Most student affairs professionals’ jobs consist of multiple roles and responsibilities (i.e. “hats”). When I assumed my role as an advisor for psychology students at Kent State University in July last year, I knew that I would have several responsibilities and thus rely on my multi-tasking skills. Admittedly, though, I was not prepared to juggle the multiple “hats” I was given and those that I had also chosen for myself. I felt like I was struggling to keep my head above water, so to speak. There are disadvantages and advantages of wearing multiple “hats”. I want to highlight these points briefly, as well as discuss some strategies for perfecting the balancing act.
Disadvantages: The bad news is that managing multiple “hats” can lead to feeling incompetent, stressed, and burnt out. For instance, I was extremely overwhelmed with all the “hats” I was wearing. I worried that if I dropped one ball I was juggling in the air, then everything else would come crashing down. I think most student affairs professionals feel this way at one point or another during their career.
Advantages: The good news is that you can become an expert in a lot of different areas, which will expand your skill set and make you more marketable. Do you manage the social media accounts or perhaps analyze data? Some of my “hats”, for example, include: managing weekly individual student appointments, creating and teaching a brand new online course, and networking with local professionals to coordinate internship opportunities. Maintaining these responsibilities has allowed me to enhance the skills in my “toolbox”, including leadership, organization, time management, creativity, autonomy, and interpersonal skills. Think about your role— which “hats” do you wear? What skills and experiences are you gaining from each of these “hats”? How can you translate these skills in an interview or on a resume?
Tips on managing your “hats”:
- Discuss the vision—Talk with your supervisor, Director, and/or leadership team to discuss their vision for your role. What is the main purpose of your job? What should your goals be this year? What are the priorities? Sometimes, we muddle through the day-to-day and forget to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
- Create a strategic plan—Many Directors and leadership team members create a strategic plan for their office or department in order to focus on the goals that need to be accomplished. I recommend that you create your own personal strategic plan in order to reflect on whether or not all of your “hats” are contributing to the vision of your role. Write down your goals for the year and include objectives regarding how you plan to meet each of these goals.
- Pick and choose—We simply cannot do everything, although sometimes we try. It seems like every week I am invited to some event or asked to add another thing to my plate. Before my strategic plan, I said “yes” to everything since my vision was unclear and since I like taking on new challenges. However, after the strategic plan, I was able to evaluate each invitation or task and decide (when possible) if it fit my goals and objectives. Do not get me wrong, sometimes we have to say “yes”. But there are other times that you can decide if the task is in the best interest of your role and vision.
- Organize your week—Do you plan out your week or even your day? Even though my number of “hats” has not decreased, I have been able to manage them more effectively since I found ways to better organize my time. I used to feel overwhelmed because I had a long list of things to do and never knew where to start. I now plan (as best as I can) everything ahead of time. For instance, I manage social media account every Monday morning at 8am instead of trying to scramble to fit it in throughout the week.
- Rely on your team— Who is on your team? How can you collaborate to better manage your “hats”? Honestly, I did not know how to utilize my student worker’s time effectively for the first few months of my job. After I created the strategic plan for myself, I was able to identify ways that my student worker could assist in meeting the objectives.
Thank you for reading my post. I hope some of it resonated with you. Feel free to comment!
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.
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Podcast With Conor McLaughlin on SA Work-Life Balance