Meet Catie*, a student affairs practitioner, who spoke to my second semester graduate school class about her career and recent move into business consulting. She highlighted the transfer-ability of the skills you gain in student affairs and I was intrigued by the breadth and depth of work in higher education. I chose her as a mentor that semester and remain in touch with her to this day.
So why share this story of Catie? Her journey transitioning to a career “off-campus” taught me that successful transitions require personal awareness and the courage to implement strategies that help you both psychologically and logistically invest in this career change. Below are three tactics she taught me about determining if, when and how to start such a transition outside of higher education.
1.Make a pros and cons list to determine your motivation for the transition. Do so for both working in and out of higher education. Be honest with yourself. If the pros outweigh the cons for leaving higher education, then perhaps a transition beyond the university setting makes sense. Also, take a moment to consider what else you learned about your professional aspirations as a result of this activity. The bottom line: Catie determined through this exercise that her heart was no longer in higher education, which opened her up to her next career move.
2.Make a list of the competencies and transferable skills you gained thus far. First, reflect-– what themes do you see in your experiences? Next, review — what competencies rise to the top of your list? And, why? For example, I know I’m my best when I am creating something new, connecting people or ideas that weren’t previously connected. Bottom line: It is important to know which skills you are good at and want to use more than others. This ensures that the field you transition into will be a good fit. Catie determined through this activity that her abilities to grow outside of higher education had a greater yield for her professionally over time than if she transitioned to a different role in a college setting.
3.Take a look back to get beyond skills and motivation and closer to professional authenticity. Transitions bring new ways of seeing yourself and your situation. After a few years running a successful consulting business, Catie decided to move into financial planning. At age 50, she realized the negative effects of mismanaging her money early in her career and she wanted to help others avoid her current situation. Making that first move toward a more authentic professional experience outside of higher education allowed her to get closer to finding a more fulfilling career. Layering your transferable skills on top of the work and that has the most meaning for you helps prepare you to negotiate whether a transition from higher education is the right choice for you.
*Name changed to protect identity
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.