Before my first job in higher education, I was really excited and did everything I could to prepare myself for the transition. I created a reading list of books, prepared my wardrobe, and packed office supplies. I read books including “Job One” and “The First 90 Days,” taking diligent notes, and creating plans on how I could be the most successful. As a high achiever, I wanted to make sure everything went perfectly. Within the first 90 days, I was hit with several things I didn’t expect.
Although I knew my job would require more than the typical 8-5, I was more exhausted from my schedule than I expected. As an on-call professional, I faced several incidents including unexpected student conduct hearings, a fire, and a flood. Although I had wonderful co-workers, I felt obligated to live up to societal standards to not to share my struggles with my co-workers. In addition, I really missed being in the classroom, learning new theories, and doing research.
I did not prepare as well as I had hoped for the challenges of my first job.
In recent years, adults working in the United States report greater challenges in personal well-being and productivity in the workplace (Morris & Madsen, 2007). Stress in academia has increased dramatically (Darabi, Macaskill, & Reidy, 2016a). Increases in administrative workload, student numbers, and less time with students were all significant sources of stress for professionals (Darabi, Macaskill, & Reidy, 2016a). Additionally, 90% of academic professionals indicate that they are unhappy with their current work environment (Darabi, Macaskill, & Reidy, 2016b).
These are the pessimistic facts! No matter how much you prepare yourself there are always unforeseen problems. Here are a few tips that can help you prepare for your first job:
Add a new stress management practice to your schedule.
My 2016 goal has been to do yoga once a day! Author Rubin provides some good habit forming tips in her book (Rubin, 2015).
Learn how to authentically share concerns with your co-workers.
Although it can be difficult, if you have concerns about work, it is better to share these concerns with your supervisor and co-workers before they become an issue. Although in my first job, I didn’t have any major concerns, I tend to be hard on myself. If I would have expressed my feelings with my co-workers, I may have realized almost everyone has doubts about their work performance at one time or another.
Find friends with whom you can share ALMOST everything.
As I mentioned, I have always been lucky with great co-workers. However, my first job would have been easier if I committed to talk with a friend or a family member once a week.
Above all, listen to your mind, body, and take care of yourself! There is no shame in going to bed at 7 p.m. or taking time to enjoy a morning cup of coffee on your front porch.
Darabi, M., Macaskill, A., & Reidy, L. (2016). A qualitative study of the UK academic role: positive features, negative aspects and associated stressors in a mainly teaching-focused university, 1–15.
Darabi, M., Macaskill, A., & Reidy, L. (2016). Stress among UK academics: identifying who copes best. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 1–20.
Rubin, Gretchen. (2015). Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives. Hachette, UK.
Magolda, P. M., & Carnaghi, J. E. (Eds.). (2014). Job One 2.0: Understanding the Next Generation of Student Affairs Professionals. University Press of America.
Morris, M. L., & Madsen, S. R. (2007). Advancing work life integration in individuals, organizations, and communities. Advances in Developing Human Resources, 9(4), 439–454. http://doi.org/10.1177/1523422307305486
Watkins, M., & Norris, K. T. (2013). The first 90 days. Gildan Media LLC.
This post is part of our #SACareer series, addressing careers in student affairs, careers outside of student affairs, and the work of career services professionals. Read more about the series in Jake Nelko’s intro post. Each post is a contribution by a member or friend of the Commission for Career Services from ACPA. Our organization exists to benefit the careers of career services professionals, student affairs professionals, and anyone supporting students in the career endeavors. For more information about how to get involved with the Commission for Career Services or the #SACareer blog series, contact Cristina Lawson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Podcast With Conor McLaughlin on SA Work-Life Balance