We’ve all been there. Months of applying. Months of interviewing. And months of getting our hopes up for positions that just did not work out. But then, when you’ve almost lost all hope, you get the job. You’re no longer a #SAGrad but soon to be #SAPro. You’re elated. You cannot believe that at least for the near future you do not have to write another cover letter or participate in another on campus interview. You’re just excited and ready to start. You start telling everyone where you will be working and what your title is and before you know it, it’s your first day of work.
But now you’re thinking ok, I got the job. Now what? The goal as a #SAGrad was to get the job but now that you have it what do you do? Yes the simple answer is to work and do well but what about beyond that? What about your continued development as a #SAPro? What do you do once at the institution to show them exactly who you are as a student affairs professional? I cannot say that everybody would agree with my tips and that’s ok. These are the things that I learned along the way as a new professional and they are just based off my own experience and opinions. Some were things that my mentors in the field educated me on but others were things that I later realized assisted me along the way. So here goes….
1. Slow down & know your role
I know that as a brand new, new professional I wanted to get involved in everything and anything at the institution. I still struggle with that even at my new institution. It’s just who I am. I am a do-er. Sitting still is never something I’ve been good at in general. So whenever I have a second to breathe I begin to think of all the different things I could do with that “extra” time. But here’s the thing slow down and know your role. Remember what your position is and why you were hired. You must first excel at what you were hired to do before you decide to do more. The reality is that if you do well at your job your institution, if it is one that wants to help you grow and develop, will begin to think of other ways to get you involved. They will utilize you for your expertise. Do your job and things will fall into place.
2. Say yes
Here’s where the work-life balance statement always comes in. I can say that as a new professional I have often been told that I need to exercise better work-life balance. To be honest the statement has always irritated me because I know what #selfcare looks like for me. I know when to take a step back and I know when to run. Ron Clark said it best at this year’s Mark Conference at Rutgers University, be a runner. Runners are do-ers. They are always hustling and as Ron said wondering why everyone else is jogging or walking. Now, there’s nothing wrong with jogging or walking to get the job done but that’s just not me. I run, physically and figuratively, and as a new professional I think that goes hand in hand with saying yes. When I started out I said yes to as much as I possibly could. Selfishly, I wanted to learn more. I wanted to learn as much as the institution wanted to teach me but instinctively I also knew that type of attitude would set me a part. Of course it is important to know when to slow down if you have too much on your plate but if you can say yes, say yes. Do not worry about what others say about it as long as you’re good with your decision. In the end you will have learned more for yourself and your institution.
3. Listen & learn
In your first few weeks of getting the job just listen and learn. Listen to those around you that have been there for years. Learn from those that have been at the institution for a while and know the culture. Learn from the seasoned professionals. But also listen to what they are saying. You will know who to align yourself with and you will also just learn a lot about the institution and the culture of the organization. As a newbie going in and telling people how their place of work runs when you just got there is not the best idea. Rather ask them questions and really listen to what they are telling you. In my experience when people realized that I was trying to just listen and learn from them the more they talked. And boy oh boy did I learn a lot in those conversations. If you give people the space to talk, they will talk. Let them talk and when the time is right add in your opinion. People will be much more open to what you have to say if they feel like you really took the time to get to know the organization and the people working in it.
4. Find your people
This goes back to my point of listen and learn. As I mentioned you will find the people to align yourself with at the organization. Listen to those around you to find the individuals who operate the way you do. Find your people. Those people will be the ones that you will come to depend on time and time again. They can be people from your department but they can also be people from other departments. Those cross departmental relationships can come in handy in your personal and professional life. On the bad days those people will become your backbone and many may even become your best friends.
5. Get involved
Similarly to “say yes” get involved. Volunteer for events. Be available for your colleagues if you can be. Help out your department when you have the time. Get involved in the activities at the institution. It’s a great way to meet people which includes students, staff and faculty. You also get to know the organization and give back to the institution. You never know what other opportunities may come your way just by volunteering to chaperone an event on campus.
6. Show your face
More and more of our students are coming to our campuses broken. Every single time I think it cannot get worse I meet another student with another issue. I may not be able to solve all of their problems but I can be present. I can show my face. Being present at events for your students is important. Too many of our students do not have parents or siblings or friends that can be present at their events. Too many of them do not have anybody who is willing to be present. But you can be present. Show up for your students. Just showing up can create a bond between the two of you that will help both of you at the institution. Your student will know that they have someone to rely on and you will feel rewarded in your work. All you have to do is show up.
7. Work hard and then work hard some more
You’re right. You got the job. You were the best candidate but do not slow down because of that. Work hard. Do not be a one hit wonder. Continuously remind the institution just how good you are just by doing your job and doing it well. Those countless moments of hard work will pay off for you at your institution but hard work will also be the winning strategy in your career trajectory. My mother always told me that hard work always pays off and she’s right. If it does not pay off for you at your first place of employment just remember that it’s only the beginning. You will have many professional homes and you will get there by working hard. Do not work hard just to show others how hard you work rather work hard for you and it will pay off in the end.
8. Be open to feedback
Do not presume to know everything. This is not to say that you do not know your stuff. Remember you did get the job but also remember that you are new professional. There will be seasoned professionals around you that will give you feedback to help you grow. We are never done learning. As a new-er professional I am constantly calling on colleagues or mentors for guidance and taking feedback wherever I can get it because I know I have much to learn. Do not be insulted when you receive feedback rather use it. Show those around you that you are open to learning from them and see what amazing things may come your way just from being able to take feedback. To me, feedback, if given properly, has always made me work harder. And again hard work always pays off.
9. Ask what else you could do
If you do happen to have that extra second and you realize you can add something else to your plate then ask your supervisor what else you can do. Rather than just adding something to your plate yourself ask your supervisor if there is something you can do for them or the department. This type of initiative showcases that you are looking to assist your department and colleagues. Plus, even if your supervisor and/or colleagues have nothing for you at the time you ask your question they may pull you into a future project. #winning.
10. Be you
Finally, just be you. You got the job for a reason. You were the best candidate. Do not try to be like anyone else in the department. Just be you. If the “fit” is right then all good things will come in time. You will make a second home with a second family and they will be lucky to have you.
Written by: Juhi Bhatt on Twitter @jbhatt12