Job search confusion abounds....
September 4, 2014 9:19 AM   Subscribe

Hey Mefites, I need help in getting an out-of-state job. Can you help?

So, the long and short of it is that I have been employed as an admin assistant for a state university for 6 years. I love working for universities and would like to move to another state and have a career working for another university. I have been applying like mad to other institutions for admin assistant positions (lateral move) and can hardly get an interview. I have worked for my current university as an AA for 6 years and worked for a previous university as an AA for 2 years. So a total of 8 years in university administration as an admin assistant.

Caveat: I have a B.S. from an Ivy League university and I have not been able to get into the field of study due to the lack of positions in that field.

I tailor each cover letter and resume to the specific position I am applying for, have networked with the folks I know, and even address moving in the application materials I send out. So my questions are:

1) How do you get an out-of-state job before you move?

2) How can I get a job at a university as an admin asst with a lot of university experience as an admin asst?

3) Could my degree and/or perceived overqualification be thwarting my attempts to get another position?

4) Any other thoughts, anecdotes, or helpful things to share?

Thanks y'all! :)

P.S. - Before you ask, I work in a very poor state and want to work for an institution with more opportunities. Both educational, professional, and financial.
posted by strelitzia to Work & Money (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Competition for jobs is intense. Any University hiring AAs probably has way more qualified applicants locally than they can even interview. So you being out of state is a huge hurdle you probably can't overcome. Also, schools, particularly public schools, are under intense budget pressure and are likely making do with less support staff than they did previously.

Combing those two factors...I don't think you'll have much success applying from afar. It's not you, it's the economy.

If you really want to move you'll probably have to save up 6 months living expenses and make the move without a job in place.
posted by COD at 9:37 AM on September 4, 2014

Can you use an address in the state you're moving to, like is there a friend whose address you can use? That might help a bit.

Would you consider working as an AA in a non-university setting, at least temporarily?

It sounds like you're doing things right, but it's entirely possible there aren't a lot of academic AA jobs around. People tend to stay in academic jobs FOREVER, so they don't open up all that often.
posted by mskyle at 9:52 AM on September 4, 2014

I work at a small college, and my sense from interacting with other staff and faculty is that a candidate who demonstrates some familiarity with the academic field(s) they'll be working with is at somewhat of an advantage in a competitive candidate pool. By familiarity with the field, I don't mean being able to name-check important scholars so much as being able to "click" with people who work in that field. As you probably know from your undergraduate years, each department has it's own culture, which relates but isn't necessarily the same as the discipline's culture more broadly. Finding some way to show (rather than tell or state) that you "click" with that department and discipline could perhaps give you a leg up. YMMV and all usual disclaimers apply.

Are there particular institutions you'd like to work for? And/or types of institutions (e.g. large research university, selective liberal arts college)? Do you read the Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed? If not, becoming a bit more familiar with current news in academia might help you zero in on the kinds of institutions you like and those you'd rather avoid. I'm sure you do this already, but you'll probably make a better case for yourself as a candidate if you can articulate very specific reasons why you want to work at *this* institution in *this* position.

COD is correct, the job market is definitely tough in most places. But I have found one piece of cover letter advice far more helpful than any other, so I'll share it here. This is from the perspective of a library director who hires a lot of staff, speaking as a hiring manager:

"Second, stop talking about yourself in your cover letter. Yes, you’re trying to sell your skills and personality in this letter, but I mean it: Stop talking about yourself. Talk about us instead. Think about it with me: We have your CV, which, if it’s good, tells us a lot. Therefore, we don’t need a paragraph that tells us what you did at your last job. You’re just repeating yourself in your limited communication space. What we need is a paragraph that tells us how you intend to apply what you know to the job we described in our carefully worded ad. Tell us how you’re gonna help us and contribute to our insitution. And do it well, so that you stand out from the dozens of other applicants, whose CVs and cover letters we also have. Ask yourself: how does this letter make my application stand out as a potential member of their team?"

