Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A Little Fresh Soil and a New Pot...

What a mixed up feeling it is. "I'm on a ride and I wanna get off. But they won't slow down the roundabout," to quote Duran Duran's "Reflex" - is exactly how I feel right now. Many of us have been there. The infamous job search. Some people love the thrill of the unexpected with searches. I don't really enjoy it myself. I enjoy exploring life and what it has to offer but as I inch closer to my mid-thirties, I am beginning to enjoy career development in a single place. Am I a rare breed? Having only worked at 2 institutions in 7 years is pretty good. I know others that tend to "bounce" after only one year on the job. Granted, that was me when I was an art teacher in rural North Carolina. However, the difference with me is that I left that career after one year of full-time teaching and entered the world of student affairs. The aforementioned individuals that I know that left after one year all, with the exception of one, stayed in the field.

This has been on my mind because I am now in my 5th year at a single university and haven't changed positions. I've pretty much been doing the same thing each year - with the exception of several programs that I'm not required to do but do them because I think they're needed. For example, World AIDS Day Events. These would probably never happen if I didn't do them.

In my 5th year I was hoping for something to be different. It's not.

Today I went to the Post Office and noticed the workers. I started thinking, "Wow, Charlotte and Amy have been doing the same job for who knows how many years - they've been behind that same desk since I've been in Las Vegas!" Then I thought about my parents. My mom worked as a postal worker for 30 years. My dad worked in the Ford Motor Company factory for 30 years. How were these individuals able to do it? How were they able to continue to stay in the same job, same location, until retirement? We're definitely talking about an older, baby boomer, blue collar mentality. I know who thing that kept them there is having a family that you can't just uproot and transplant to a new area with ease. Not on their salaries at least.

In student affairs, professionals are known to be transient. I've seen one acquaintance of mine hold three jobs in three distinct areas of the country all within the 3 year span I've known him. Whatever happened to longevity? I've also noticed one other acquaintance from my years in college who has held the same position since she graduated from the Student Affairs program. She's a rarity!

Currently I'm at a crossroads. I love parts of my job dearly. The interactions with the students. My RHA and NRHH students. My emerging student leaders that I find each year. The events we plan and to hear students 6 months to a year later still talking about them. Then there's the, "God, not THIS again... " stuff. I know there's that type of thing at EVERY campus - so that's not really an issue. My issue is needing to feel challenged, supported and that my work and myself as a human being is valued.

During my tenure at UNLV I have probably only been challenged by my colleagues and supervisor during the first year and a half. I've grown tremendously as a professional - when I reflect on what I was like fresh out of graduate school and two years into my professional career. Since being at UNLV, I've been able to present myself with new challenges each year. With each program, presentation, workshop, training, retreat, etc. I challenged myself to make it better. If you're familiar with Strengths Quest - my top 5 are Adaptability, Maximizer, Connectedness, Input and Developer. I enjoy making things bigger and better each chance I get and I love to feel connected to and making connections with people. I can get along with anyone and find common ground where a relationship can flourish and my mind is always constructing something new.

When I consider job searching I feel torn. There are so many things I love about where I work but unfortunately there is nowhere for me to go as far as growth is concerned in this current role. Do I continue to just work as I have been and maintain the longevity or do I seek out new challenges at another institution? Or do I hope for a new position to magically appear and let the current job opportunities I'm seeing pass me by? I feel like I'm a plant whose roots have outgrown the pot and I need re-potting with some fresh soil.

The professional growth I'm seeking is out there. I just don't know where it's hiding and which pot will suit my taste or where the richest soil might be to feed my future growth.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

On the New Seaon of...

I guess it's because I've gotten swept up in the drama that ensues on my newly purchased DVDs of season two of Dynasty. I love a good drama! I love Alexis Carrington! I have season one also and it's not nearly as thrilling as season two - I think anyone who enjoyed this 80's evening soap knows this. What those same people would know is that the drama is always the same - just presented differently in each episode and that's precisely the world of student affairs.

Love it or leave it - our careers in student affairs is dramatic. It's not unusual to hear "She said..." , "He said...", "I can't believe he...", "Did you know..." on campus - from other professionals no less. HA!

I've just started the season of meetings on our campus. I'm in my 5th season of this series. Complex Council, Residence Hall Association, National Residence Hall Honorary, Dining Commons Committee, Committee for the Committee of Forming a Committee, and the "let's meet tomorrow to discuss what was discussed in today's meeting" meetings. It can all be so dramatic and seem so important.

If you've worked with student groups you know how a dramatic turn of events can happen and throw people into a tizzy. This week on As the RHA Turns, I witnessed a dialogue exchange that will undoubtedly morph into a battle between "Krystal" and "Alexis". As the advisor, I'm challenged with managing/directing each episode and I thought, "How do I manage these two personalities and make sure the good of the team is intact?" I mean, we DO have a lot more episodes to do! My first thought was to sit back and watch because as I said earlier.. I LOVE a good drama. Then there's the seasoned student affairs professional in me that says, "You better get a grip on these two!"

Working with students who are trying to figure out who they are, what it really means to be mature, and how to become more professional without compromising their authenticity is tiring! But it's a labor of love.

Each semester presents 16 new episodes. They laugh; they cry; they argue; they threaten to walk out on you; they vow to never talk to someone unless they have to; they plan; they plan to watch things fail; they plan to succeed; they vanish only to return just in time when their help is no longer needed; they work until their help is no longer needed. Our students can, at times, be all these things and more and it's our dedication to them that encourages them to be the stars of the show. It's our job to bring out the talent and natural gifts in our students and help them shine.

So, on with the show and may each of us who advise student organizations strive to be the Aaron Spellings of our campus. Dramatic close-ups, paused stares into the cameras and all!