NOPE NOT THAT KIND OF POG! But let me ask you, Does your department support professional outreach? If so, great, if not maybe you can change that. As a young professional I am often confronted with my own limits. Limited exposure, limited experience, limited time, limited, limited, limited. Furthering that, I have certainly felt at times what I would call “young-professional micro-aggressions” due to many of the factors listed above. I feel that it is a relatively known fact that the career “catch-22” is alive and well. We talk to our students about it all the time: “You cannot get a job without getting experience first, and you need experience to get a job.” Usually this is the part where we begin speaking to the value of internships to our students, summer jobs, work during the school year, etc. So how does that relate to us young professionals? Working a full-time (40+) job, being in grad school, having family and life commitments, etc. Internships are likely not a consideration (if they are though, I still feel it is the best experience you can get). So where does that leave us?
Well, many have posted about the “inverted-T” (my name for it) in Student Affairs. The large base of entry level positions that immediately narrows and goes relatively straight up from there. This “inverted-T” seems to be leaving the influx of young professionals arriving at the gates, diploma in hand, wondering how they can help themselves and their careers. I myself have recognized (now with 3 years of professional experience and still no career direction) that much of what motivates my involvements in and outside of my department is driven by a desire to build my experience/resume. Getting involved with RLAGS, #SAChat or an organization like those (that many of us might do) can often be decisions that were made simply because they feel like they would give more experience regardless of what that experience was.
So ultimately, I sat. I sat and listened to my colleagues who were moving on and those just starting share their frustrations (the department didn’t help me enough or I am not sure where to go), their regrets (I didn’t do enough while I was there or I should have said yes to that idea), and their fears (What if I do not get a job? What if it is just a lateral shift? What if I do not have enough experience? What if I fail?). I reflected on the fact that I chose to come to my current department because of the freedom the work schedule allowed, because it meant I could do what I wanted/needed to do for myself. I reflected on the fact that I do not see barriers, I see through them and that I am confident enough to support myself in my choices. That I do not believe their is one way to do something, especially if it is the way it has always been done. I reflected finally on that fact that I treat failure as the greatest thing that can happen to me, and then it hit me…and P.O.G. (Professional Outreach Group) was born.
I realized that it was not for lack of motivation that my colleagues were struggling (heck they made it through grad school), it was for lack of support.
Our department historically has provided freedom and funding to develop ourselves professionally. You have money to attend conferences and when you return you would do a write up and maybe present in a department meeting. Historically our central staff encourages us to put in program proposals for conference and they will certainly check in about how the process went and if we received it or not. Historically and currently, we have a great ResLife program focused on personalize student contact that doesn’t get put out there. Historically, the support in the areas that our young professionals feel they need was lacking in the long term.
P.O.G. was created specifically to address that feeling of low support, particularly in times of rejection. What surprised me the most was that no only did my colleagues attend its first meeting, but the central staff did as well! It seems that an unanticipated reality was that they too felt a lack of support in doing their own professional outreach. P.O.G. meets once a week during lunch so as not to interrupt the schedule and has been well received for this past spring semester. It is my intention to keep all of you here on #SAChat up to date on the things we are doing in P.O.G. so that you can use them or add to them for your own development! Or to create your own P.O.G. group at your campus. I plan to blog about the professional development activities we do in those meeting as well as the trials and tribulations that we are encountering. It is easy to sit and wonder “why?” or “what could I do differently.” It is easy to wait things out or feel like you are owed something but in today’s world maybe support in your endeavors is all you need to take that next step forward?
We had the pleasure of having a sit down conversation with #ACPA Vice President Gavin Henning and he shared sound advice to many of my colleagues and central staff alike that truly sealed the deal on the benefits of P.O.G. but the single most important thing he shared about his experience was that when people asked him as a young professional to do things or he saw things he wanted to try he simply said “yes” and figured out the rest along the way.
So if you are not feeling supported or motivated by your department maybe P.O.G. is a good way to change your department culture and created one that supports, energizes, and values professional outreach. It is likely that not only will it help you personally but the extra exposure to your department can aid if retention and recruitment of professionals…Just a thought…
See you at Episode 2!