I was sitting in my student affairs graduate program orientation and feeling super excited about starting this new chapter in my life. I had committed the world of higher education, to opening doors and to ensuring students had a positive and meaningful experience while in college. I was pumped about the next two years in school and soaking up everything leadership and campus related. That is until I heard the words, “if you are not in this to work directly with students, you’re in the wrong field.” I panicked as my type-A personality had done countless informational interviews and research on what it meant to work in this field before signing-up. I didn’t realize I needed to work directly with students to be a part of this world…I just wanted to support them from the back-end. I wanted to build programs and open the doors for access.
I could be seen as an outlier in that my passion is working in the world of student affairs / higher education, but not always directly with students. I learned early on that I didn’t need daily student contact to feel motivated or a sense of pride in my work. I simply needed to know they benefited in the long run. At first, I felt guilty for feeling this way as the vast majority of my peers were in the opposite boat. Was there something wrong with me? I’ve learned we all have different paths in higher education, similar to our students, and each line of work is important. I recently finished my fourth year working at NASPA in educational programming and couldn’t have found a better fit.
Some of you may be finishing graduate school this year, some may be thinking about entering the profession for the first time and others may be making your first professional transition. Regardless of where you are, I challenge you to think outside the box of campus. Learn what really motivates you to do the work that you love. Is it working directly with students or is it knowing they benefit in the end? Our degrees can open doors in association management, policy work, internship training programs with for-profits, or study abroad providers. Take a moment to set up an informational interview with someone if you’re curious about life off a college campus. Anyone at NASPA will share why we do the work that we do. In fact, everyone on our educational programs staff has a background in student affairs.
Finding these kinds of jobs can require more looking than just using higheredjobs.com. Be intentional and think about what you need from a position. Can this translate into working for state capitol in educational policy? Could it be building the college internship experience at a company like Google or managing a program with AmeriCore or CityYear? I challenge you to think broadly about the work we do within student affairs and the different types of outlets you can make an impact. Some great resources to look include www.idealist.org, and www.theplacementexchange.org.
In the end, do what makes you happy. Learn what you need to stay motivated…and always remember to practice what we so often preach – challenge and support yourself too.
This post is part of our #CSAM15 series, in partnership with NASPA. Through these posts, we hope to highlight what it means to have a career in Student Affairs with a diverse group of contributors. With a focus on the students, defining Student Affairs, hot topics, and Striving Towards Betterment, there will be a lot to learn about this month! For more information, check out the intro post by John Weng at NASPA. Be sure to read the other posts in this series too!
> BONUS <
Podcast With Gamification in Higher Ed & Student Affairs with Stacy Jacob & Dave Eng