My favorite part of attending national conferences is catching up with past coworkers and networking with new friends. If I could sum up my conversations during NASPA a couple of weeks ago, it would be this: most Residence Hall Directors are lost when considering the future of their career.
I get it and if you remember my post from January: I was there. The beauty of being a Hall Director is that we wear just about every hat we possibly could. We counsel, advise, mentor, teach, train, budget, create, assess, problem-solve, discipline, and respond to crisis. Oh yeah, and “other duties as assigned.” So, when we reach crossroads in our career, the possibilities can be overwhelming.
There comes a point in an RHD’s career that you must either move up or move on. This is where we freeze. “But I’m a ResLifer… or maybe I’m not?” “How do I know if Res Life isn’t the life for me?” “I don’t know anything but Res Life, what other option do I have?” “They’re not going to hire me. I don’t have experience in __________.” These thoughts destroy us.
My goal this year was to discover whether I was a ResLifer for life. With a month left in the semester, I can confidently say that I am. It is wonderfully liberating to type that because I have been frozen for over a year when considering this decision. It came through much reflection, study, vulnerability, and courageous conversations.
If you’re a Residence Hall Director struggling to make the next leap, consider the following words of advice from someone who’s been there:
- Know thyself. What are your strengths? What are your limitations? Even if you have taken the MBTI or StrengthsFinder in years past, take them again! We are ever-changing beings and who you are today is likely a very different person than who you were five or ten years ago. My personal favorite is the Enneagram. This one is a self-diagnosis, so be ready to do some extensive reading and reflecting. Remember, being self-aware is valuable in all areas of your life, not just your career. Invest in yourself. Self-care is a necessity, not a luxury.
- Reflect. What responsibilities bring you the most joy in your current position? The most frustration? What are your top three favorite aspects about your job? What have been the most memorable moments? What roles do you most look forward to? Take the answers to these questions and make a list of joys and challenges. It’s incredible how much clarity can come from the simple act of reflection.
- List your transferable skills. Think about everything you’re responsible for, what committees you’ve served on, what presentations you’ve done, look over your job description, revisit your resume, and start drawing some lines. We all have different job descriptions in different departments, but you’d be surprised how similar most of our responsibilities are!
- Research job descriptions. Look at some of the popular Student Affairs job posting platforms, such as HigherEdJobs, and just casually scroll through various job descriptions. Envision yourself in the various positions. Don’t just fantasize; actually consider each position.
- Network with colleagues in other departments. Reach out to some friends across campus and ask them if they would be interested in grabbing coffee and sharing their career journey with you. These conversations are your chance to be vulnerable and ask the difficult questions. Building allies across campus can help you picture yourself in other departments and, sometimes, can even serve as a process of elimination. “You do WHAT? Ok, no, maybe that’s not for me.”
- Establish at least one mentor. This is your coach; the person who is going to not only inspire you and teach you, but challenge you deeply. It’s good to have a couple of different mentors, but make sure at least one is willing to be brutally honest with you.
- Amp up the positive self-talk! You can do this! Write out some motivational sticky notes for your desk. Print out some inspiring quotes. Read an empowering book. Surround yourself with a strong support system. Job searching takes much courage and confidence, so make sure you’re ready for it. You have what it takes!
> BONUS <
Podcast with Marci Walton & the Story of ResLife Puppy