I’m sure at one point or another throughout your journey in Student Affairs someone, somewhere has told you to get out there and “diversify your experiences.” However, this statement is vague, and it is hard to interpret what it actually means. Are you supposed to go to a different institution? Are you supposed to work in a different department? Are you supposed to switch cities? Career paths? Position types? Move up? Move out? Is it acceptable to go to grad school where you went to undergrad? How about work full-time where you got your graduate degree? So many options that can all be attributed to “diversifying your experience,” but no definitive move.
We all know the concept of diversity as it pertains to people of varying characteristics; but do we have a definition of diversity as it relates to experiences? We could probably best classify this type of diversity as a variety of experiences that contribute to who you are as a professional. However, this definition of “variety of experiences” changes from person to person, and even over time. Are we defined as being a diverse professional because we have worked at a lot of different institutions? Or are we a diverse professional because we have worked in many different departments that may be in the same institution? The point is that each person adopts their own definition of diverse experience, but there really is no standard from which to operate. The disparity that may exist in the different interpretations of “diverse experience” could hinder employees from getting a highly qualified candidate, or may hinder someone from landing that perfect job.
I’ve seen it happen; resumes are overlooked because of lack of institutional diversity, or resumes are placed on top of the pile simply because of the number of different institutions listed. The drive for “experientially diverse” professionals seems to sit at a face-level, only attributing to the variety of places one has been. Yet, its perfectly plausible that one candidate who has worked an equal amount at one institution can be more qualified than someone who has traipsed the entire country to earn the ‘diverse institution merit badge.’
What if we redefine the whole concept of diverse experiences. What if instead we say, “go somewhere OR experience something you have yet to go or do–whatever or wherever it may be. Do it all to grow and learn as according to your career aspirations and personal goals.” After all, that’s all we really want for each other as Student Affairs Professionals anyways, right?
Let’s start encouraging our emerging professionals to seek experiences, rather than face-level diversity, because there is nothing wrong with staying at an institution that you truly enjoy.
I’m curious to hear some of the advice that your mentors provided you. Were you told to diversify your experiences? How did you interpret that piece of advice? Comment below!