A career change–even a position change– can fundamentally reshape our day-to-day life, the way we see ourselves, and the way others see us. Student affairs is a field in constant transition; many departments within our field faces high rates of attrition. Transition–and change– is a constant in our work. While many people are averse to change, I consider myself a person who welcomes– and, sometimes, even seeks– change. I move comfortably through change. Recently, I moved from one state to another, transitioned from residence life to career services, and went from living-in to living-off– all with a partner and a puppy. What made my life easy is that I was moving back to my hometown.
However, my transition did not come without its own set of obstacles. I want to share my insight on how to stay resilient through transitions with a few techniques I use myself. These include: managing expectations; taking on positive, constructive perspectives; non-attachment (and, thus, staying open-minded and flexible), followed by some more practical tips related to relocating.
Resiliency Through Perspective, Expectation Setting, and Non-Attachment
Shakespeare writes, “There is no good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” Perspective-taking and expectations can shape an entire experience of a transition. I am energized by change because I view it as opportunity for learning and creation, rather than an interruption. With this perspective, I also check in with myself about my expectations about my next situation. I can imagine an ideal situation without being attached to it while simultaneously being mindful and grounded in the reality that, oftentimes, very little goes as planned.
While I can’t change my rent, the layout of my apartment, the absurd amount of money I had to shell out for basic furniture, or some employment hiccups (not having health insurance for two months, for example), I managed expectations by focusing on my excitement towards my new position. I get to gain new expertise, meet new colleagues, and learn new skills – all of which are in my control.
Before I moved, I was ready to spend a few nights couchsurfing and troubleshooting maintenance issues in my new apartment and emptying most of my savings to build a new home. I did not stay attached to my ideal of a “perfect” home or a “perfect” job because I knew all of that could change at a moment’s notice. Knowing this, I chose to take the perspective that I was extremely fortunate to have a warm, comfortable roof over my head. I had family who were nearby, financial resources to spare if emergencies arose, and I had my health intact. With an adaptable perspective and realistic expectations, I was ready for anything that came my way.
Moving with a Partner
The key to moving with a partner is communicating frequently, openly, and honestly, every step of the way. Understand what each of you need (not want) separately, including distance from family, housing accommodations, career needs (such as distance to workplace), emotional needs (accommodating anxiety that may come with moving), and scheduling pet needs after the move. Make sure to check in and resolve conflicts as you go by communicating your needs and wants openly. This will ensure that stay on the same page about expectations and desired goals.
Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems
One of the most difficult challenges to navigate while moving was navigating finances. I had little knowledge about living off and, specifically, all the intricacies surrounding apartment rental and paying utilities. If you are living on, my sage advice is to save as much money as you can. Familiarize yourself with the fees associated with renting an apartment in advance so you can be financially prepared to move. Personally, I considered the costs of a security deposit, pet deposit, utilities, and renter’s insurance.
My move happened amidst a whirlwind of other events. I didn’t expect its immediacy, so I didn’t have as much time to financially prepare as I wanted. It was still possible, but only after I found a place that offered to waive my security deposit, whereas, in some places, the security deposit can be as much as three times the rent. It isn’t exactly a fair market for young people with low wages, but proper and early preparations will save you heartache and a lot of credit card debt.
Resiliency is hard to quantify, teach, or learn. It’s a habit to be built over a lifetime. We aren’t all equipped to face change in the same way and some coping mechanisms work better for some people than others. The key to developing strategies for managing changing and developing resiliency first starts with self-awareness. The more you face change head-on, the more you will learn about yourself and how you respond to it.
September is the month of transitions, especially on the college campus. Follow #SATransitions to read as the community reflects upon transition and change, personally and professionally. Want to write for this series or have ideas about future series? Contact Nathan Victoria on Twitter at @NathanVictoria or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.