Because the weather can be so wretchedly winter in northern Iowa during the UNI fair, get a hotel that is close to the convention center, preferably within walking distance. If not within walking distance, get a hotel in Waterloo, not Cedar Falls, even though these two cities are only about 8 miles from one another. Make sure that your Waterloo hotel provides FREE shuttle service to the convention center each day. Live and learn. I did not do this. I preferred to rent my own car and stay in Cedar Falls with a fellow couchsurfer which would have been a wonderful plan had the UNI fair been in the summer and not in the winter.
On Thursday, my plane was delayed out of Chicago because it had to be de-iced. And then it was delayed some more. And some more, which meant I missed my early interview appointment with a wonderful school the evening before the fair started. But it also meant that someone else cancelled their room at a convenient hotel and I got their room when I walked in, begging for mercy, to simply park my rental car in their snow-filled lot.
I was disappointed that the interview had to be rescheduled, but totally relieved to jump into a hot shower and rinse off the stress from driving in wintery conditions. Driving and walking in sub-zero conditions made me reconsider ever living in a place that would experience winters like this. I thought of this as I interviewed over the next couple of days.
Frenzy. Anxiety. Stress. Manic emotions of UP-UP and DOWN-DOWN – all happening within a really short period of time. Really up. Really down. Over and over and over again. These recruitment fairs are not for the faint-hearted.
One of my up-ups was arriving at my message folder in the conference center, at 6:30 am on Friday, and finding yellow slips from three school administrators who wanted to interview with me. Some people arrive and find none. It is a good sign when school recruiters take the first step at the fair and reach out to you. These were in addition to the one interview that I already had scheduled that day. There were an additional three schools that I wanted to interview with and would approach at the Round Robin, in the main conference ballroom, which would begin two hours later.
I had carefully handmade “Ichiro” packets which is a trade-name of a personal PR kit. I left these kits in the schools’ message mailboxes earlier that morning and when I approached their tables in the Round Robin, they all seemed to know me and told me they loved my packet. Another up-up. In fact, one of the recruiters told me they showed my Ichiro to the UNI staff and told them they should give me a prize for having the BEST “Ichiro”. Another up-up.
The Round Robin was the most hectic thing I’ve ever been through. Vague memories of being in college, before there were computers, waiting in long lines to schedule for classes, getting to the front, finally, and finding that the class you really needed just filled and you would have to start over and re-arrange your entire schedule. This was a very similar situation. It is very important (I can’t stress this enough) to REALLY prioritize the schools you would want to work for. Know this in advance of approaching this large, crowded room. If a map of the ballroom is provided, know where those schools are, have them circled in advance on the map. When the doors open, practically run for the schools’ tables who left you yellow slips. After that high-tail it to your prioritized schools. There is NO TIME to stand there and figure out what schools you might like to work at. All this needs to be done in advance. As you approach a table, notice the length of the line. If it is long, a quick decision has to be made: is it better to stand in this line or let that school go, and move on to the next priority school? Quick decisions have to be made constantly and mental exhaustion caused me to leave the room entirely to regroup for a few minutes. It all happens very, very fast. The decision I arrived at, in those few, precious moments of quiet, was to let the remaining, bottom priority schools go. Don’t even approach them. I couldn’t take it; my nerves were frazzled. What I had was a total of five interviews scheduled and that was enough.
All of my interviews went really well, but there were two in particular that were spectacular! One of those schools scheduled a second interview for the following day and I was encouraged. The five schools I interviewed with represented these countries: India, Taiwan, Turkey, Vietnam and Venezuela. Before I went to bed on Friday night I talked with my mother, my daughter and several friends about many thoughts running through my head. The decision I made, as I fell to sleep, however, was focused on one school in particular. If I was not offered a contract to that school, then I would likely turn down offers made from the other schools, because there are other schools that I am interested in talking to next week at the SA/Cambridge Fair in Boston. When I walked to the conference center on Saturday morning, and approached my message mailbox, I found two yellow slips from other schools requesting another interview.
In the end, the one school I was most interested in offered the contract to my one competitor, two schools told me that they wanted to continue their search in Cambridge and I chose to let the other schools go in anticipation for Cambridge. So, I didn’t get a job – -yet. My heart is good and I’m encouraged. I checked out of the hotel, drove to my sweet couchsurfers’ home in Cedar Falls, went out for pizza and beer. She and her roommate and boyfriend are wonderful. She gave me her lovely bed. I slept so well. I awoke to the sun shining, birds singing and an email from a school who wants to interview next week at SEARCH Associates in Cambridge. The future’s so bright I gotta wear shades.
The search continues.