Whether you are a new professional or have been in the field for years, chances are you went through training or a master’s program to provide a theoretical framework in preparation for your career. Perhaps you still quote Chickering regularly, but more likely, the formal theory you spent so much time learning fades a little more from memory each semester. You instead rely on informal theory, which is simply the set of assumptions you’ve learned with experience that influence how you react to situations.
This blog post is merely designed to remind you that summer is a great time to refresh yourself and your knowledge base – summer is the slow season, right?! (I know… that is just a cruel myth). But there’s a reason why we go through formal programs and learn formal theories, and as a professor in one such program, I think it is important to periodically refresh and connect formal theories back to the informal theories you’ve created in the daily operations of your position.
The theories you choose to review should vary greatly dependent upon how you serve students and where you are professionally, but here are two suggestions that have mass appeal. I teach courses in both student development as well as leadership theory, so the suggestions of resources are my personal favorites. You can decide whether to refresh regarding what your students are going through or perhaps you can focus on yourself as a supervisor or even supervisee. I’d love to hear other theory suggestions in the comments too!
Schlossberg’s Transition Theory is included in student development theory, yet it has been applicable to me as an adult. This time of year is a massive transition time for staff as well as students, and Schlossberg can provide us with a nice framework to objectively view change. At the heart, the theory asks us to identify: What’s the change? What can we improve about it? How am I equipped to handle it? and Who can help? Even positive transitions create stress, and doing a walk-through with Schlossberg’s theory can help identify resources to make the most of the transition!
Behavioral Approach: This leadership theory divides our behaviors into relationship-focused or task-focused. There is a simple assessment (Blake & Mouton linked below) that allows you to determine your tendencies and plot where you fall (it would be fun to plot your whole team and use it as a team builder). I like it because it is straightforward and we can ask ourselves: am I focusing enough on building relationships (or accomplishing tasks)? Too much? I have a tendency to be very task focused when I’m overwhelmed, so this approach serves as a reminder that I also need to connect with people to maintain balance.
Note: If you are looking for an essential text on Leadership Theory, I highly recommend Northouse’s Leadership: Theory and Practice text. Behavioral theory is covered in depth along with about 10 other useful theories with questionnaires and case studies.
Blake & Mouton Questionnaire and Leadership Grid: https://www.bumc.bu.edu/facdev-medicine/files/2010/10/Leadership-Matrix- Self-Assessment- Questionnaire.pdf
Northouse, P. G. (2015, 7 th edition). Leadership: Theory and Practice. Los Angeles: Sage.
Schlossberg, N. K. (2005). Counseling adults in transition: Linking practice with theory. Springer Publishing Company.
Schlossberg overview: http://www.unthsc.edu/students/wp-content/uploads/sites/26/Schlossberg.pdf
This month is dedicated to the new crop of new professionals beginning their careers in higher education. Stay tuned for advice on job searching, transitioning into the field, and translating all of that new knowledge to the field.
This post is part of our #SACareer series, addressing careers in student affairs, careers outside of student affairs, and the work of career services professionals. Read more about the series in Jake Nelko’s intro post. Each post is a contribution by a member or friend of the Commission for Career Services from ACPA. Our organization exists to benefit the careers of career services professionals, student affairs professionals, and anyone supporting students in the career endeavors. For more information about how to get involved with the Commission for Career Services or the #SACareer blog series, contact Cristina Lawson at email@example.com.