I have reflected on the last couple of years that I have been a professional in Student Affairs. In my opinion, the work these professional do don’t get enough attention at the university level. There are many associations this profession, they GET what it is that we do. Regardless, of what area you could potentially work in, it’s taxing work. I commend you, for ALL that you do. This blog post is to shed light on some things I saw from my experience that I wish someone would have shared with me. Now, I could have gone on and on with tips but I felt the five included were the most important as you start you graduate program as graduate student or as a first time postgraduate professional. I do see crossover to other sectors, but this will primarily focus on Student Affairs/Higher Education.
- Mental Health Issues are REAL, See a Therapist/Counselor
- Too many times that I don’t care to share – I needed to talk to someone. Whether, it was during my transition back into Higher Ed or not. I needed to allow myself the space to talk to someone other than friends and family about what I was going through. I felt that I didn’t have the space nor opportunity too, so I dealt with it all in silence and internally. I’ve dealt with depression for the last 14 years of my life. No one knows that. I don’t share that information lightly as I have been ashamed and it would make me look weak. So, I laugh, throw jokes, and smile when I’m more than likely not really up for the challenges ahead. I know that’s it’s okay but for my new professionals. Check with you EEO/HR office to check to see, if you have EAP benefits. In most cases, when you utilize this service you get up to 6 times to see a therapist or other services provided by your employer. (See the list below for potential items, EAP can assist with.)
- Child care & Parenting
- Helping Aging Parents
- Financial Issues
- Legal Concerns
- Work & Career
- Emotional Well-being
- Life events
- Coping with Stress & Change
- Relationship Issues
- Addiction & Recovery
- Wellness & Prevention
- Resources to support work/life balance
- Dealing with traumatic events
2. Find Work Life Integration
You’ve probably heard this a million times as work life balance or some other terms. I think as Student Affairs Professionals though, Integration is more suitable word especially depending on what department/office you work for. For myself, integrating some type of balance in my work and life has been hard. I can’t say that I have it all figured out but what I can say is that I make a list or plan out events that that I want to partake in and this allows me to separate from being the #SAPro for a while and I can just be ME! Find what works for you. If that means, every single Thursday – you attend Thursday Night Karaoke. Do it, your mind, space, co-workers, family, and friends will all thank you.
3. Know Your Audience
It’s alright to advocate for yourself, students, and others but timing is everything. If you don’t, I’m about to spill the tea. Higher Education isn’t any different from any fortune 500 company, there are always company politics. Sad fact, but it’s true. You MUST know your audience. You superiors agenda must be yours in order to create change. Issues will arise, if you don’t understand that last sentence. It’s great for you to have goals, you want to accomplish but there is a higher need for you to complete the needs identified by the directors and assistant directors sitting at the table, you unfortunately haven’t been invited too yet. Plant small seeds. Eventually, you will see results but it’ll take some time. Also know, just because you don’t see immediate results or change doesn’t mean that you aren’t being advocated for. Hold steadfast, but follow up in private. Be ready to have the conversation, if it is something you are truly passionate about but remember. It’s a game!
Student Affairs is a very small field to work in but add in the fact that you may be a person of color and it gets smaller but we are out there. It’s been amazing to meet individuals who look like me but are in higher administrative roles. These administrators show up and out on their campuses. So, if you don’t take anything else away from this. Understand that you should go to conferences, whether regional, national, drive-in,etc.. Expand your knowledge. Expand your network, you never know who knows who in this field. You could meet a potential new friend or mentor. When you go to a session that intrigues you, connect with the presenter afterwards (exchange your business cards). Send that follow up email. Be apart of the conversations in groups on facebook. All this point boils down too is get involved and get connected.
5. BE YOU, AUTHENTICALLY & UNAPOLOGETICALLY!
I have always been feisty, funny, and an advocate for what I believe in. I will never change that about myself. I will NEVER lower my self worth or dim my light to make another feel more comfortable or secure about themselves while trying to tear me down in the process. I’ve been a fighter all my life, so don’t count me out when I’m down. So, this is the message I want to pay forward. Be You, Authentically & Unapologetically. The world may tell you that you aren’t good enough but you are. Your life may not be where you want to be, but you’ll get there. Your personality, looks etc may not jive with the workplace, who cares? BE You! You only get one life to live so live it to the fullest and NEVER allow those who don’t know you nor your story to cover it up with their shade.