Arm Chair Professional Development

Jerri Arnold Cook, Ed.D, WISA Co-Chair for Professional Development

May 19, 2019

In higher education, where budgets are tight and time is limited, it’s difficult to know where to begin engaging in your own professional development.  You simply can’t rely on conference attendance alone. Instead, begin from your most comfortable chair and with the end in mind. Why do you want to grow and develop? Do you want to advance your career? Do you simply want to challenge yourself? Either way, here are two resources and three suggestions on where to begin.

First, examine job descriptions for a position you would like to aim for, either now or in the future, and compare your skills with the skills listed. Identifying gaps in your experience or skills can help you establish a starting point.

Second, consider choosing a person in a position you would like to hold and conduct an informational interview with them.  If that idea interests you, but you wouldn’t know what to ask, check out this article provided by The Muse  on informational interviewing:  I used this as a template and it worked well for me.  I approached individuals via LinkedIn, introduced myself and asked if they had 20-30 minutes for a phone call as I was exploring the idea of seeking similar a career path. Each one said yes. I learned from each person I spoke with and of course, I followed up our conversation with a thank you. 

Third, examine the Professional Competency Areas for Student Affairs Educators. These are endorsed by both the American College Personnel Association (ACPA) and the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (NASPA).  The competency areas can be located at Choose one or two areas in which you want to increase your experience, confidence, or advance in your skill set.

As a professional focused on increasing my own and other’s effectiveness and leadership development, here are three resources I highly recommend related to those areas.

To increase your competency in the area of personal and ethical foundations, your satisfaction and effectiveness, I recommend you check out 7 Minute Life at  Under the Tools section, review the free resources dedicated to helping you identify your top values. There are also worksheets and a planner to ensure you accomplish all your goals, from work tasks to relationship building and health goals.  If you have the time and money there are three books, written by Allyson Lewis, to help you look at how you can manage your time differently when your values are front and center.

Interested in examining leadership through a different cultural lens steeped in the importance of strong ethical values?  The Power of Four: Leadership Lessons of Crazy Horse, by Joseph M. Marshall III, is outstanding.  If you think you’ll be reading through historical recollections of war, you’ll be surprised.  You’ll learn a great deal about ethical leadership from the lens of the Lakota Native American Nation.  The four principles he covers are applicable to everyone wanting to improve their everyday leadership.

Finally, check out Leading from the Front: No Excuse Leadership Tactics for Women by Anita Morgan, Courtney Lynch and Paula Zahn.  Morgan and Lynch claim they were not born leaders, but became leaders through service in the US Marines.  They outline 10 key practices to becoming a powerful leader that anyone can benefit from learning and mastering.

Do you have any tried and true professional development resources that you recommend to other women in student affairs? The NASPA Women in Student Affairs (WISA) Knowledge Community Professional Development Committee would like to take the guess work out of finding high quality resources to help our members advance their development. We encourage members to recommend resources to be featured in our new online WISA Professional Development Depository, which will soon be available to members via our webpage.  We welcome papers, books, blogs, presenters, movies or any type of resource that you have found helpful as a professional.  Please take a moment to complete the following online form and begin sharing:

Wishing you success as you navigate your professional development from the comfort of your arm chair. 

Jerri L. Arnold-Cook, Ed.D., has over 20 years of experience helping individuals and organizations achieve their potential in higher education, Jerri is a speaker, strategic development specialist, co-founder of Rise Up, and WISA Co-Chair for Professional Development. She is excited to be joining the Missouri State University Career Services team in June 2019. You can find her on LinkedIn as jarnoldcook.


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