I started my journey in higher education in 2010 as a graduate assistant and now, five years later, I reflect on my biggest takeaways in hopes that it may motivate other entry level professionals to become engaged with this ever changing (and exciting!) field.
- Networking doesn’t stop in grad school. In fact, I would say it amplifies in your first few years. Meeting new people and reconnecting with familiar faces gives you the opportunity to hear different perspectives and collaborate to improve your own institution and the field as a whole. There’s tremendous benefit to meeting professionals at your institution (outside of your office) and at larger professional organization. Additionally, stay connected by reading articles and staying up on trends. Curious about something you’ve read? Reach out to the author!
- Get to know and respect the people you’re working with. You’re spending a LOT of time with the people in your office – get to know them! You’re a team and teams work best when there is synergy and cohesion among its members. It can be intimidating to come into a new environment and be the “new guy”. But remember, they hired you. They wanted YOU as part of their team. Get started on the right foot by taking the time to meet and interact with your new team.
- Stay focused on the students. Seems like a no brainer, right? But periodically reminding yourself of the bigger picture can be helpful to center yourself. Big programs, collaboration, varying work styles, details, details, and more details can all distract from the big picture. You will juggle a lot in your first few years but remember why you’re working so hard.
- Brand yourself. Find your niche. Stay present. I once heard the phrase “brand or be branded”. While harsh, it’s true. You have the opportunity to write (and tell!) your own story. What do you want your narrative to say and how will you get there? Start to build your brand – your niche, skills, experiences – you’ll thank yourself in five years!
- Keep your eyes open for new opportunities. You never know when new opportunities will present themselves – job changes, professional organization opportunities, networking opportunities and more. If you’re doing good work, taking initiative and staying connected, people will notice. Especially as a new professional, take all the opportunities you can! It builds your network and increases your skills while giving back to the field.
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 Jake Nelko at email@example.com.