One of my former students told me, "do you remember the conversation we had about sororities on the orientation cruise when I was a sophomore Orientation Leader?" I'll confess, I didn't. She, however, cites that as a defining moment in her decision to join a sorority and, in retrospect, a defining moment in one of the most important decisions she made in her life. She told me that because of that conversation and her related decision, she grew as a person beyond even her own potential and found her leadership style, her best friends, and a career she now loves. I just attended her wedding a few months ago!
That conversation took place about eight years ago and I just heard about its impact last month.
In that story, a "typical student moment" for me is pretty momentous for her. If I'm being honest with you, my frame of mind at that time, was probably more like "if I can just make it through this long night on the Spirit of Boston cruise we will be so close to this huge week of events being over!" Yet, a basic "should I get involved" conversation is something she remembers today.
Why in the world would we endure never ending work days, low pay, occasional lack of respect, shortage of resources, and struggles with serious crisis situations? Why do we stay and not just give up the ship for easier, safer, more lucrative careers?
I wanted to close out 2009 on a positive note, so here is my list… in no particular order.
1. I stay because at least twice a year, I get to gather with like-minded people in my profession to learn more about my chosen field through active professional associations. These conferences seem to come at just the right time each year and refocus me toward wanting to achieve in this field.
2. I stay because at least once a day, I get to connect with like-minded people in my profession to learn more about my chosen field through active on-line communities like the SA Blog and Twitter. There's a lot of great thinking out here and I'm grateful for the vibrant community!
3. I stay because every time I think something has brought me down at work, the next thing comes right along to pick me back up. We could have a terrible disaster one day and then a big "a-ha" comes through the door that reaffirms my faith in my ability to impact education and help good students become great.
4. I stay because I get the chance to hire talented people who put their all into their work with a temperament that doesn't take ourselves too seriously. There are a lot of amazing people out there in our field and they are all potential future coworkers, supervisors, or assistants.
5. I stay because if I decide it would be fun to have a "Wear your Snuggie to Work" day, we do it. No joke. We did it… and there are pics on Twitter to prove it.
6. I stay because the field is about learning. Learning for students, learning for me as a professional, chalking up mistakes to "learning opportunities" and attributing weaknesses to "learning and needed development." This learning thread is not as present in our corporate settings and this focus on learning cuts us a lot of slack.
7. I stay because if I think there is a new program, event or service that we need to experiment with, I can make it happen. (within budgetary constraints, of course!) It may not happen immediately and may not happen with the funding it deserves, but if I want to plant a seed to start something new, it's up to me!
8. I stay because my skills and experiences are marketable in a zillion possible directions… and frankly, the next step confuses me! Might as well stick it out until it gets clearer. There are great ways to "stretch" your skills, try new things, and really see what you can do.
9. I stay because the campus activities profession feeds my "policy maker side" by giving me that role, feeds my "counselor" self in my many interactions with students, feeds by "entrepeneurial" side by giving me room to start new programs, and feeds my "emerging CEO" by giving me a small sphere of the universe where they call me "director." There is such a big range!
10. I stay because of the students. It's got to be said.We are lucky to work with some of the best and the brightest on campus and they really teach me just as much as I teach them. I mean really, in what field do you get to work with the same "clients" over the course of four/five/six years and help to support their achievement of their most important goals in life?
I could write forever, but let's close out 2009 on a positive note, shall we? Tell me why YOU stay? Let's end it all with a big student affairs group hug.
Happy holiday break to all and no matter what holidays or observances you may celebrate in the coming weeks, I hope you celebrate making a difference in countless lives. Most of your impact may never become clear right away, but let's feel that unspoken "thanks" from all of those students' lives you have influenced!