Tips from Fellow Professionals

We have asked our members to provide our new professionals with some personal tips and suggestions based on their experiences over the years. The suggestions below have been compiled from members that hold positions such as director of programs and leadership, director of student activities facilities, and union director. Take a look at what they have to say!

  • Look for the right fit with your first job. Don't base your decision solely on the name or athletic reputation of the school. Some of the best staff and innovative services come from smaller colleges that you may have never heard of. 

  • Become familiar with campus lingo and use these terms respectively. For example, if your campus uses the term “dorm,” don't refer to them as "residence halls." If they use the term “student center,” don't call it the “student union.”

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  • Value relationships. Your boss this year could end up being a peer a few years later.

  • Leave your mark as a part of the history of the campus. Visit the archives department on your campus and learn about how the institution (and your building and staff) has evolved over the years. Find a way that you can leave a legacy.

  • Take advantage of relationships across campus… even if you don't have a direct work responsibility relationship with someone, get to know them. Get involved in campus committees, go to the recreation center after work, attend religious services, etc.… You never know where the next job may be on campus, and these relationships could be the foundation for your next job offer.

  • Network with colleagues at other campuses. It is much easier to obtain benchmark information if you have a personal connection with someone at a peer institution.

  • Experience the jobs of your subordinates. Come in and work the 1–8 a.m. weekend shift, scrub a toilet, set up a room, etc. Learn what is involved in each of the jobs of people with whom you work so that you can better relate to their situations.

  • Get involved with a professional association. Even if you are just volunteering at a conference, your relationships (and the impressions of your work ethic) with colleagues from schools could be the springboard to advancing your career on another campus.

  • Create and maintain a “pick me up” file. File away cards, thank you notes, e-mails that praise you, etc. When you're having a rough day, pull out the file for a little bit of reassurance that not all is as bad as you think it is.

  • First impressions are critical. Look at every meeting as an opportunity to leave a lasting impression on someone.

  • On a personal note, don't let having children scare you. While time management and financial pressures may seem like overwhelming challenges, nothing relieves work-related stress more than going home at the end of a day and spending time with kids. Work-life balance is critical to long term success, and having a family will force you to work toward that balance.

  • My advice is to stay abreast of up-to-date resources on multigenerational information. To be an effective supervisor or leader we must understand the various generations, their passions, conflicts, strengths, weaknesses, etc. We have much to learn and much to offer in this way. Perhaps the most important audience to convince of this is the students we advise. Adding multigenerational information in their training is crucial to breaking down barriers which exist.

  • The one thing that we always emphasize to our graduate students is that they should always remember: “You both enter and exit organizations quietly!” The essence is that you can’t expect to build relationships and understand the dynamics of a new institution or a new job within your existing institution too quickly. The first year should be one of learning and listening intently. There’s plenty of time for showing strength of leadership, but it must be used sparingly in your first year. Conversely, the idea of exiting an organization quietly means that we don’t want to do a lot of damage, exercise undue authority or seek retribution when we are on the way out of an organization. Both entering and exiting organizations are times for us to exercise grace!

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Do you have a tip you would like to share? E-mail it to ACUI at acui@acui.org.

Updated May 7, 2015