In a recent phone conversation …
Me: I walked into my outer office suite and found a jail, constructed from a cardboard box. It was complete with aluminum foil jail bars. Some times I think to myself, ‘is this really my job?'”
Colleague from another campus: (laughing) I know, but then some times I think, ‘is this my job, really?’
Oh, the paradox of being in student activities – That we daily walk the fine line between the absurd/humorous and the challenging. Most times, I find us to be a very lucky people … those with fun and meaningful jobs. You know, I am almost 40 years old, and when I speak to other ‘grown-ups’ about my daily job, I still get, “Wow. That sounds like SO much fun.”
You mean, you don’t have a caricature and a wax hand in your office? You don’t get excited about eating in the dining hall because of soft serve ice cream? There isn’t a spirit stick from a retreat on your book shelf? No random summer staff dance parties in the outer office?
But I think what my colleague and I were really referencing was: being taken seriously.
As a new professional I would grow quite heated when I felt our profession was questioned or categorized as ‘the fun people’ on campus. In campus meetings when you are targeted “Are you the person I talk to about posters?” “You worked until midnight at a dance party? FUN!” “Is that your photo event downstairs …? FUN!”
What do you mean funny? Like a clown? Do I amuse you? Huh? – Tommy DeVito, Good Fellas
<Unfortunately, Tommy DeVito got a little more than heated at the mere inference that he was funny. And if you haven’t seen the movie, I couldn’t post the clip because of his ‘heated’ language … but needless to say, he gets his in the end.>
As a ‘seasoned’ professional I can look beyond some of the crazy requests and questions we receive from across campus. In fact, at times I try to challenge myself how to turn the random encounters into some good old fashioned public relations. However, I recently, around the same time as my chat with the aforementioned colleague, found myself all worked up about a policy/procedure being questioned. Let me be clear, it was being questioned by a non-student. And, it wasn’t just a ‘help me understand…’ question. It was a direct hit on the policy. Not that I haven’t experienced challenges or questions.
I was a little upset and annoyed. Pffffttttt. Ok, I agonized over why this bothered me so much.
But then it all came swirling together for me. I interpreted this little questioning to be a direct hit on my abilities as a practitioner. Here was an outside entity questioning whether or not I knew my stuff.
So, I pulled myself together (aka, debriefed for 30 ++ minutes with my supervisor) and responded to the non-student in a professional, educated, and dignified way. This was only after I followed my 24 hour angry email rule, which includes: write the response you wish you could send, save it, read it 24 hours later … more than likely – delete it.
What I realized in the process was: how would this non-student have an idea or back-drop for the work I do? You can’t bask in the glory of having a ‘fun job’ and not expect confusion from those not involved in the ‘party’. Albeit a party of understanding student development, risk management, event planning … it is quite a mixed bag.
It’s very cliche’ to say, you really can’t understand a person’s journey unless you’ve walked in her shoes … (especially when they are fun, fashionable and functional shoes) but, it is quite true in this context.
Or can you? What are the small and big ways you can share with campus about the work you do?