Career Advancement Alongside Changing Trends

The higher education landscape is changing rapidly, from declining state funds to campus unrest and even to the dismantling of student affairs divisions and the closing of colleges. Such changes cause concern about how we can remain relevant as administrators and prepare ourselves for career advancement opportunities that may not even be clearly defined within the contemporary higher education environment.

The new book, Careers in Student Affairs: A Holistic Guide to Professional Development in Higher Education, provides an array of theory, research, and practical advice to help guide individual adaptation to the changing environment. For instance, a chapter on organizational culture explains how to conduct an audit of a campus environment to determine what trends or subtle shifts may be emerging. Another chapter on politics provides guidance on how to navigate the power differentials in an organization and look for the people who may help or hinder your situation. Similar information can be found in chapters on professionalism, supervision, ethical decision making, conflict resolution, and building networks of colleagues. The book also provides chapters on advancement strategies such as locating the right job opportunity, engaging in purposeful job negotiations and transitions, and preparing for executive leadership and faculty positions.

The book is intended to be both an individual tool and a resource for professional discussion. As an individual tool, the book can be read in its entirety or as stand-alone chapters to address specific needs as they arise. It is also a valuable resource to guide the creation of a mentoring relationship. Professionals can struggle with how to approach someone about becoming their mentor. In the beginning stage, the mentoring relationship can be awkward and lack direction. However, focusing on this book as a way to start conversations on professional topics can help build rapport as well as identify areas for further development.

The book is also an important resource for anyone who serves in a supervisory role. Along with a chapter dedicated to the topic of supervision, every chapter has a section on how supervisors can use the information as a way to enhance their leadership with employees. As an example, the chapter on networking provides advice regarding how to assist employees with creating connections and identifying possible mentors. And the chapter on intentional development guides supervisors on helping employees with imposter syndrome and work-life balance.

From the group perspective, developing a book club approach where everyone reads a selected chapter than comes together to discuss the information can allow opportunities for meaningful dialogue. For instance, a conversation centered on the conflict resolution chapter may help professionals learn new tips about navigating difficult situations. And discussing the chapter on ethical decision-making can encourage professionals to share dilemmas they have encountered, thereby providing case studies for colleagues to consider. 

Finally, developing a series of programs for an entire division around specific chapter topics may be a useful and low-cost approach for professional development. For example, a program focused on the chapter for advancing to senior leadership could involve employees reading the chapter then attending a panel session with individuals in those campus positions to ask questions. The session could be paired with a human resources presentation on leadership workshops that are available to staff members. This approach encourages individuals to consider their own development while simultaneously identifying emerging leaders who may need mentoring and support.

Careers in Student Affairs: A Holistic Guide to Professional Development in Higher Education provides an opportunity for professionals to become more intentional about their careers.  Whether reading it alone, with a mentor, with employees, or with a group of colleagues, professionals will develop insight into ways to remain relevant in a changing field and understand what it may take to have a long and successful career.