July 2020 Alumni Spotlight
Special Journey Spotlight with John Georges, MSEd ‘19
In this special alumni spotlight, Marxe graduate and Director of Dedman College Records and Academic Services, John Georges tells the story of his MSEd experience, from personal to professional with ups and downs, and successes and failures.
When I was first enrolled in the program in January 2018, I committed myself to completing the program within 16 months knowing that at some point my family would grow and that we would relocate out of New York by Summer 2019. Having previously worked in higher education for over 20 years at various schools, I still felt that I had much to learn about the field. I had also just started a temporary full-time position at a small two-year proprietary performing arts institution as an interim director of international admissions. Within seven months, I was laid off due to cutback as the school was failing financially and operationally. With my severance package and unemployment insurance. Rather than feeling disappointed and depressed, I felt a newfound sense of freedom to pursue and complete the program full-time and seek new employment opportunities down the road.
Once my family and I found out in February 2019 that we were relocating to Dallas within four months and and that my daughter was due to arrive in April, the pressure was on for me to successfully complete my MSEd program requirements and try to secure a full-time job near our future home. I immediately shifted my job search focus from New York City to the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) area. From that time on, I did extensive research on schools throughout the region, set up job alerts on various job sites, consulted with [Marxe Career Services] to work on my improving my resume, constantly revised my Capstone project, talked to my professors and Marxe advisor, and submitted numerous applications for leadership positions in the areas of student services, student life and admissions. That spring, I received nothing but multiple rejections, but I kept pressing on.
While researching and applying for job opportunities, I was able to successfully complete all of my program requirements in late May 2019; however, I had to miss Commencement on June 3 to undergo a necessary medical procedure. While recovering the following week, my family and I were packing and loading boxes for our move to Dallas. Upon arriving in Dallas on June 10, I wanted to hit the ground running while still recovering from the medical procedure and needing physical therapy. I went online to research job posting, job fairs and professional networking events throughout the DFW area. Once I was well enough to drive myself around in July, I started attending as many career functions as possible throughout the region and networked with HR representatives, faculty and staff from various colleges and universities. I also used higher education job sites and my affiliations with professional organizations (i.e.: NASPA, NAFSA, etc.). In addition to Dallas, I went as far out as Arlington and Fort-Worth to seek opportunities and make contacts. I also networked through referrals from my family members, friends, neighbors and parents from my son’s school.
The experience was daunting on so many levels because:
-The DFW region does not have the same public transportation system as NYC so I had to drive everywhere
-All the colleges and universities are more spread out in DFW than NYC
-Everything in Texas may be bigger, but everything runs incredibly slower than NYC so it takes even longer to hear back from potential employers
When things seemed like a dead end, I questioned and even doubted myself. I began reaching out to my mentors from Baruch College for some guidance: Professor Christopher Adams; Professor Ron Spalter and Professor Jeffrey Apfel from the HEA program; and Associate Dean Ann Clarkson, my former supervisor from my days working in the CAPS division. They all provided me with valuable advice that helped keep me motivated throughout my search.
While at my neighborhood community pool with my family last July, I randomly met a neighbor who happened to be a highly accomplished associate dean at Southern Methodist University, one of the most prestigious universities in Texas and the United States. A week later, we met for lunch at SMU’s George W. Bush Library to discuss our respective backgrounds, experiences and interests. That same day, he then introduced me to the vice president of human resources. During our meeting, he explained that there were some internal changes happening at the University and may take a while to hear back, but he encouraged me to keep applying for desired opportunities once they were posted.
Since then, I continued treating every day as a workday by attending numerous job recruitment and networking events, practicing my elevator pitch and tailoring my resume for specific jobs. After many more rejections that summer, I was offered a graduate outreach manager’s position by Princeton Review and an assistant director’s position by the University of Texas Study Abroad division. Even though I really wanted to establish myself and gain work experience in Texas, I knew the salary conversion from NYC to DFW would not be in my favor and the starting salaries they each offered were about 35% below what I knew I could earn with my education and experience. In September 2019, I was invited to interview for a remote position in my region as an assistant admissions director for a Caribbean medical school with offices in New York and Florida. After numerous rounds of phone interviews and being flown into New York, I did not get the position. As dejected as I felt about losing that opportunity, I realized in hindsight that it probably happened for a good reason because deep down it was not the kind of job that I really wanted to do in higher education.
In October 2019, I attended another job fair in Dallas and came across Southern Methodist University’s table. I spoke with one of the HR representatives for about 20 minutes about my experience, education and previous meetings with the associate dean and the VP of HR. She took my resume explained that it may take some time to hear back about the position and to be patient. After submitting online applications for various opportunities on their career site, I continued leaving her messages once a month to let her know that I was still interested in working at SMU.
After that job fair, I started reevaluating my approach. It dawned on me that I had nothing but New York work experience and references on my resume. I realized that if I wanted to gain some higher education work experience in Texas, I may have to work my way up all over again by being open to part-time positions in my search. As a result, I began researching both part-time and full-time opportunities at two-year and four-year institutions. For some, interviewing for part-time, lower-level positions might be a humbling or sobering experience. For me, however, there is no shame or embarrassment in pursuing any job as long as you are passionate about what you do and sincerely care about your chosen field. Sometimes in life, you have to start over to get back where you want or need to be. By December 2019, I interviewed and landed a part-time education consultant position working with students and faculty in Academic Affairs and the Writing Center at Collin College just 10 minutes from away my home. The position gave me the flexibility I needed to gain experience serving students, continue my job search, attend interviews, network with fellow professionals and spend time with my family.
Last February, I was caught off guard received an email and a phone call from the same SMU HR representative I met last October asking if I was still interested in one of the positions I had applied for: Director of Dedman College Records and Academic Services. The College houses 16 departments with over 90 different majors in the humanities and sciences. I responded almost immediately and provided an updated resume and references that included my new position and new references from Collin College. Six months after submitting my initial application (a four-month waiting period plus a two-month interview process), I was finally offered the position and I happily accepted.
I hope my story will help inspire future and current students in the Higher Education Administration program and fellow alumni. I hope they realize that our experiences throughout our studies in the program and our job searches will vary greatly. We each have different perspectives, motivations, timelines, circumstances goals and unique stories. Since February 2019, after all many online searches, job fairs and networking events, I probably reviewed 5,000 job postings and applied for over 200 different positions within the DFW region. It was not like I applied for every single job I came across. Much like Dallas, the opportunities are large and very much spread out. I have read through each and every job description thoroughly and carefully before deciding which to apply for. After reviewing the job descriptions, I knew that I could apply myself and do the work if only given the chance.
I knew I had nothing to lose by simply applying. All the prospective employers, hiring managers and search committees could do was tell me was that I was either qualified, overqualified or under-qualified. YES. NO. MAYBE. Of those 200 plus applications, I have only been invited to 10 interviews. Of those ten, I was offered four positions. Today, I am very proud to say that I now hold two of those positions: a full-time director at a prominent private university and a part-time education consultant at a respected community college. At both institutions, I am also doing what I have always wanted: directly serve and motivate students to further their higher education goals.
My advice to all my peers in the HEA program: No matter the obstacles and whatever the future holds, stay focused and committed, but be flexible. Be hungry and passionate, yet be patient. Prepare to feel weary at times, but always remain hopeful.