Read the full post (and comments) over at Jenica Roger's blog, and be forewarned it can strike some people as a bit harsh! Nonetheless, I've found it super helpful for writing better cover letters that achieve the desired results.
posted by brackish.line at 9:53 AM on September 4, 2014 [5 favorites]

I worked at a state university for 14 years and hired for many positions. We routinely got 300+ applicants for clerical and admin jobs. The fact that you have a degree would have been a plus; the fact that it was Ivy League might have impressed a faculty member but would have been a neutral otherwise. The out-of-state address would have been a minus (we wouldn't have covered the cost of travel to an interview or moving expenses, and sometimes we scheduled interviews very much on-the-fly; like, the next day) unless there were many other factors in your favor.

Keep in mind that the hiring managers probably aren't even seeing your cover letter until HR has done an initial screen and pulled the top 20 applicants. Make sure you are addressing the specific job requirements in your resume.

Agree with the other posters that it's just a really competitive job market out there all around, and there's good advice upthread. Good luck!
posted by Sweetie Darling at 10:01 AM on September 4, 2014

Another thought: maybe after six years, you should start looking at positions one step up - i.e. program coordinator/manager or executive assistant? At my uni, people usually cycled out of admin positions after 3-5 years (unless they were old-school "lifers"), so you may be coming up against a bias that you wouldn't stay in the position very long.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 10:03 AM on September 4, 2014

I, too, bet it's just that they don't want to bother hiring long distance.

I'm an academic AA too and we ALWAYS have jobs open. It's just that for jobs that don't require super rare skills, no one's going to go on a nationwide hunt to fill them.

I second saving up an emergency fund, moving, THEN applying. I know people say to never leave a job without another lined up but that's not always realistic. You can always temp for a while when you get to your new town too. In fact, it might be preferable as you can "try out" situations that way. Best of luck to you!
posted by Jess the Mess at 10:24 AM on September 4, 2014

New admins are so iffy. A lot can go wrong. Maybe you're not as awesome as you seemed in the interview, or maybe your boss can't figure out how to use you, or maybe funding gets cut and they can't keep you, or maybe they thought you'd click with the department and you just, for whatever reason, don't.

Anybody hiring an AA is going to be aware that they may be letting that AA go in a couple of months if things don't work out. That's stressful enough. Adding in the out of state factor -- that's even worse. Nobody wants to let an AA candidate move to a new state for a job and then fire them or lay them off three to six months later. They'd feel like assholes, and nobody wants to be that boss.
posted by kythuen at 10:51 AM on September 4, 2014

I've been in the hiring committee for three staff hires in my department recently. The in-person interview is a huge thing to me - I personally don't feel a phone or video interview would be anywhere as useful. We can't afford to fly anyone in, so the out-of-state applicants don't get offered interviews. I guess I could see making an exception if the job was specialized (not general admin) and the applicant's experience was incredibly relevant.

Our HR system does give us access to cover letters, and I expect the cover letter to be exceptional to get an interview, and I'm pretty ruthless about the resume too. brackish.line's advice about the cover letter is good - don't repeat stuff from the resume. It should tell me you've read the job ad through, researched our department, and give me a sense about why you're suited to work with us. If you're applying from out-of-state, some recognition of that and why you're interested in moving to our community would also be nice.
posted by Squeak Attack at 11:59 AM on September 4, 2014

Nthing "just move and look for a job when you get there." As long as you are moving to a place with a healthy job market (such as it is in this economy), you should be able to get temp work to tide you over. Find yourself a roommate situation/AirBnB/sublet so you don't have to put down a huge security deposit at your new location.

Seconding Sweetie Darling's suggestion of trying for a position a level or two up, as well.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 12:42 PM on September 4, 2014

« Older Can I get a credit card, as a PhD student; and if...   |   Book recommendations Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.