Guess Who’s Back?

Adele meme based on Hello video.
Hello from the other side… other side of cheesy, that is…

Yes, it’s true – I’ve finally returned after a months-long hiatus from this blog. Where was I? Living enough life to have more to say in this blog, of course! I made a promise to myself  when I started GotDegrees to not be in this space if I didn’t feel like I had a coherent, valuable thought to share; because I spent the better part of the past three or four months getting acclimated to my new life I really didn’t have a lot to say.

That ends today. Well… more like tomorrow. I’ve got a post brewing as we speak (as I type/as you read is more like it) that is almost done – but I wanted to pop in to say that you will be hearing more from me and that I didn’t forget this space. I’ve cleaned things up around here, streamlined some pages, and finally feel ready to move full steam ahead with this blog. I’ll be bringing back some old post topics (because What I Learned About Student Affairs from Empire is a post that must be done before they run the show into the ground) and will start to blend in new ones. Being in a different phase of my personal and professional life has given me new perspective, and I’m excited to share that with you.

I’ll let JHud summarize it for me, just so you can get the song stuck in your head again… you know you missed it:

Anyway, enough of that… More to come – very, very soon.

J

The Professional Development Plan- A Window Into Your Future

Professional_Development_Kermit

Hey All! I’m actually back again- for two consecutive weeks in a row (don’t judge me- I know it’s been awhile)! And what on earth could I be back with at this busy time of the year for SAPros near and far? Why, the very key to your professional future- the professional development plan!

So why do I say with such confidence that having a PDP is the key to your professional future? For one, I’ll admit that I’m biased: I’m a planner- so much so that if there were an Overplanners Anonymous I’d not only be a member but I’d probably be planning the meetings (see what I did there?) so that’s definitely one reason I have one. It’s actually a problem. As someone who was raised to believe that a goal without a plan was just a dream, it just comes naturally. However, there’s a much more important reason that I created my own PDP and that I recommend doing one. Think about it- when you were in school- be it grade school or grad school- someone gave you the blueprint to get to the next level. A set of core classes, expertly designed syllabi, the full works – it’s incredibly helpful and if you do it right will give you the skills to get where you want to go, but in some ways it’s a handicap because the second you get out of grad school… it disappears. There’s no academic advisor or professor giving you an outline of what books to read, what conferences to go to, who to meet for coffee and discuss concepts with. Unless you have a supervisor who’s willing to pick up the slack (and with workloads increasing these days most can’t do this the way you’re used to), you’re on your own.

As a professional, the onus is on you to chart your own course- which at first can seem very daunting. However, if you take the time out of your busy schedule to do some reflection and thinking about what you want for the year and for the years to come, you can come up with a very useful tool that can be just as helpful to you as your academic educational plan. Developing your own PDP can be a great way to figure out what you want to do for the year and can be a great tool to present to a supervisor to help them figure out what they need to do to get you there. In my new role, I’ve asked my staff to develop their own PDPs using a template that I designed.

The Professional Development Plan- A Window Into Your Future

Every professional tends to have their own way of doing a PDP – I’m not going to claim that my way of organizing the information is the best but it definitely has worked for me in the past, so in an attempt to help folks who’ve never done this before out I’m sharing it below. Feel free to e-mail me, message me or comment below if you have questions.

 

GotDegrees’ Professional Development Plan “Master Recipe”:

  • Professional Philosophy: In order to figure out where you’re going, you need to think about where you’ve been and what effect those experiences have had on your personal approach to doing this work. The first step in determining your plan going forward is to think about what guides you as a student affairs professional- why do you do this work? What do you want to impart to students and to colleagues? What makes you get up in the morning and brave 100 degree temps in July and a foot of snow in January to get to the office?
  • What’s Your Endgame?: Once you know who you are in this field, it’s time to think broadly about where you want to be at the end of the time covered by your plan. For some of us, the endgame is another position- be it a move up or a lateral move across functional areas. For others, it’s building skills, knowledge or capacity in a current role – maybe getting more involved outside of your department, maybe becoming involved with a professional association, maybe even thinking about writing more. One way to think about this section that can be helpful is to take a look at job descriptions for the roles you’d like to have and pull out some of the responsibilities and requirements to use as a starting point for where you’d like to be. This section should be big picture- you’ll get more specific in the next section.
  • Specific Goals: The next step is to think about the details of your plan- what are the specific goals you want to achieve? Do you want to submit a program proposal for a conference? Get to know more about a different office on your campus? Prepare to take the GREs in anticipation of applying to a doctoral program? Whatever it is, I recommend keeping it simple and not having more than three or four specific goals. Developing SMART goals (more information on what this means here) is a good idea here because you want to be able to keep track of your progress throughout the period that you plan for. In addition to goals, you should think of a couple of objectives that spell out the steps you want to take to get to your goal- again, keep it simple and SMART whenever possible.
  • Other Information: After your personal philosophy, endgame and goals, you can go in a few different directions- the questions that I tend to ask myself and my team include:
    • What offices or departments do you want to work with or learn more about?
    • What auxiliary or collateral assignments do you want to work with in our office?
    • What conferences do you want to attend or present at?
    • What might you be looking for in terms or webinars or reading material?
    • Do you want to do more writing?
    • Might you be interested in taking a class at your institution or elsewhere?

The Professional Development Plan- A  Window Into Your Future

These are just a few of the questions you can ask yourself- depending upon what you’re interested in doing, you might have interests that get covered here or that may be completely outside of what I’ve thought about. At the end of the day, this document is about you and your wants and needs, so don’t be afraid to tweak and change it to make it work for you.

