Out with the old and in with the new. New supervisor, new unit, new hires, and new vision. This was my approach to the 2015-2016 academic year at New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) at Old Westbury. Before I discuss the “how,” I will share a brief history of why the “new” vision. Student Involvement and Leadership Development (SILD) had evolved many times in my seven years at NYIT. SILD was formerly known as the Student Activities office led by me as the Assistant Director, the only full-time position dedicated to this office. After three years as Assistant Director and two years as the Director of the office, the potential and growth of this small unit led to new leadership programs and engaging initiatives.
Change is Inevitable
This once small unit called the Student Activities Office caused the inevitable structural changes within Campus Life. I was internally promoted to Assistant Dean for Campus Life (supervisor of the new SILD unit) and Campus Life had redefined roles and responsibilities of current staff members. These changes led to the creation of a new unit (SILD) with multiple staff members including veteran NYIT staff in new roles and hiring new staff members for newly created positions. Exciting stuff, right?
After a year of working with the new changes, it was time to assess and approach the 2015-2016 academic year. We identified that we were still trying to understand the purpose of the change while transitioning from an individualistic mindset to a team oriented one. We assumed when a new unit was created we would just come together to do great things. Wrong! This was my opportunity to create a team that would work with a unified vision as the team leader. It was time to forget about the old and think with the new while including veteran and new staff members at NYIT in the change process. I also knew that in order for us to continue to hire new staff members we had to assess, create and work towards a unified vision where we could confidentially search for the best candidates for SILD. Through this learning experience I have identified some tips on how you can use your hiring process as an opportunity to work towards your vision.
Assess and Define Your Vision
What I did first was identify those who would have a vital part in the success of SILD. During the summer of 2015 I invited current SILD staff members including graduate assistants, Campus Life members, campus partners and student leaders to the table. I had to create a safe space to have an open and honest conversation about the challenges we were experiencing. We also talked about our weaknesses both individually and as a team. This was the most difficult part of the process (assessment) but in order to get to the new, we had to address the issues with the old. As SILD, we then defined our “why,” which is the purpose of our work. This was where we created a vision that was realistic and innovative at the same time. We agreed to have action items to hold each other accountable to get to the unified vision. We were now for a successful year. The process was not easy but it was a game changer! I recommend doing this annually as your challenges and needs will constantly change as a team. I know I will be having a similar process with my staff again this summer. It creates trust, unity and compassion. When you create this environment and expectation amongst a team you can now search for a member who will not only be a right fit but one who will help the team move towards the vision.
When you are in the hiring process you must be transparent about your vision. You should include this in the job description if possible. You should also communicate your vision to your search committee so they have a clear understanding about what you are looking for in a new team member. I worked closely with the chair of the search committee when hiring our new Assistant Director so that she can give the committee a lens to work with during the process. I also worked with my team to create interview questions that align with our vision. If you do not share our vision with others they cannot assist us in achieving them.
It is Okay to Have A Failed Search
My team and I agreed that we would not settle for candidates that were not the best fit for SILD and our vision. We also made the decision that we would support each other in the interim. This was important to agree on as a team even though we desperately needed more staff members. As I mentioned, I worked closely with the chair of the search committee to understand our new approach, but we still had a failed search process. My perspective was that we were successful because we did not settle. We had over 250 applicants, 8 Skype interviews and 3 on campus interviews and still did not find who we were looking for. After regrouping and assessing we realized the search committee needed to understand that the candidates personal vision had to align with ours. We were looking for someone beyond the skills and experience. Since this was a new approach for the search committee my team and I decided to be a part of the preliminary Skype interviews before inviting candidates to campus. We made sure that the Skype interview questions matched this and that our team was able to elaborate on the vision during the interviews. This change helped filter a better selection of candidates for the second search process, which ultimately lead to a successful hire.
As I was writing this blog, I come to realize hiring is very much like dating. We have to do some soul searching (assessing), define what we want in a relationship (creating your vision) and not settle when we are lonely but keep searching until you find the right person (working toward the vision).
This post is part of our #SArecruits series, which will share experiences from a variety of #SApros who have hired new employees. We hope that these stories will give great insight for both professionals looking to improve their hiring tactics, and also those on the job search looking for an inside perspective. For more information, please see Bill Mattera’s intro post. Be sure to check out other posts in this series!
> BONUS <
Podcast With Quint Geis on #SAGrad, Life, and Job Searching