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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I am Overcome with Emotion...

There is no single emotion at this particular moment that can express how I feel right now. It's almost as though you can feel the world changing just as soon they announced Barack Obama has been elected the next President of the United States.

People who are reading this may not get the true magnitude of this moment. As a black man whose parents lived during the civil rights movement, whose family has roots in slavery, who never once thought he, nor his siblings, parents, grandparents and extended family see anyone other than a white man elected President has overwhelmed me with emotion.

This changes everything and hopefully improves many things. No longer will children of other races feel limited in what they can accomplish. No longer will any black man or woman have the excuse that we can't change anything or do anything.

When I was a kid I never thought I could be President. I always thought white men were the only ones allowed to be in that position. I remember seeing Geraldine Ferraro be on the ticket in the 80's and thinking that pairing would never win because in my history books it had only been white men who were the President and VP. Watching the mini-series, Roots, only solidified that concept because that may have been Alex Haley's story - but it resonated so much deeper with black people.

Then I begin to think of all of the things that will speak to the world. Even the little things such as visiting the White House and seeing Obama's Presidential portrait among all of those white men. Or people seeing pictures of the new First Family and having a new perspective of black Americans. New lessons to teach our youth. New lessons to teach our older generations. There are probably many other things I can list about the lessons we'll learn from this moment on. One of which being, this is no longer an America for white people that people of color just happen to live in - It's an America that can begin to say it's truly the land of opportunity for ALL citizens.

Yes We Did!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Negotiating Kindness?

Tonight I just felt moved to write something.

On a regular basis I notice people, who for whatever reason, find it inherently hard to be nice. It's as if they have to justify being nice and make the decision based upon a negotiation they decide on within their mind. Tonight I witnessed a friend who is in a constant flow of anger. Every single time I've hung out with this friend there's an angry moment. I chalk it up to personal unhappiness. I could be off the mark because I don't have a counseling license - but I did get a degree in counseling!

It all brought to mind how it's just amazing to me that some people will go out of their way to be mean when it's way easier to be 1.) kind and 2.) generous. It's not just a Natalie Merchant song! Maybe they don't really go out of their way. Maybe in the beginning they did and over time it has just become the only way they know how to respond?

It is my belief that if everyone just treated others with kindness - things would be so much better. If you spend a lot of your energy being angry then it doesn't leave much time for you to be in any other state of mind. The "ups" in your life are fewer and farther between. It all makes me think about God and just having faith in the thought that the life you live is just a journey that the Higher Power (if you choose to have faith that there is one) has provided. No one is out to get you. No one is out to steal from you. No one is truly out to hurt you maliciously, etc. (aside from common criminals). But if you've put that kind of energy out there - you BEST BELIEVE it's coming back to find you. It's the boomerang of life known as karma.

So imagine putting out nothing but good, positive energy. Being supportive. Being a good friend. Being a good parent. Being nice. Choosing to be happy. Living life as if it were the BEST gift you've ever received (because it really is).

In the purest sense - it's all about kindness. Think about that the next time you throw out your boomerangs.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

When Opportunity Meets Preparation

Lately, I've been thinking about my experiences in the field of student affairs. I have been contemplating how, when, and why I'd like to write this entry. Sitting here now makes my eyes water because of the amount of gratitude I want to share with everyone who has helped to carry me to this point in my life. It's amazing to me to think that I have been in the field for 7 years! What's even more amazing is reflecting on all that I've learned in those 7 years. While it may seem obvious to most that with 7 years of doing a specific type of job gives you a certain level of expertise, I'm here to talk about another. The unofficial mentor.

When I say unofficial, I'm talking about those individuals that you see and think, "Wow, I want to learn how they did/do it!" and you don't necessarily discuss with them your intentions. This all comes to mind with my last work experience at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. I have a tremendous level or respect and gratitude for having worked with the people I've had the opportunity to engage in dialogue and share experiences. This is not to discount my other experience as a hall director in Georgia. Having spent 5 years at one institution, I feel compelled to speak directly of this particular experience.

In 2003 I began my journey at UNLV. I really had little knowledge of student affairs theory, of what it meant to attend a national convention, let alone which one to attend, and I had yet to put together a proposal, official document, or otherwise for a university and/or its upper administration or even a national publication. I was indeed, green and sometimes green with envy because of my new colleagues seemingly extensive knowledge of the theories I had never fully understood or even studied. I'll be the first to tell anyone that my masters program was not terribly enriching.

