In our field of student affairs, we value accessibility and equity as core values that guide our line of work. I hear this from many of the professionals and faculty members that I have had the privilege of working with. I know that as a first-year graduate student, I like to think that these are some of the core values that guide the work that I do and want to do in the future.
During this time in the semester, many graduating students are scrambling to find jobs that will mark a new journey in their life when they finally get to start being full-time professionals. To do so, many of these graduate students are purchasing memberships to professional associations to participate in the numerous job interviewing venues created by their chosen institution. After they purchased their membership, they are required to register for the event that takes place in a specific city. Once the emerging professionals are registered, they have to start making and paying for travel arrangements. On top of this, these graduate students are encouraged to attend national conferences to network with potential employers with the hopes of increasing their chance of securing employment after graduation. When all of this is totaled up, the amounts can easily reach hundreds of dollars, if not thousands.
I will add that there are other ways to secure employment for after graduation, but we cannot forget that it is so ingrained in student affairs culture to participate in these events that some people might even feel bad for not participating and taking a different route. These associations do take into account that people do not have the financial means so they offer the opportunity for registered people to participate through phone interviews and offering scholarships to a select few people.
Problems with this “fix” still arise. A candidate will have a better opportunity to show who they are if they interview in-person. The candidates who interview over the phone for the same position do not have the advantage of using body language or non-verbal communication to show who they are and that they are a good fit for the position. Additionally, there are struggles that are not taken into consideration with some of the in-person interview style that these professional associations create. It is well-known that there will be hundreds of candidates applying for positions at the same time in the same venue, at the table next to you, separated only by a thin curtain. For people who are differently abled or need accommodations, this style of interviewing is hurtful and harmful to the candidate.
It is confusing that for a profession that encompasses the values of access and equity, there are still events that secondhandedly create barriers for its participants. I think that the creators of these events need to take this more into consideration when planning their events. There are benefits of having hundreds of employers and candidates looking to fill positions in the same place, but is this worth excluding people who cannot afford, both financially and health wise, to attend? This is a complex issue that is starting to arise that needs to be carefully thought out and addressed sooner rather than later.
Serafin Aguilar Jr (He/Him/His)
University of California, Santa Barbara ’16
University of Vermont ’18