Anyone who has spent some time in Student Affairs has witnessed turnover. When turnover happens at the top of the organization, it can put us at a standstill. After a new Vice President enters into the position, there tends to be a short observation period, then a period of change. The change occurs because leaders need to align the organization to best fit their style to allow for them to be at their best.
Turnover can be good for an organization, helping both the school and us as professionals move to the next level. It can also be a major challenge if the turnover happens regularly. I have seen situations in which people have had 6 different supervisors in 6 years. This happens because of both turnover and restructuring due to turnover. Why is this so challenging as an employee? The best example I can give is that it is like the NFL quarterback having a new Offensive Coordinator every year. The QB needs to learn a new system every time there is change. The verbiage changes, the routine changes, the expectations change. Just when you think you are figuring it out, it changes again.
If you find yourself in a situation like this, make the best of the situation.…
Determine your needs. I often hear staff say during times of transition that they don’t feel supported. What exactly does that mean? What kind of support to you need? (i.e. constructive feedback, professional growth, vision, etc). Is it really support or is it simply encouragement? Spend some time writing down what you need from a supervisor. Make is a comprehensive list. This will allow you to seek out “support” from others to meet your needs during a time of transition.
Establish a mentor. When seeking out a mentor, find someone that you respect. She/he should be someone that you can be honest with and will be honest with you. Mentors can be great sounding boards, but can also talk you off the ledge. It is also nice if the person is not in the weeds with you. It is even beneficial if they are in a different part of the college or university. I once had a mentor ask me if I always needed to be the smartest person in the room. I was taken back by it initially, but he then explained to me that sometimes you just have to listen. You don’t always need to lend your voice to something, even if you don’t agree. You have to learn to choose your battles wisely, and a mentor can help you to do this.
Stay positive. I realize that this can be easier said than done. While we all have the ability to embrace change, too much change causes stress. Focus in on what you can control and worry less about the stuff you can’t. Connect regularly with those you work with you who always see the sunny side of life. They will help you to see the good things during the transition. Remember, we can’t always control what happens, but we can always control our reaction to it.
Keep your eye on the prize. Reflect why you chose to be involved in Student Affairs. Are you still committed to helping students learn and grow? If yes, put your energy into them. Take some time to reflect on your personal mission statement. How does your personal mission align with the college, your new supervisor, etc. What is it you are trying to get out of the position and what can you give to it? The storm will calm. When it does, you want to be someone that your new supervisor, VP, etc. can rely on.