It's not easy being green. I learned that during my first year when I was passed up for a merit pay increase, when everyone else who was also new around me received one. At that moment I sought out my first unofficial mentor. Since I had become friends with him, I would ask questions on how to improve and jokingly tell him that I was indeed on the same fast track to success. I definitely modeled some of my professional choices after him and it paid off. The next year and each year thereafter, I did receive merit. There were other unofficial mentors in the Division of Student Life. The level of support, those valuable teachable moments, and trust meant a great deal to me. I truly feel that I would not be in the position I am now poised to take on had this journey and your guidance not been a part of my life.

Some of the things I've learned are:
  • professional ettiquette
  • writing minutes
  • running meetings
  • indulging my creativity
  • taking risks
  • learning how to honor commitments
  • learning the importance of being on time
  • student affairs theory
  • how to be developmental
  • working smarter not harder
  • having rich diaglogues
  • goal planning
  • creating a vision
  • creating event binders
  • being thorough
  • playing devils advocate
  • knowing how to say no
  • knowing when to say yes
  • being stern when necessary
  • "playing nice"
  • the value of inclusivity and collaboration
  • the constant use of student affairs lingo
  • walk the talk
  • how to do bigger and better events
  • report writing
  • assessment
  • the value of autonomy
  • becoming a better writer
  • drafting "official" documents/emails
  • being "collegial"
Leaving UNLV was a really difficult choice especially with so many unknowns with taking on a new position. I remember the conversations I had with our Assistant Director and Director on why I wanted to do a job search. The only thing I could really speak to was that I needed a change from the job I had been doing for the last 5 years. I knew that role like the back of my hand but something kept telling me to move on. I resisted and even drafted a "new duties" document to outline how my position could be better utilized.

Now I sit in my new home in Virginia, reflecting on this journey and sharing it with my readers. I didn't mention the names of individuals because they deserve to be recognized for being great professional role models and helping me go from a green newbie to a seasoned professional on a more personal level.

I titled this post, "When Opportunity Meets Preparation" because honestly, I was watching TV and someone said it on a show. It was in reference to luck and it made me think of my situation and how, during the last 7 years I was being prepared for my new role. If you recall my previous posts, I did a job search. I went on two campus interviews and for whatever reason, I did not fit their needs and I'm okay with that. It's the fit with an institution and the department that you'd be working in that's most important. It was on the third campus interview where I seemed to find a fit and they did, too. Fast forward to the present and by the end of this month, I will no longer be in the position I was hired for. After two months on the job, I was offered the opportunity for a promotion and the opportunity crossed paths with my preparation!

Going back to the position I had in Georgia, a book that a Dean I worked with gave to our housing department has been ever influencing in how I do my work. The book is, "The Four Agreements" by don Miguel Ruiz. It's a quick read and a simple concept to digest and implement into your life. Be sure to check out the link to read the what those agreements are.

I say all of this for two reasons, to show my appreciation for the professional development I received from my UNLV family and to let you, the reader, see how it all comes together when you're ready for it. To develop as a professional takes mentoring in the unofficial or official versions. I doubt that any of the people aside for one who I am friends with, even realized they had that type of influence. It's always the little things that add up to be really important. Just watch how people work and do their work - you'll be amazed at what you pick up. And those times when you get reprimanded, can also be those influential moments that stick with you forever and create a stronger professional. If you don't ever make mistakes, how can you ever grow? Had preparation not met those opportunities in Georgia and Nevada, I would not be prepared for the new professional opportunity I've accepted. I plan to pay it forward to each green newbie whose opportunity crosses my path.

Thank you to everyone who has played a part in my experiences, whether you saw your contribution in this entry or not, everyone has had a part in helping me be who I am as a professional and friend today.

With sincerest gratitude,

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Gotta Unpack During this Summer "Vacation"

The students are on summer break and you find yourself in your office, chillin' - literally. I know how the air conditioning is in some places. :0) As I was chilling with my new supervisor, I have a moment that moved me closer to self-actualization. I thought would be worth sharing with my readers.

