Out of all the topics I could start this series with, I decided to tackle something that I think is hugely important to student affairs. Adaptability. Going with the flow. Rolling with the punches. Call it whatever you want, but sticking to your exact plan, no matter what is going on, can lead to some pretty terrible moments.
I wasn’t always adaptable. In high school and the beginning of college, if things didn’t go the way I had planned I would get flustered and give up. After I started working in orientation and event planning during college I grew to appreciate the importance of going with the flow. In my opinion, adaptability can ensure the success of an event just as much as proper planning. I can likely count the number of times an event went perfectly on one hand. Something always goes wrong. It can be small, like someone forgetting to bring a table. Or it can be major – like the dining facility forgetting they were supposed to help feed 400 people during a homecoming event. And yes, that really happened. It was a terrible day.
Learning to be adaptable at work trickled into my home life. Once I embraced not needing everything to be exactly right at all times I believe my life got much better. This month has tested my ability to be adaptable on a whole new level.
In the last month I have:
- Transitioned from a graduate assistant in Residence Life to a full time Coordinator in Student Life & Service
- Met all of my Student Directors – they are awesome in case you were wondering
- Welcomed new students, parents and families to campus during freshmen move in
- Told those same students, parents, and families that they should take any important belongings and go back home
- Evacuated students who were unable to leave on their own
- Experienced my first (and hopefully only) major hurricane
- Rebuilt parts of the residence halls that were destroyed by the hurricane
- Started my second to last semester of graduate school
All of the planning, the preparation, and my expectations of what my first month at this job would be like were thrown out the window. The entire semester has been uprooted. Classes are starting two weeks late, freshmen were not able to attend orientation events, and activities that had been planned months in advance are canceled. This is not an ideal start to the semester. But that is okay. Instead of feeling down about how substantially everything needed to change, this gave my department the opportunity to be flexible. How do we orient students when they’ve already started classes? How do we show them what it means to be part of #jaxnation? It definitely hasn’t been easy, but it has been a lot of fun.
I am still learning how to do this job. I have to go into work each day not expecting anything because I don’t really know what to expect. Which is exciting. I want to make sure that the students feel the same way. That not knowing what comes next is fine. Adaptability is a skill, something that needs to be worked out everyday. You aren’t going to wake up one morning and say, “WOW! I am literally the most adaptable person in the world!” That isn’t how that works. It is a mindset I have to work on every single day.
I am sure this semester will be filled with experiences that don’t go as planned, and I look forward to the challenge. I am sure all of you will face that same challenge. Instead of worrying about it, just be ready to change along the way. Encourage your students to do the same.
This post is part of the Emerging SA Pro series following four awesome people: Michelle, Sara, Thalia, and Holly. Join us as they blog monthly about a year in their journey as a new SA Pro or SA grad. We are proud to help them share their stories.