I work at Central Penn College as career services associate and teach various humanities classes as an adjunct professor. One of my main responsibilities is to help students and alumni with job pursuit issues. I prepare them to attain their professional goals. We have conversations about what an ideal job would look like and obstacles that may have prevented them from reaching that dream job and other career goals.
After being my in role here at the college, I started to think about how I might apply my advice to myself? What are my goals? Where do I want to be in five to 10 years, career wise? One thing I know for sure is that I would like to stay in higher education. There are many of us who work in academia and aspire to make career moves within our institutions.
The big question is, how do we do this?
Think About Options
When you are in a field like higher education, you need understand the numerous opportunities that exist.
Every college is diverse and operates differently. Core values, student population, and even programming may differ. What department interests you? If you decide to change positions, will the institution offer such an option?
Specific job descriptions and scope of work might vary depending upon the type of institution in which you work. For example, differences may occur if the university is a research, doctoral degree granting institution as contrasted with a liberal arts four-year undergraduate institution. The former might place greater emphasis on grants and scholarship productivity than the latter institution (Enomoto & Matsuoka, 2007). Also remember that salaries may not be competitive, but the entire package of the position may be enticing. Know why you are attracted to the college and be able to evaluate opportunity in its entirety.
Make Sure That You Are a Viable Candidate
A 2013 Gallup study found most Americans are unhappy at work, stating “only 30 percent of American employees feel engaged or inspired at their jobs and the vast majority of U.S. workers—70 percent—are not reaching their full potential.”
Sometimes in higher education, professionals feel that they have a better chance of receiving a job offer if they apply for a position that may be lower than their current experience/job. There is nothing wrong with taking a position that may be below your standard qualifications or experience—only if that will allow you to achieve your ultimate goals.
You must always remember what your ultimate end goal is. Factors that are important in determining the value of your end goal include; the length of time you can sustain a position that may have shortcomings such as a lower salary, decreased vacations time and miscellaneous benefits, as well as diminished career growth. The value of these factors can impact your decision on pursuing your ultimate end goal. If you do not have solid answers to these questions, then it may be a sign for you to consider other options.
On the flip side, some professionals will apply for higher level positions that they may not be qualified for, but feel that they will learn the position and be groomed by their administrators.
Know your skill set and potential when applying for a higher level job, remembering that job titles come with the expectations and responsibilities that you should already be well versed in and there may not be time for to you to learn and absorb information.
Reach out to a career mentor who will help steer you toward an accurate path and will eventually help move you toward the higher level executive that you aspire to be.
Make Connections—Network, Network, Network
Higher education is in a world of its own. The more you network and meet professionals from this world, the more you will learn and hear about opportunities that may be a good fit. Attend events that are hosted by other institutions or conferences where there will be other college professionals. There is something unique about the relaxation and bonding that occurs when people eat and socialize together outside of the office.
Trust can develop when you have an opportunity to personally interact with another individual in your field. These conversations can develop an in-depth professional relationship that phone and office visits alone cannot achieve. Luncheons and other face-to-face activities provide you with opportunities to build trust in your relationships (Boyd, 2011).
Create social networking accounts such as a LinkedIn account. Make yourself and your name visible. Build rapport with recruiters. Let them know that you are searching and interested in opportunities, and provide each with your resume, cover letter, and business card. Get involved in community-based professional development organizations, run for board positions, and attend local chamber events. Practice and have an elevator speech ready, so that you can point out your professional background and set a good impression.
Cultivate Your Reputation
If you are interested in growing within your present place of employment, get involved! Have a servant leadership mindset. Think about ways you can help your colleagues and be successful together. Attend campus events, help fellow colleagues with programs, and serve on committees. Get involved with strategic planning, accreditation steering committees, and employment search committees. Build relationships with faculty, staff, and students. This supports building professional connections and helps put a face to your name.
Make of a list of five to 10 people who hold your dream job titles. Look them up, read about their professional progress and background. See who they are connected to and how you too can be more connected. Seek out the people who you are inspired by within your institution and chat with them about your aspirations and ask about career tips. There is a plethora of published information to help you understand and build tactics and understand your options. Listen to webinars and join professional organizations that are related to your academic department.
Emulate successful leadership styles. People who want to advance need to examine closely the behaviors of successful leaders in their organizations. Determine what it is that these leaders do that makes them effective and respected. When compatible with their personal styles, individuals should adopt a few of those successful behaviors to see if they will be effective for them.
Have a clean and updated resume with your latest work and professional data. Don’t inflate it with false credentials. When information does not line, up it can lead for hiring officials to think that bigger things may not line up either. Be ready to explain any gaps, be ready to talk about what you did and what you learned during that time. If you were asked to be a guest lecturer in class, you were not an instructor. If you were asked to fill in as interim director or dean to help cover a colleague’s place, that did not make you a dean or director on your curriculum vitae. Integrity is very important and highly critical in academia, so make sure you preserve it.
Be Able to Face Reality
You already know working in higher education is highly competitive, so be prepared to face the competition. You may be educated and have loads of experience and still be rejected for a position. Do not take a hiring decision personally: The search committee is there to find a candidate that will be the perfect fit and will be able to tackle the position without hesitation.
Achieving your dream job does not happen overnight or even with years of working. It takes time, skill and precise execution. Remember what your priorities are and what makes you happy and also know that you are in a field that is wonderful and filled with opportunity. With time and patience you will be able to thrive and achieve your goals.
Fly high with higher education!
Boyd, J. (2011). The Illustrated Guide to SMART Living: Custom Design Your Life. Tremendous Life Books.
Blacksmith, N., & Harter, J. (2011, October 28). Majority of American Workers Not Engaged in Their Jobs. Retrieved December 7, 2015, from http://www.gallup.com/poll/150383/majority-american-workers-not-engaged-jobs.aspx
Enomoto, E., & Matsuoka, J. (2007). Becoming Dean: Selection and Socialization Processes of an Academic. Journal of Research on Leadership Education, 2(3), 31-31.