During the meeting we were talking about skills I've acquired since being a professional. I guess I never fully thought of everything that I either A. am capable of doing or B. can do with my eyes closed and one arm tied behind my back. Seven years have passed since I started working in student affairs and I've updated my resume many times but I never really comprehended what I am capable of doing.

How many times have you thought about the tasks that you do every day? Probably not as often as you could - and when it comes to interviewing for positions, you probably leave the interview and think, "Damn, I forgot to mention this.. " I know it has happened to me.

This summer you may be preparing to go on a vacation and spend some of that economic stimulus check. Before you begin packing, let me suggest "unpacking" all that you've accomplished personally and professionally. What lessons were learned? What skills were honed? What new skills were acquired? What is your full list of skill sets? What areas need more attention? This activity could be jotting down a couple of things each day. Your brain won't recall everything at once - so start the list on your computer and save it. Add to it. I will be that you feel more accomplished.

Some important skills can be:
  • Managed several budgets.
  • Mediated conflicts between students and or staff.
  • Dealt with a difficult ___________.
  • Planned activities for ___________.
  • Became more well versed in risk management.
  • Handled a crisis involving ________.
The list can go on. You may even have to do this for your end of the year reports. There may be things you haven't included on those reports that may not be important for that particular document. However, that doesn't mean it's not important for you as a professional. This list is to help you feel accomplished.

In addition to the things you've accomplished in the office be sure to include things you want to accomplish in your personal life. Add things you WANT to accomplish during the next 12 months personally and professionally. Kind of like your own "Bucket List" which coincidentally comes out on DVD and BluRay on Tuesday! I created one and I'll share it here. It's more personal than professional, but you get the idea.

Take notice that this is NOT a list of what I want to do.. but what I will do. If I don’t get to everything, that’s okay - at least I’ve done something. Ideally, I’d like to have 366 things to do. Things is green are what I've done /am doing. Things in orange are things that are in the works.

1. Create a framed piece of art each month - this counts as 12 things.
13. Exercise at least 3 times a week.
14. Do a photo shoot each month to hone my craft - this counts as 12 things.
27. Learn how to use Illustrator effectively. 28. Learn how to use Photoshop effectively. 29. Cook my own meals 4 days a week.
30. Plan a my weekly dinner menus in advance.
31. Limit my spending on frivolous things.
32. Create a bracelet to remind me to not buy frivolous things.
33. Try my hand at building whimsical wall clocks - I’ve always wanted to do this.
34. Utilize my sewing machine at least 4 times this year - counts as 4.
38. Save $50 into my savings account each month.
39. Get a Roth IRA
40. Really try to sell my artwork and make money.
41. Buy lighting equipment and build my own photo studio.
42. Learn how to create flash animation and menus.
43. Create my own stationary.
44. Write actual letters and mail them to people I haven’t talked to in a while.
45. Pay off all debt.
46. Write a blog each week - there’s something worth writing about all of the time.. you just have to think about it. - HA.. this blog isn't this particular one.. it's not appropriate for this venue. biggrin if you think you wanna see - let me know .. but be warned!
47. Walk 10,000 steps each day - that can’t be THAT hard can it? I'm pretty close!
48. Read two books this year. One book has been read - The Color Purple
49. Take more risks in meeting people.
50. Date more often.
51. Keep a tidier office.
52. Show my appreciation more often.
53. Attend church at least once.
54. Find a new job. YAY! I have a new job at George Mason!
55. Make more time for myself.
56. Drink less soda.
57. Travel out of the country.
58. Visit family.
59. Keep a sketch book and USE IT.
60. Do something nice for someone each week - counts as 52.
113. Know when it’s time to leave the office.
114. Practice playing the guitar. Does Guitar Hero count?
115. Buy clothes that are the right size.
116. Eat less junk food.
117. Create an art portfolio.
118. Go hiking. The Grand Canyon Rim trail! Yeah Baby!
119. Go to the movies at least once and not get popcorn. Saw "Meet the Browns"
120. Display my artwork in some prominent location.
121. Each week look for items I can cross off from this list.
122. Drink less coffee. - Im actually drinking more now.. ugh..
123. Volunteer for some charitable organization.
124. Re-read The Four Agreements and live them to the best of my ability.
125. Write down my dreams - they can be the biggest inspiration.
126. Start loving myself more.
127. Attend a Meet Up Group meeting
128. Find ways I can make a difference at work.
129. Stay out of office gossip.
130. Be more inclusive with regard to people at work.
131. Encourage people to be the best "professional" they can be.
132. Believe in myself.
133. Continue to add to this list.