I usually try to create a plan at the beginning of each academic year (ideally prior to the start of student staff training but it can easily be after) that covers the full year- obviously it doesn’t have to be set in stone and can change, but it’s good to go into the year with a plan so you can make decisions. I’d keep the plan’s scope limited to a year at most- you can decide to do one each semester if you like if you like something more short-term. As someone who loves all things technology but isn’t exactly a digital native per se, I like having hard copies up in my office to keep me grounded but usually keep plans electronically so I can refer back to old ones and see how I’ve grown over the years. Finally, you should share your plan with your supervisor if you believe it will be helpful for them- but make sure you’ve added any tasks or needs for your position if you do so they know those are priorities for you.

I won’t be bold enough to promise that doing a PDP will automatically get you the job of your dreams- if I had that power I would have put Miss Cleo, Walter Mercado, and every other psychic out of business years ago. However, I can say from personal experience that having a plan will take the guesswork out of figuring out professional development, which in the end can lead to the job you want anyway. In any event, it’s a useful tool that I highly recommend and enjoy using in my own practice – if you have time over the next few weeks (stop laughing/crying- I know you don’t and I don’t either), start working on one and let me know how it goes.

Enjoy your last few weeks of summer/your first few weeks of the new semester!

J

One Month In The Middle: 5 Lessons Learned So Far

What all middle managers aspire to be...
What all mid-level managers (hopefully) aspire to be… (middlemanagerofjustice.com)

Hey folks! It’s definitely been a while since I shared the great news about my professional transition with you, and trust me when I tell you that A LOT has changed. I’m about a month into my new role as a mid-level student affairs professional and have already learned quite a bit about what that will mean for me and for the staff that I’ll be working with over the next year. I’m hopeful to take GotDegrees in a new direction as I settle into my new status as a mid-level manager and write from a new perspective; this will hopefully mean that I’ll be delving into new areas in addition to bringing back some of my previous series and topics and looking at them with fresh eyes. For now, I wanted to start out with a quick post on some of what I’ve already noticed in myself and in my new environment now that I’ve moved up.

What I’ve Learned In My First Month “In The Middle”:

  1. Transitioning to the middle takes time and patience. If I had to compare what the first few days in a new mid-level position feel like to some other experience, I think I’d probably say it’s like that moment when you wake up on your 21st birthday (or any birthday, really) and people ask you if you feel different. Unless you’re at the age where you’re finding new aches and pains, your answer probably was “not really.” I imagine that part of this was because I’ve moved to a new institution – people who move up at a place they’re familiar with might feel differently. For me, however, it’s been a process of building new levels of my professional persona in addition to learning a new place and new people. I expected to be thrown into the fire and to be expected to take on much more than I did initially. My new colleagues and supervisors have been great about letting me ease into my role while giving me plenty to do, so it’s been a pretty smooth transition in so far.
  2. There is more to life in student affairs than working directly with students. Most of us get into this work because we like working with students… I mean, I doubt SAPros are in it for the fame, prestige and great paycheck. J As I was preparing for a mid-level role and job searching, I heard from many people who were already in mid-level roles that I should prepare to have less direct contact with students; it’s early August so this one’s a bit harder to assess (and with student staff training in a week I’ll be around students 12+ hours a day for a week) but when things are up and running, I know that my staff will see students far more than I will. To be honest, I’m more than OK with that- I’m learning to love the other aspects of the job like working with my professional staff team, developing our programs, and thinking forward to the work I’ll be doing this year to help move my department forward. Speaking of my staff…
  3. Being in the middle means you’re the one in charge- like it or not. I haven’t had to make huge, earth-shaking decisions in the month that I’ve served in my new role, but I have noticed that others look to me for guidance and assistance, especially for projects or programs that are in my portfolio. In entry-level roles, you can usually send the e-mail, call or walk-in up to your supervisor or the point person that runs a particular process- when you’re the person who is running the process, you don’t have anywhere to hide (as I’ve learned in the past few days!) and people are depending on you in ways you may not have experienced in prior roles
  4. Your time is rarely, if ever, your own. In previous roles, I was usually able to get through my daily to-do list with some time to spare; as a mid-level professional, I’ve come into my office each day with a list and usually end up leaving with some of that list incomplete. Granted, it’s August, the busiest time of the year for folks in my functional area, but the difference is still very noticeable- and it’s made me think about where I choose to spend my time and what I do with it.
  5. Sometimes the perfect truly is the enemy of the good. I’ve made it no secret before that I’m a bit of a perfectionist. However, being in a leadership role at the mid-level requires decision making and directing a team, and sometimes that means you have to do so without all of the puzzle pieces perfectly in place. If there’s anything I’ve learned over the past few weeks, it’s that not everything has to be perfect the first time around- part of the fun is taking the risk, seeing what happens and tweaking before you try again.
If you've read this blog before, you probably know this is more my speed...
If you’ve read this blog before, you probably know this is more my speed… (auralnauts.com)

Clearly, I’ve learned a bit more than these five points- but I do want you to return to read more from me every once in a while so that’s all for now. I had planned to be more active in this space this summer, but for a host of personal and professional reasons that didn’t happen. Now that my schedule has changed, I don’t think that posting three times a week will work for me- but my goal is to write weekly (and to actually do it this time!) so you’ll hear from me again soon. Until then, take care and Happy Opening and Student Staff Training Season to all!

J