They say that when you reach a pivotal milestone in your life you tend to deeply reflect on where you are vs. where you want to be. For me, I’ve recently turned 25 and have reached the end of my first year as a full-time professional. I am earning more money that I ever thought I would being fresh out of grad school and have a “lofty” title. What more could I really ask for?
Well, for starters – I am living 16 hours away from my parents and family. Though I recently went on a 5 day cruise in the Caribbean, my remaining vacation days have been tacked onto major holidays just to get some extra time because the travel takes so long. See the timeline for common destinations to the right:
In addition, my boyfriend has recently moved 8 hours away (trip #1 from above) to pursue a new role that presented itself as a great option both personally and professionally. He began his search in March, a little less than 9 months after I started in my current position. As a long term partner, of course my plans came up in conversation as well. I was less than a year in my first full time job– when the typical timeline for this occasion is 3-5 years. I had made a lot of progress in an office facing some transitional issues and there was a lot that I wanted to carry out in the fall. The original plan was that I would follow after the fall semester was over.
As I continue to reflect on my given situation, one thought seems clear to me: I may not be able to carry out that plan. Below are a few reasons why:
- My choice to remain in my current role was not for me, it was for my institution. “I have a lot of things I have left to accomplish” or “I couldn’t do that to the students” were common phrases in my justifications. I wasn’t thinking about the fact that I have a high-stress job, with a long-distance support system and have said on several occasions that I would like to transition to a different functional area. I just wanted to wait for the “right time” to leave.
- There will never be a “right time” for me to leave my current position. I could work 10 years in my current role and never accomplish everything that I set out to do, because my current institution is currently in growth-mode and there is still a lot of ground to cover. Given that campus programming is virtually nonstop from the beginning to the end of each semester AND we are highly programmed during summer, there really is no “off-season”. No matter when or what time of year I leave, it will most likely be an interruption of something.
- Opportunities don’t always reveal themselves at the right time. My timeline is great in theory, but doesn’t allow for me to explore any options. If the PERFECT job popped up where I am looking to relocate, but was during that Fall Semester timeframe…following my original plan I wouldn’t have applied for it. This goes back to point #1- while applying for this hypothetical job may have benefited me personally and professionally, the institution would have suffered. Sometimes, it’s okay to make a professional move that will benefit YOU.
- A job is just a job. Sure, this position was at one point ALL I wanted and it provides me with a healthy income to pay bills and secure a roof over my head. But I already know that I won’t be in this role forever and in the end, after you leave – the institution moves on. My friends and loved ones will continue to remain with me regardless of how my career path transforms.
There are several articles and professionals out there that discuss appropriate timelines for vacating roles and for the most part they hold true. But at the end of the day, life happens. There are few Higher Education professionals that have cookie-cutter responses for how they got into the field. We each have our own unique story. I’d like to believe that our career paths are a bit like that as well. Sure, there are trends, but it is how we choose to make a life that impacts our professional decisions. The next chapter has yet to be written, but you can be sure that its content will be of my own best interest and that I will do whatever I can to make sure it’s a seamless transition for my employer.