Last week I had the honor of participating on a panel that spoke to a group of student affairs in higher education master’s students about professional development. As I reflected on my own experience and the advice shared by my amazing colleagues, I realized that it doesn’t matter how long you are in this field, some advice just never gets old.
So in honor of that panel and many other professionals in this field that I respect I give you my list of recommendations for new professionals and learners of new things.
- You are responsible for the energy you bring to the room. One of my favorite ashleyisms to share with friends and colleagues is that 50% of every relationship is 100% you. Know that when you mind, things to do matter, so make sure you are bringing the type of energy you want to receive into whatever space you are entering.
- Always work to strengthen your core. For some that may mean your spirituality or maybe your personal values, but whatever it is that guides you and give you strength, continually work on it. In this profession you’ll definitely need something to lean on at some point in your career.
- Start putting money away for professional development. It is not a given that your institution will provide you with opportunities to travel so always be prepared. This will also be useful if you ever need to relocate.
- Get involved with professional organizations. Find organizations that contribute to both your personal and professionals development. I have plenty of advice on how to navigate professional organizations but that’s for another day.
- Recognize that professional development comes in many forms. Conference are the most common, but there are many others both on and off campus. Participate in on campus committees, associations, and events to obtain more knowledge and strengthen relationships with your peers. Opportunities can also be found off campus through symposiums provided by other campuses or organizations, trainings and certifications, and involvement with community agencies.
- Remember that you are a students affairs professional, although you may specialize in specific functional areas. It is important to master skills related to your functional area, but as a student affairs professional you must also learn about other areas, including those outside of your division. This is essential is you ever want to advance into a higher position.
- Have fun! Most of us do this job because we love it. Make sure you find ways to enjoy yourself and always recognize what gives you joy in your work life. If will help keep you centered.
- Live the story written for you. As you grow in the profession you will find that there are limitless connections between people across the world and their professional and personal journeys are all different. Always be willing to listen to advice, but remember that your journey belongs to you just as theirs belongs to them, so don’t be discouraged if it varies from those you respect or envy.
- Always stay humble. It sounds simple, but it is a skill that must be practiced daily.
- Never burn bridges and know that reputation does matter. The student affairs community is small and this can either work for you or against you. You’ll have to decide, but as a new professional know that the reputation you lay as your foundation may follow you throughout your career.
- Learn to embrace budgets, assessment, and campus politics. Seriously go against the grain and embrace these areas. It is unlikely that you’ll have an opportunity to learn everything you need to know about these three in the classroom so take every opportunity to learn how to master them.
- Find at least one mentor, sponsor and dream launcher. Mentors can provide knowledge and advice. Sponsors will advocate for you and challenge you. Dream launchers are those that keep you focused on your goals, support you when you doubt yourself, and are synergy personified. Find them, keep them and nurture those relationships.
There are definitely many others that should be considered, but for the time being this is a solid start.