Last week during #SAChat, my final question was, “Why does it seem to be such a bad thing for someone to move on if we’re talking about a pyramid without enough room for everyone?” If you weren’t participating, the pyramid reference came from this idea that moving up in Student Affairs is like moving up in a pyramid without enough room at the top for everyone who starts at the bottom (cue the Drake now).
I feel like I need to make it clear that my experience in student affairs to date has been limited. I currently work in Housing/Residence Life and through this job, have dabbled in Student Conduct, but that’s about where my experience ends. As someone who sits at the bottom of the aforementioned pyramid, it confuses me that we even need to have a conversation about moving on in order to move up. The first question that comes to mind is, “So what?”
Why does it matter if I leave student affairs to follow my dream somewhere else? I think we have this idea of allegiance to the field and what we do in student affairs. “I work with college students all day. What I do is hard. What you do outside of this cannot be that hard.” I promise you that when I leave the field to work with prisoners in a higher education setting, it’s going to be difficult; maybe not in the same way as supervising 22 student staff in a complex of 1,200 is difficult, but there will inevitably be challenges. I don’t understand why we make it such a problem to leave.
I can see where people are defensive about what we do every day. Our work isn’t easy, and it isn’t always pretty, but it is rewarding. If someone no longer feels rewarded by coming to a Student Affairs job every day, why try to keep them here, or worse, judge them when they leave? In the financial world, traders and brokers aren’t begged to stay because we see their field is this kind of “dog eat dog” world. Do what you need to do to climb to the top, and if it doesn’t work, keep it moving.
I’m not saying we can’t be upset when someone with a lot of potential decides to step away, but at the end of the day, people are going to make their own decisions. If someone doesn’t want to be here—no matter how great we may think they are—why beg them to stay when there are others who want in? From someone who doesn’t plan to stay in the field forever” what we do is great work, and we should want people here who want to be doing it.