“I share all this to say your journey will likely be a long and complex one, so considering the my advice, try to take in as much as you can. Think about how different you are from a younger age. A lot has likely changed while other things stay the same. The same can be said for when you enter the next phase of life. Priorities and directions may change so it’s important to be rooted in the things that help you grow.”
Assistant Director for Staff Development, Student Affairs Learning & Strategic Initiatives – University of Georgia
- I serve the Division of Student Affairs at the University of Georgia as the Assistant Director for Staff Development within the Learning & Strategic Initiatives office. Our office has a wide array of responsibilities, ranging from assessment of student and staff experience, to providing staff development resources and opportunities to support staff in their work. Picking just one thing that I enjoy most about my job is difficult. When I was younger, I didn’t really believe people when they said they loved their job. I say that because now that I am in the job I am in, I can see why they were so resolute in that statement.
- Take a moment to process what you learned in each experience (when you can).
It’s one thing to do something (i.e. be “A” for your chapter, be an RA, etc.) but it’s another thing to take a moment to reflect on it and process it. Asking yourself, “What did I learn about myself? What did I learn about others?” should be a part of the process, but often times we move on to the next thing. We look at things like being initiated or being hired or getting that “thing” that is your personal trophy at the end of the finish line as the completion. The book of life never closes itself and if you can’t speak to what you have truly learned about yourself in times of success and, more importantly, failure, then you are wasting your time. An employer or professor doesn’t just want to know that you were recruitment chair, they want to know how that experience has prepared you to where they should consider you over other candidates. Even being the social media chair or t-shirt chair has something to teach you, you just have to be open to seeing it.
Ask more questions and listen more.
I’m a firm believer that if you’re the smartest person in the room, then it’s time to find another room. A good portion of my job is reliant upon assessing and surveying others about their experience, what they are learning, etc. If I was afraid to ask questions, I might never know what is truly going on in a person’s work environment. Many times, it’s not the questions we are afraid to ask ourselves or others but it’s what kind of answers we might find waiting for us. When I say questions, and being generally curious, I mean along the lines of, “Do you have the best brotherhood on campus? How do you know? What metrics of measurement do you have? Are they tested and legitimate or is it all just feeling? Are your members satisfied with their experience?” Just because people show up to chapter meeting or attend a brotherhood program doesn’t mean they’re happy. They could be there for all kinds of reasons. Asking questions can be hard because sometimes the answers, the honest ones, hurt the most but within that honest answer lies opportunity. Opportunity to improve the brotherhood, an event, or yourself. Ask your friends, “Hey, I read in this Delta Chi thing to ask more questions. I have a few for you. Am I a good friend? Am I doing my job as a friend? Anything I could do to better support you?” It might feel weird at first, especially if you don’t have that relationship, but sometimes we never ask the hard questions when that’s where the growth can occur. Think of it like practice for your future job. Most supervisors I work with sincerely appreciate questions from their employees. “What expectations do you have for me as ‘A’” can translate to, “What expectations do you have for me as a new employee?” Asking these questions will help you care more about yourself, your chapter, and others. Remember, it’s a lot easier to pretend to care than it is to pretend to show up in the lives of others. Do what you can to show up and be present when you can, however you can.
Get comfortable with the uncomfortable.
You’ll hear frequently a quote about ships being safe in a harbor but that’s not what they’re meant for, and it’s true. No one should expect you to step into a leadership role on day one and think, “Why aren’t they the perfect ‘B’?” Put yourself out there more. Maybe it’s attending an event or program put on by a student or student group that is different than you and your background. Getting outside of your comfort zone promotes the greatest growth. If it wasn’t for interacting and engaging with other peer students from a different religious, racial, or sexual identity, I might not be the person I am today. As someone that spends a lot of time working to enhance the lives and workplace of others, if I didn’t have these experiences, I would likely not be as effective in my job.
Read books that change your life.
One of the books that really shaped my perspective on happiness, love, and work would be The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor. If one of our founding values is education, then why not teach yourself something new about you? This book has research embedded throughout it discussing how you can lead yourself or others to living a happier life. I feel like men generally believe it’s not socially acceptable to talk about certain emotions, whether it’s love, happiness, or joy. This book is great because it made me wonder about my outlook on life and others. Did I always seek the worst about work or others? Did I make an effort to find one good thing about my day, each day? Plenty more to say about the book but it’s worth renting or watching Shawn’s TED Talk.
Each day in my job is different, but they usually involve a level of planning and development of solutions to initiatives identified through staff feedback or strategic planning. To foster a deeper level of individualized development for staff, we recently began facilitating workshops for staff, covering a variety of subjects that are not only of interest to them, but also promote their support of students at UGA. One of the workshops has a foundation in CliftonStrengths StrengthsQuest. Staff from our organization are completing this self-assessment to learn about unique qualities and characteristics to explore how their talents show up in their workplace. I’m over-simplifying it, but the implementation of the material, completing the assessment, and development of the workshop curriculum is fascinating. Each initiative, program, or resource is designed to provide staff with the right tools to be most successful in their job. Additional things that we work on would be large scale survey of staff, developing staff recognition initiatives, facilitating professional development and measuring employee learning, and plenty more.
I believe my calling in life is to help others. How that took shape has been an interesting path and process. My undergraduate major was Athletic Training and my initial career path was to be an athletic trainer for a professional sports team, go to physical therapy school, or to try to go to medical school to be an orthopedic surgeon. Sports have always been a part of my life whether it was football, basketball, or lacrosse. I was also heavily involved as an undergraduate student leader, serving in various positions within my chapter, being a resident assistant, a peer mentor, and plenty of other opportunities. I saw that there were staff who were essential in my experience, whether it was mentoring or holding me accountable, or support that helped me not only complete college but succeed in my endeavors. I had a mentor suggest considering going to graduate school for Higher Education Student Affairs, a field rooted in research about the developmental experience that occurs in college, and the rest is history. I share all this to say your journey will likely be long and complex one, so considering my advice, try to take in as much as you can. Think about how different you are from a younger age. A lot likely changed while other things stay the same. The same can be said for when you enter the next phase of life. Priorities and directions may change so it’s important to be rooted in the things that help you grow.