It's good to revisit your list at least once a month - at the beginning of the month is best. This way, you can plot how you will be able to cross off new items.

Feel free to share some items from your list in the comments - I'd love to see them.

Friday, May 16, 2008

What I Wish I Would Have Known in Student Affairs

A while back I came across a blog that stated, "20 Things I Wish I Had Known When Starting Out in Life". I then started thinking about the things I wish I had known about Student Affairs. There are quite a few things to mention that most people probably picked up in their graduate programs. However, one of the things I've always understood is the importance of humble, friendly, energetic, and willing to do the work.

Below is a list of things I wish I had known prior to getting into this field. Feel free to add your own "I wish I would have known" comments. This could be fun!

1. Know more about the process of getting hired. When I was on the verge of graduating with my MA, I had no idea what the time-line looked like in order for me to get a job. I really didn't start applying for positions until May - and as you know.. that's WAY LATE! Luckily I found a position as a hall director. Those two years were great - but I definitely didn't know what to do as a hall director because I had only lived in the halls for a semester myself. HA! I guess with the willingness to learn and do the work you can do anything. It's called SURVIVAL!

2. What exactly do you do at an ACPA and NASPA and why would you want to go? I had heard about these two student affairs organizations but I never really grasped why it was important for me to be a member. It didn't help that the first institution I was employed with didn't go to either of these conferences - so there went another two years of not knowing.

3. Be your (professional) self in Interviews and RELAX! Wow, I just got this not too long ago. You don't want to force yourself to fit a position - you want to give the interviewers a sense of who you are and they'll decide if you're a good fit. When you do this.. you become less nervous. Just make sure you're prepared.

4. Have a general idea of a handful of theories. Some people in student affairs like to talk theory. I'm not really one of them - but I can at least give you a general idea of some of the most used ones and hold a conversation. In my early years, this wouldn't be the case. I had theories class - but I skated through that class. In my current position I gained the knowledge to be able to speak on some theorists even if it's not my favorite thing to do (I actually get quite bored). Having a general knowledge also helps you through some interviews. I don't know how many actually ask questions on your theory knowledge - but UNLV definitely does. I will say that I've never heard anyone shout out, "Oh my God - I just did challenge and support!" - It's all about putting it into practice.

5. Stay out of the gossip. Actually I've always lived by this one since graduate school. Gossip will destroy everything and trust goes right out of the window. If you're participating in gossip, just imagine how much others you're gossiping with are actually gossiping about you. Think "Mean Girls". It all comes back to bite you on the ass in the end.

6. No matter what they say, there is ALWAYS ways around it. Don't ever take the first no as the FINAL ANSWER. Oh, and those rules are they just as a guideline - of course unless it may result in death, pain, serious injury and incarceration. While there might always be a way around something you can't always skirt around a rule - but a lot of times you can.

7. Stand your ground - be confident. Sometimes you meet people who are in a higher position than you and the culture is to fear this person for whatever reason. If you're confident that commands a certain level of respect. If you're sure about something, stand your ground - but know when to concede. Some battles are just not worth the fight, plus you have to think of the whole team. How is standing your ground on a subject affecting others? It took me a while to be confident enough to stand my ground when I believed in something.

8. Be well known for something. Whatever you're good at - keep it up. Be known for that. If it's being punctual - let that be your M.O. Are you an encyclopedia of team building/ice breaking knowledge? Then do as many staff development exercises as possible. If you're creative, show it any chance you get. If you are organized - offer to help others be that way. If you can find humor in the most appropriate times when it's needed, then do it. Accentuate whatever skill/talent you have to help yourself shine brightest.

9. Don't agree to do something if you really don't want to do it. This is a no-brainer. If you don't want to do something and you've convince yourself that you have to because someone may be offended or upset that you can't - then that's their problem. My motto is, "Help when you have the time, ability and WANT to help". You'll always come across as genuine because you will be your genuine self when you are helping. Doing something because of politics, being afraid to say no, or afraid someone will not like you will set you into a hard to break spin-cycle of inauthentic behavior and you'll always remember the time when you did that "favor" for someone. It's the times you don't remember doing something for someone but they always remember you doing it for them, that you have done something with pure kindness. It's those things that count in the long run.

