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Knowing Your Worth in Student Affairs

New Professionals and Graduate Students Graduate New Professional
July 28, 2020 Paige Jenkins

As an enneagram type 2, I often find myself basing my self-worth on the acceptance of others. At work this can be translated into not knowing when or how to say no, it being challenging to create boundaries, and wanting people to need my help in order to feel valued. All of that can result in me overworking and becoming stressed out if I am not aware of it and do not take steps to correct this notion. This pandemic- a nightmare turned into reality- has given me one thing.

Time. Time to take a break. Time to focus on what’s most important to me. Time to figure out my purpose. Time to consider what I bring to the table and when I should not accept less than what I deserve. I have been able to reflect on understanding and knowing my worth, whether it be in my personal or professional life.

We deeply care for our students and want them to leave being confident in their abilities and skills, staying true to themselves and standing up for what they believe in, and prioritizing their health and wellness, but do we do the same for ourselves? It’s important that we model what we want for our students in our own lives. Students are watching us and if we cannot take our own advice, they certainly will not either. However, that can be easier said than done.

I recently graduated from my higher education program and have been job searching in the student affairs field. Like many of my peers, we have been faced with hiring freezes, institutions ghosting us through the process, and a more limited selection in opportunities. Despite these challenges, some may have been offered a job at this point. A question that might follow is, “Do you accept a job even if it’s not right for you?”

Before COVID-19, the answer might be “of course not!” for some. Yet, many must think about their personal financial situation and the current/future economic uncertainties. It’s not easy or sometimes feasible to decline an offer when you have no idea what lies ahead, if you will even get offered another one, and what your timelines look like. On the other hand, what if the institution is not advocating for something you are passionate about? What if they are not having conversations and taking action regarding injustices that are happening? What if the compensation they are offering is nowhere near acceptable when looking at the required duties and cost of living? What if you ultimately do not see yourself growing from this position?

The answer is: it’s okay to say no. It’s okay to keep searching for what is right. However, it is important to acknowledge that this concept also comes from a place of privilege and not everyone is able to say no. Many of us are still job searching, so we are all in this together. We may struggle at times, but we have each other. Reach out to your peers or connect with a new grad, because community is the support that lifts us up and motivates us to continue and persevere. What’s meant for you will happen. So, if you have any flexibility, do not take a job where you will not feel valued. You are worthy of happiness.

On the flipside, for those who are currently working, it’s okay to not have all the answers. It’s also okay to acknowledge the pressure you may be placing on yourself and take a pause. When things seem confusing, difficult, and ever-changing- tell yourself these great words written by Glennon Doyle (2020), “Hard work is important. So are play and nonproductivity. My worth is tied not to my productivity but to my existence. I am worthy of rest” (p. 267). Your mental and physical well-being are important.  You are worthy of a break.

Remember this- no matter where you are in your student affairs journey- keep your worth in mind and do what’s ultimately best for you. Your students will admire someone who is genuine, knows their values and speaks out when needed, and takes time for self-care. You are worthy.

Author:  Paige Jenkins (she/her/hers) recently graduated with her M.Ed. from the University of North Texas and is involved in the NPGS KC Leadership Team as the Communications and Marketing Co-Coordinator. She loves movie marathons, traveling, Gilmore Girls, and is a waffle enthusiast. On a typical day, you will most likely see her with an iced coffee and a new book in hand. Paige can be found on Twitter at @perksofpaige


Doyle, G. (2020). Untamed. Dial Press.


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Enneagram type descriptions: https://www.enneagraminstitute.com/type-descriptions