Big Demands, High Expectations

lineinsandThat line in the sand… you know the one. That fine line between serving students and the need to separate work from personal time. The ability to decline that after-hours cell phone call or cut off the never ending stream of late night email requests that cannot wait until morning.
The expectations of millennial college students for synchronous customer service in an era of social media shaming takes a toll on student affairs professionals. Despite the satisfaction we derive from service to students, we cannot be on call 24 x 7 x 52. And yet students are only too willing to make a complaint, or worse yet, lambast our programs on Yik Yak. Where is the middle ground? Do we offer too little challenge with our abundance of support?
Don’t feel you must instantly respond to every student question and request. Sometimes it is good to encourage a student to THINK.

Bounce back

You don’t last as long as I have in student affairs or any profession without recovery skills, so this article on resilience captured my attention. It featured a new British study where 75% of respondents identified “managing difficult people or office politics at work” as the most substantial impact to overall career stress.
The original study sought to gather stories of successful women as inspiration for women striving to advance in leadership. It found 90% of men and women surveyed credited resilience as important to their success, but only 6% found help in building this skill in their workplace. This may be a reminder that relationship skills and organization politics are smart topics for that next professional development meeting.
One final thought. What if you are the “difficult person” being managed?

New mistakes

mistake-pano_21762
As we head back to our work and careers in this first full week of the new year, let’s remember that it is the extra efforts, the little risks that move us forward. Be BOLD.
I hope that in the year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing the things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.  ~Neil Gaiman

 

Change trains.

A morning conversation with a colleague centered on change. Life changes, work changes; changes comprise our life. How we react to these fluctuations is what allows us to make it through the day.
What happens when change does not come fast enough? On more occasions than I would like to admit, I have found myself lamenting the good fortune of others. “That should have been MY job.” “I was due for that raise.”
This “Why not me?” attitude is a heavy, messy piece of luggage to carry around. If these things did not happen for me, they were not mine to own. It’s time to shrug them off and take the next train.
Nothing ever is. Everything is becoming. ~Heraclitus
If a train doesn’t stop at your station, then it’s not your train. ~Marianne Williamson

A year of accomplishments, scatterplots, new resolutions

Poor, sad, little neglected blog. I used to think that I did not have time for writing while I finished my dissertation. This year demonstrated that a preoccupied mind prevents reflection as well. I have been working on this draft for many days and struggling to verbalize the happy and not so happy of it all. Americans are supposed to be the outlier on the happy scale, more upbeat about their days than most people. When we are not in that place, it can be hard.

FT_GDP_Scatterplot

At the end of last year, I was not selected for a promotion that I fiercely wanted and had stringently prepared. It was a position I had strived for in the past, only to be discouraged from applying due to lack of a terminal degree. This “job” was not the driving force behind completing my Ph.D., but the degree was one of a series of steps that I took to prepare for a “next step” in my career. Side note, being rejected from a dream job five days before holiday vacation is not ideal for one’s self-esteem and seasonal jocularity. I recommend against it all costs.
This year began with a new boss (not getting the “job” meant working for the person who did) and the adjustments that come with a change in leadership. It also began with a new opportunity.
A position with an education non-profit came on the horizon and a new job search began. For those of us who lament the prodigious time required for campus employment, this process reached new heights. Non-profits include a scaffolding of decision makers. Whether in discussion with a screening committee, organization leaders, elected board, and the membership; each audience sought a different answer and a different set of skills. The job posted in January and concluded with a hire announcement in late September (more on this later). A colleague termed it as the job search that rivaled a pregnancy.
Meanwhile, real life work this year included financial shortfalls, intense budget negotiations, staff reorganization to address financial shortfalls, a staff member on family leave, and a staff member following a partner to new employment. Even knowing in advance, it is difficult to prepare for the transition of a dedicated colleague. Rewriting position descriptions, preparing a search committee, waiting on HR approvals, the calendar was inching along. And all of this while attending to the needs of smart and amazing students (who sometimes have tragic days) and doing my best to be a good leader and mentor for the amazing student staff and graduate assistants that I am lucky to employ. The wiser than her years, Stacy Oliver-Sikorski, recently opined “There are really awful days amidst the really great days, and we need to be more honest with ourselves and others about that.”
Facing those “awful” days and separating work from family needs was complicated this year. I am enormously grateful for a loving and supportive partner who keeps me grounded. I am happy and proud to be mom to an amazing teen and tween who are high achieving and in search of their strengths. They are my most important work every day.
I will be embarking on a new adventure in the not so distant future. Despite every obstacle, 2014 will be remembered on the happy scale as the year that I resolved to get my dream job. And succeeded.
More soon. Happy 2015!

#SAreads: Practicing Perceiving

If you are familiar with psychological type and the MBTI®, you may recognize that type theory explains the random behavior of people’s lives as actually quite orderly and patterned. This is due to basic methods used by individuals to take in information and make decisions.
The last letter of the 4-letter MBTI code highlights the process one uses in dealing with the outer world. Do you prefer to plan ahead and get things decided (Judging) or do you prefer to remain flexible and open to new options (Perceiving)? Not to be confused with organization, as either preference can be organized, the J or P Preference indicates how we interact in our outer life, whether structured and decided (J) or curious and open-ended (P).
Which option would you choose?
Do you prefer to:
  1. Arrange lunch plans, events, parties, etc., well in advance, or
  2. Be free to spend your day doing whatever looks like fun?
In Building Momentum: The Unconventional Strengths of Perceiving College Students, Meri Beckham explores the successful practices of Perceiving college students including unconstrained time and working at the last minute. These methods are cited as the opposite of ideal strategies promoted in college success and study skills texts.
If you work in academic success, retention, first-year programming, or are interested in helping students make effective transitions to college, grab the article and join us Friday at 1PM EST for this week’s discussion on #SAreads.

The Great Debate continues…

The president of Georgia Regents University renewed discussion on the value of a college education with his recent essay, The Great Debate: Is College Still Worth It?  The piece included poll results from a new survey by the American Association of State College and Universities stating that those with a college education and those more likely to benefit from higher education believe in its worth. So, college graduates, women, and communities of color have buy in to the value of education.
…to ensure our collective future success, more Americans must appreciate the value of, have access to, be able to afford, and complete college. This message must be disseminated widely, so we can rally the will and resources necessary to make it happen.  ~Dr. Ricardo Azziz
More on the Value of Higher Education:
Why College is Still Worth It
Choose Education
Education Value
Future Earnings