10. Take advantage of all of your fringe benefits! Get your full worth at your institution. Health benefits, retirement plans, computer loans, free software, free or discounted tuition - take FULL advantage. I've taken advantage of all of the benefits. The tuition one is great because while I may not be working towards a degree, I'm working on improving my skills in other areas that help me do the work in my position better - and better still, I am taking classes for personal enrichment.

11. Don't become a politician (unless you're REALLY running for office). You can't be everything to everyone all of the time but who you can be is yourself everyday. This is not to say you aren't respectful and thoughtful in regard to a colleagues role in your department or division - but what it's saying is that you be consistent in your dealings and confident in the decisions you make. People will respect you more for your point of view, your enthusiasm, and honesty. Keep in mind, this isn't carte blanche to say and do "whatever the hell you want" but more of a vehicle to be you. It's wise to press palms, smile, and engage in authentic conversations but it's not wise to get yourself caught up in the "watch out for so-and-so", the "they don't like it when...", or the "you don't want to piss off so-and-so ", etc. Once you start tip-toeing around folks, it's a wrap! You've given them the power without them even asking for it.

Friday, May 2, 2008

A Stranger in a Strange Land

Okay... consider me dramatic.

I've just completed my first week on the job (practically... I still have another hour to kill). It was kind of auspicious. I mean, this truly seems like a fun bunch of people to work with. I'm sure I'll find things that I'm not particularly fond of, but for the most part, to quote Tim Gunn, "(I'll) Make it work!"

The newness of the area is still affecting me. Who thought leaving the desert would leave me in disarray? I grew up in the land of green space abundance. The land of towering trees and grass and highways for miles. Yet, I still find myself feeling like I'm on another (colonial) planet. I miss the bright lights of Las Vegas that would often guide me home if I ever found myself lost.

My first week on the job assessment: Hmm.. let's see. I'll make a list of things I've noticed.

  • People are really chill in my office.
  • I find that I generally like everyone - they've been pretty nice.
  • I miss the sanctuary-like environment of my former office... sigh... That's the introvert in my. INTJ here.
  • I do miss my students from UNLV but some of the ones I've met here seem pretty receptive, energetic and fun.
  • It's the same ol' same ol' regarding student thoughts on programming. I already had one student tell me that something wouldn't work on this campus. In my last school, I heard students say the same thing. There is clearly some work to be done to help them see the infinite possibilities. I am a firm believer that you can make pretty much ANYTHING work on any campus - it's all in how you present the information to the audience.
  • When you are familiar with the type of work you have to do - it's easy to jump right in!
  • It's way easier to be yourself from the beginning instead of "flipping the script" on folks. Keep it real!
  • Did I just hear someone yell down the hall for me? HA HA! That really trips me out. Reminds me of my father yelling in the house asking me to get him a glass of iced water. Incredible. It's a good reminder of what I did to Shina, my student worker. I will always reminder not to EVER yell in an office for someone's attention - a phone call or IM will suffice.
  • Sometimes you just gotta jump right in and go for it.
This first week have been busy but in a good way. I already have tasks and meetings popping up and I'm ready. I can't wait to see what I can do within this position.

As for all of the other stuff... well. it's just that.. "stuff". I'll adjust, just as I did when I first started in Las Vegas. It'll just take me a few weeks.

More news to come from Colonial Fairfax....


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Sometimes Leaving is the Hardest Thing to Do

Just when you think you're prepared for your departure - you're really not. I say this because I thought I was ready to leave my position without a tear and I was wrong and I have the tears to prove it.

Ever since I was offered my new position I was in "la-la land" apparently. Thinking that this transition would be a piece of cake. I mean, what's 5 years at one institution? Let me tell you what it really is... an investment in myself, my students, friends and co-workers. I made these investments and I didn't realize how much my assets have matured. 5 years of growth and "mutual funding". Some people might invest more into you than you into them and vice versa, but we're all taking the gamble in our crazy, sometimes volatile student affairs market.

