Have you ever thought about what your pitch is? Your brief “sell” for an interview, perhaps? Some of us have a succinct summary of who we are and why we should be hired—not a bad idea when this type of question comes up in interviews. But what about once you have a new position and you’ve got to somehow sell yourself again?
I recently had a meeting with a new supervisor where the goal was to get to know each other better before the semester got rolling (which I would imagine is a total Student Affairs thing, as it’s totally relationship-oriented). During the conversation, my supervisor was trying to tell me things that I should know about his style and asked questions about my own. He joked about needing to memorize a five-minute speech to give new staff members to make it easier. That moment of laughter and reading another recent post by Viraj S. Patel left me thinking about my own self-description, my professional portrait. When I’m asked to talk about who I am in the professional world, what skills and passions do I want to highlight? What idiosyncrasies should I mention to keep things running smoothly in the work place? Who /am/ I in the professional world?
While I think the world of Student Affairs has a healthy respect for self-reflection and knowing who we are as people and professionals, I believe the question has another layer of importance. We may not always be asked by a supervisor or colleague about our professional styles (although hopefully we are all so lucky), but it’s highly likely in the world of Residence Life that we will encounter RAs, student workers, student leaders, and new students who would all benefit by an open discussion about professional styles.
When we’re able to communicate about ourselves, we are not only giving them a better picture of who we are, we’re also heading off potential conflicts and sharing expectations, which can be particularly important for our staffs to know. If lateness is a pet peeve of yours, communicating that to your staff can encourage them to be on time and avoid aggravation on your part and documentation or accountability conversations on their part.
But there’s yet another benefit to being able to share your professional self in an efficient way. You’re modeling that kind of reflection and communication for those around you. While the skills of reflection and communication may seem simple in theory, putting them into practice can often be difficult, especially for young adults. Allowing your student staff to practice communicating their own Five Minute Professional Portrait, may be a good way of allowing your staff to briefly tell you about what their own expectations are, which is an often overlooked aspect of training and the start of the school year. This could turn into a deeper project later on, perhaps a contract between the supervisor and staff member, as described by Daniel W. Murphy in his article, but this brief verbal introduction can be a great way to break the ice and get moving in the right direction. Being an example to them in this matter is just another way that you are assisting in the development of others, a constant goal of Student Affairs professionals.
So understanding the importance and influence of communicating your own five minute professional portrait, what is yours? What are the most important elements of your professional portrait? Do you share different aspects with colleagues from those that you share with students?
Devon Purington is a Residence Life Coordinator at Penn State University-Hazleton.
This article has been cross-posted at A Patchwork of Student Affairs, a blog of random thoughts on Student Affairs.