Most #SAPros feel that nobody outside of higher education knows what we do. It’s a running joke on social media—with memes and articles circulating—about what it means to be an #SAPro. To make things more difficult, many offices and initiatives are abbreviated into acronyms. Plus, the response is predictable when you’re asked about work. You can count on confusion when you answer that you’re working on the ABC initiative through the XYZ office. While I’m accustomed to confusion from those outside of higher education, it still surprises me how much we stereotype each other as #SAPros.
I’ve learned that most people across campus don’t know what I do in Career Services.
If I had a dollar for every time another #SAPro asked me if I just review resumes, I’d be living large. While resume reviews are part of my job, there are many other things I do that aren’t stereotypical career things. That said, if you asked me what #SAPros in Residence Life or Student Activities spend their time doing, I’d respond with a stereotypical answer, too.
Of course, I understand that there’s a lot of variability between institutions and overlap between functional areas. It should be that way. Traditions are incredibly important, and the diversity of our institutional identities help make higher education the best it can be. Still, these stereotypes challenge me because they create space between us. If we can’t figure out what our colleagues across campus do, how can we refer students to the right place when they need something we can’t provide?
I could suggest that we aren’t advertising our services to students enough, but I don’t think that’s the answer. I also don’t think sharing our comprehensive position descriptions would make an impact. The fact is, stereotypes serve a very real purpose for us as humans. They allow us to quickly categorize things into groups and make sense of complex ideas. We can’t expect ourselves not to stereotype. It’s a natural brain response.
Despite our inclination to stereotyping, we need to embrace collaboration.
We need to dig deeper than initial impressions. If we don’t, we miss opportunities to support students—particularly first generation students who are unfamiliar with the resources available. For example, academic advising can help students consider graduate school, but there’s also space to discuss that in Career Services. Imagine a scenario where the two partner. Think about how impactful and comprehensive that conversation can become. That’s priceless.
I know what you’re thinking: “You want me to add more to my to-do list?”
As #SAPros, we have too much to do already, but if you reframe that thought, you’ll see that partnership can reduce our workload. I’m suggesting that (through collaboration) we can better support each other and achieve mutually beneficial outcomes. Metaphorically, we don’t need to reinvent the wheel; we just need to make improvements to the way it works. It’s still a wheel, but now it drives smoother and gets better gas mileage.
In other words, when #SAPros make small adjustments to the ways we work together, we ensure that students depart from the “higher education car” and arrive at their destination more smoothly. Better yet, we get better “gas mileage” throughout the journey.