I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that question. Although I have heard more questions about what my fancy title means, a close second would be, “Why do Student Affairs professionals have to work over the summer?” For someone unfamiliar with the world of Higher Education, it would make sense. No students equals no work, right? Well, in reality, we know it’s not that simple…
The summer months bring a breath of fresh air to our office. In all honesty, we actually get a chance to breathe while doing our day-to-day tasks. There are less students on campus. It feels slower. There is more time to think, have conversations, and take breaks. However, there is still a sense of urgency within our work.
In the past four years, I have lived a few “Student Affairs Summers.” In each summer, I have learned a lot about my office, my students, my staff, and even myself. Here are my top 3 tips for a productive and fulfilling “Student Affairs Summer.”
Take time to read that article, attend that conference, watch that webinar, sign-up for that training, or shadow that professional.
During the fall and spring semesters, it is overwhelmingly easy to let these “professional development” opportunities fall through the cracks. There are always crises that come up or other things to do, but the summer lends itself to more open periods of time to actually develop yourself. As a new professional, I often felt guilty for doing these things while in the office. It felt like if I was not “producing” something, then I was wasting time. What I’m still learning is you have to take time to pour into yourself, just as you do your students and your staff. Although taking time away from your day-to-day tasks may seem counterproductive at the time, these opportunities will only enhance you and the year ahead.
Nurture your relationships.
We all know that a cornerstone of our profession is the relationships we develop. During the fall and spring semesters, we are constantly reaching out for collaboration, feedback, and partnership opportunities. It is important to use the summer to develop and nurture relationships, both inside and outside of our offices. Grab lunch with your colleague across campus. Spend time catching up with your supervisor about their cross-country trip. Plan a fun activity for your team. The time together will strengthen your cohesiveness going into the busy season.
Take a vacation.
One of my biggest regrets coming into Student Affairs is not taking more time in between graduate school and starting my full-time job. I was so eager to begin my new role that I did not take time to “watch paint dry,” as my supervisor so eloquently put it. The summer brings the sweet reward of time. As a new professional, I had to teach myself how to actually be on vacation, and I am still working on developing that boundary four years later. It is important to actually spend time out of the office to become a better professional within the office. Burnout is a real thing! I am always amazed what insight a vacation can bring me once I come back to work. I might have a new idea for a program, an innovative approach to a problem, more energy, more excitement. Time off is a vital in this profession.
Most importantly, enjoy the summer season and let the excitement of the fall semester guide your motivation. Summers are a great time to rejuvenate your passion for your students and Higher Education.
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 Cristina Lawson at firstname.lastname@example.org.