Advising is one of my favorite parts of the work I do. As a Campus Advisor to the ladies of the Alabama Alpha chapter of the Pi Beta Phi Fraternity for Women, I have been so fortunate to observe a group of strong women hone their leadership skills and work collectively to fulfill the values of the organization. I view my chapter like family and am so proud to watch each member grow over four years.
My work as a Campus Advisor typically involves collaborating with our chapter leaders, the Executive Council, to provide opportunities for career and leadership development in both one-on-one and group settings. Much of the programming is similar to the campus-wide initiatives that I oversee, such as workshops on resume building, but the process is truly tailored to the chapter and each of its members. I’ve noticed a positive change in our chapter’s communication skills, confidence levels, and overall happiness with Pi Phi over the past year, and I do believe that our chapter’s combined efforts to focus on developing strong leaders has been a major contributor to our success.
In addition, I’ve witnessed an increase in confidence levels among our chapter, something I attribute to both our development efforts and a strong sense of empowerment and support. Sisterhood runs deep in our organization, and by having a female professional on campus to offer encouragement and work closely with the chapter, we have strengthened our ties with one another even further. When I discuss my work with Pi Phi, I always tell others that I’ve enjoyed so many more gains from my affiliation with the chapter than I could ever return, but many of the younger members have expressed their enthusiasm about having an on-campus advisor to turn to. Career and leadership development can be a daunting task for our students to take on, but a focus on collective learning and support has caused many of our chapter members to apply for opportunities that they wouldn’t have felt confident enough to consider otherwise. Advising student organizations is never easy, but this is why I can truly say that I love what I do.
Here are some ways that advisors could foster career development in their student organizations. While these activities may vary, these ideas could be tailored to fit a number of student groups.
- Office Hours
I set aside one hour each week for Pi Phi, giving our chapter members an opportunity to drop by and discuss topics such as internship opportunities, resume reviews, mock interviewing, or professionally communicating their Pi Phi accomplishments and projects. It’s been a great way to provide individualized attention to the chapter, as well as make each woman feel supported on campus. I’m also able to get to know each member individually, so I can better assist and encourage them to consider different types of professional opportunities.
- Attending and Sponsoring Events
I’ve written a blog post on why attending events as a student affairs professional is so important, but I wanted to briefly reiterate its importance: By attending events put on by our student organizations, we are showing active interest in the values and principles that they promote, as well as providing an additional opportunity to bond with the group. I’ve found that informal conversations with members of the group at tailgates and philanthropy events have led to more successful one-on-one meetings because I get to know the chapter better and can tailor my approach to fit its needs.
- Culture of Support
This goes hand in hand with attending events put on by the organization, but it’s a crucial part of leadership and career development for advisors. In addition to holding office hours and showing my Pi Phi support at different events, I am always aware of my language and attitudes when working with the group. I push them to apply for opportunities that pique their interest, provide them with support through the application process for different leadership positions, celebrate with them when they embark on new endeavors, and console them when they are turned away from a project. Each woman in the chapter knows that I have her back no matter the outcome, and it allows for us to have honest discussions about her professional pursuits and her unique skill set. I understand how tough this topic can be for our students, and I could not truly foster strong leaders without supporting them.
I encourage each of our student organization advisors to consider implementing career development into your advising model, even if it involves simply mentioning the vast number of leadership, experiential learning, and co-curricular opportunities to your groups. They will bring back skills that can truly support the development of your organization and the group at large. What are some other ways that advisors can support career development?
This post is part of our month-long series #OrgAdvising, an in-depth look at the different aspects of the student organization advisor role. This series hopes to bring front-and-center a role otherwise overlooked or forgotten in the discussion of “advisor.” For more information, see the intro post by Cindy Kane! Check out the other posts in this series too!