Alumna Jennifer Banning On Her M.A. and Her Successful Job Search in Higher Education

My life path, in terms of finding a career, has certainly been a winding one. I first graduated from Ball State in 2010, when I received my B.A. in Anthropology and History with a minor in French. During the following year, which I spent working with elementary-aged students, I learned quite a bit about myselflike the fact that although I enjoyed teaching and working with students, I missed higher education and interacting with both college-aged students and faculty.

Upon entering the M.A. program in English at Ball State, I had vague ideas about getting a teaching license in secondary education, but was mostly just interested in further developing my writing and research skills through creative writing and literature courses. As my graduation date of December 14, 2013 loomed nearer and nearer, I began to think more seriously about what, exactly, I ought to do for a career. I took stock of my interests: reading and writing, collaborating with students and faculty, soaking up the atmosphere of working in a college or university. I decided to look into administrative faculty positionsparticularly those in academic advising.

It just so happened that Earlham College, a small liberal arts school located in Richmond, Indiana, had a job opening posted on their website which intrigued me. They were looking for someone passionate about the liberal arts to serve as a Career Adviser in their Center for Integrated Learning. As an English M.A., I think I can safely say I’m both passionate and knowledgeable about the liberal arts, and my own job search helped me learn the ways in which liberal arts majors must market their skill sets.

I applied for the position and received an email response stating that they had already begun the interview process and would only review my application should they decide to widen the pool of candidates. Disappointed, I continued with my job search, sending out cover letters, resumes, transcriptswriting and rewriting to employers about how, as an English M.A., my skills could help their organization. The job search process forced me to do quite a bit of reflection about my own skills, goals, and motivationsand furthermore, it forced me to effectively communicate those things to employers.

A couple of weeks later, I received a call from Earlham: they were interested in my application, and would like to talk via Skype the following day. I was ecstatic. I immediately set my sights on this position, throwing myself into full-on research mode in an attempt to uncover anything which might help me during the interview.

The Skype interview went well, and I received a phone call later that day asking me to come to campus for a face-to-face interview in two weeks’ time. As a part of this interview, I would be giving a presentation to students and faculty on “Translating the Liberal Arts into Your Future.” All those cover letters I’d written in the last few weeks paid off. My presentation discussed the broader life benefits of attaining a liberal arts degree, as well as specifics on how liberal arts majors should discuss their skill sets with potential employers.

I’ve been in my new position as a Career Adviser here at Earlham for nearly a month now, and I couldn’t be happier with the direction my path has taken. At Earlham, I get to interact daily with individual students, providing advice and support as they explore their career and grad school options. Every day I use the skills I gained as an English M.A. to edit and review resumes, cover letters, and grad school applications and to uncover new opportunities for my students. Writing and editing, critical thinking, researchingI do it all on a daily basis. And best of all, I get to do it in an environment which I find both stimulating and rewarding.

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