Social Work/Sociology. Up until December 2013, I was working professionally in the field within the non-profit sector working in college completion mainly with first generation and low-income students. Even though I was passionate about the work that I was doing (in part because of my own experience as a first gen, low-income student), I was missing opportunities to holistically engage on a college/university campus. I resigned and began a job search, specifically focused within college/university settings.

Fast forward to early February where I was focused on a local search. I interviewed for two positions in Seattle and did not move along in either of their processes. It was frustrating at the time, however I later realized that neither of those positions were going to help me move along a direct path towards what I currently perceive my career end goal to be. Through a mentoring conversation, I decided to be open to different positions and explore a national search. Thus began my TPE journey and the lessons I learned from the experience…

Things to Consider:

-All of the TPE volunteers are very knowledgeable about the process and are there to assist you in any way that they can. UTILIZE THEM.

-Even when you may not think you are on, you are on. Remember to be professional at all times. This is especially important if you are offered the opportunity to attend socials or any other school related events.

-Different people approach TPE differently: The most important thing to note is that this is a very stressful experience for everyone, regardless of how many interviews candidates have lined up in advance and/or how much interview preparation has been done prior to coming to TPE. I didn’t know what to expect, but it is natural for me to approach others (and my work) with a very affirming and welcoming personality. When I saw that others were distressed in the candidate room at my table, I asked them about it/tried to problem solve with them. I didn’t come in looking at TPE as a “competition”, because I believe that the only person you are in completion with is yourself. Bring your personality to TPE and let that help you shape your experience.

-You might not have all of your interviews lined up before you attend: I know I didn’t, but I quickly learned that once you get to TPE, both you and employers you are interested in/interested in you are able to request interviews. Additionally, if you submitted application materials to a school prior to TPE, you can follow up again with them there. I had four interviews set up prior to coming to TPE, and two that I set up while I was there which came by way of networking in the Starbucks line! In my case, I didn’t have specific schools or criteria of certain schools narrowed down enough which helped me to be open with regard to meeting with other schools that I may not have initially considered. I had the flexibility to be open, but even with that flexibility, there needs to be some parameters…

-Be “selectively” open (if you have the interviewing flexibility): When you may be requesting interviews/schools are requesting to interview you, it is important to know some kind of criteria and/or follow your gut. One of the schools that requested to interview me was not a good fit demographically speaking. The other was not a good fit religiously speaking. While it was a learning moment for me which taught me to better trust myself, I should not have went on those two interviews. It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of schools being interested in you, but you have to remember that as much as they are interviewing you, YOU ARE INTERVIEWING THEM.

-If you have the time (even if you don’t think you need the wisdom) get in on the roundtables and career coaching sessions offered: I heard that both of these may have been new additions this year. The roundtables were about an hour long and covered such topics as “how to prepare for the second round interview” and “how to ace the on campus interview” etc. The career coaching sessions are also an hour long. During the session, you get to sit with a seasoned professional who will offer guidance regarding where you are in your process. I was given so much LIFE by Dr. Kevin Dougherty, Assistant Dean of Students at UCLA. I asked him specifically about my non-traditional background and feeling confident about what I offer, knowing that my professional experience has not been in the field. He shared his also non-traditional background with me and helped to build up my confidence.

-Some schools will not have second round interviews at TPE: Always ask what their process looks like at the end of the interview and know that some schools do not offer second round interviews at TPE. This is not a reflection of you and/or how you interviewed, but rather a reflection of the school and their process.

-After TPE, remember to formally apply for positions if you did not do that prior to attending TPE (assuming there is a formal process)/follow up with the school. As we all know, some schools are more organized/have a more defined hiring process than others. If they don’t get back to you by the timeline set, follow up.

-(Most Important Piece of Information) Do NOT judge your experience based off the experience of your peers: Easier said than done, I’ll admit that I initially fell victim to this. As I moved along in the process, I got over this. Yes, I was bummed that I didn’t have more interviews. When I thought about it though, what was I really going to do with 18-20 interviews? No, I haven’t been offered a job yet, but I’m a firm believer that things happen as they are supposed to. Even though things are a little stressful while I am in this limbo period, I believe I will have the opportunity that was next meant for me.

Did I have a good TPE experience? I did, because I made the experience what I wanted it to be.

Since TPE, I have had an additional interview with a school that was interested in me, but did not have the scheduling availability to meet with me at TPE (that can happen as well). I have also been moving towards being a finalist for a position/school that I could really see myself having a lot of growth and influence. For this position, I completed a second round interview at TPE. I found out this past Wednesday, April 9th that they are checking references. After references are checked, they will make a decision regarding whether or not I will receive an on-campus interview. They are only bringing three candidates to campus. Given the way my first two interviews have gone, I STRONGLY BELIEVE that I will be offered an on-campus interview. If I get an on-campus interview, it will happen at the end of April/early May. I will keep you all posted…

Blessings to all of you in your search and congrats to those that have been offered positions and found their fit!

– Veratta

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