When I began at UNLV, I had 4 friends, Alli, Jerica, Yvette, and Mike, who all started on the same day that we all had things in common with one another - we were young, single, and party goers. We all learned from one another, looked after one another, made investments in our friendships and sometimes had to take "personal loans" out on each other to make it through our toughest of days. Ahh, the beauty of "mutual funding".

I always knew I'd miss the people I've met on this particular journey. There's a lot to be said for living a life of authenticity, audacity, and good humor. Over the course of the years, I've grown closer to people than I ever had in my life by living my life as such. However, I've never really been one to cry. I always said that I'll see you again or talk to you on the phone - so no need for tears. I put up that wall - I didn't invest my assets in others and kept them in the safe. I've moved so many times that I thought I had this process down. No need for tears because I wouldn't allow myself to shed them.

When I came to the decision to leave Las Vegas I know I didn't consider how it would be to actually leave. I thought I didn't invest into these relationships I've developed. Relationships with students, staff members, and friends (some of which are co-workers). I made a lot of investments in individuals. Investments in student leaders and helping to guide them through decisions and grow as leaders was a major part of this. This was the first of the dividends to be paid.

Dividends paid to me were amazing. Who has a surprise going away party? That's right me.. and my roommate put it all together. Thanks Sherry! The feeling of walking into a club and having a dozen or so people jumped from behind a red curtain can be ULTRA surprising. It overwhelmed me and made my eyes water. But I did well not to let one tear roll down.

When it came time for my farewell reception, I presented two plaques - one to each president of the organizations that I advised. I could hardly get through the presentation without blubbering. I was a teared up mess! After my sobbing sentiments, I had students tell me how much I influenced what they've done. How I've helped them to remain enrolled, get into programs, become RAs, members of RHA, serve as a team leader with one of my groups, etc. Of course, I teared up with these stories too. I just wish I could have bottled those up and saved them for a rainy day here in Virginia. I shared with them how they've also influenced the work that I do and how a couple of them have influenced my decision to stay for this last year that has just ended on April 18, 2008. The reception continued with extremely generous gifts from students - gift cards in dollar amounts that I couldn't believe, a new leather messenger bag, goodluck/farewell cards from people throughout the Division of Student Life and the coveted shadow box and Nevada plaque. It was emotionally overwhelming and I tried my hardest to play down every aspect but I couldn't hold back any longer.

The tears continued as I said goodbye to one of my closest friends on Sunday. I never realized how much he means to me and how powerful and meaningful his friendship is. Something as simple as a keychain stirred up the tears. The keychain has meaning and also references something I've helped him do each year for students.

The week was an emotional rollercoaster and it was only exacerbated by my sleep deprivation. It all culminated with me being taken to the airport by one of the members of the "Fab Five", Alli, who is really like a sister to me, accompanied by her mom, and her infant son. I thought it would be smooth - ya know... not wanting to make anymore deposits into these "mutual funds". She asked if I wanted them to go inside with me and I was pretending to be indifferent. You want them to, but you don't want to "got there" emotionally. Especially not going through the security checkpoint and then getting on the plane! Alli ended up making the decision for me and was asking if I had heard from another friend and I was like, "No, not a word." and she was puzzled and said she thought that was weird of her not to call or anything.

While we were in the airport waiting for Alli to come inside, her mom and I were making small talk. As we were talking I saw three people in the corner of my eye approaching, so I turned to see who it was and why they were walking up on me like that. It was Alli, Jerica and Yvette, the three remaining members of the "Original Fab Five" that all started and bonded as friends in July 2003. Tears ensued. Hugging commenced and it was a picture perfect ending to how it all began.

The impact of this experience runs deep. I've made lifelong friends, experienced personal and professional growth that surpassed my expectations and had the opportunity to do so in Las Vegas of all places!

I dedicate this blog to my friends... "Thank you for being a friend. Traveled down the road and back again - Your heart is true. You're a pal and a confidant."
The picture is of Alli, Yvette, myself and Jerica as they said goodbye to me at the airport.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

It's Time to Ante Up!

How fitting is it that I can use the phrase "Ante UP"?

Tomorrow is my last day at UNLV and I've sat at the table and made my wager before I can see what cards I'm going to be dealt at my new institution. I surely hope I win big because I'm wagering a good bit - decrease in income and higher cost of living to name a couple. Sure, it sounds silly that I would leave a position where I make great money for a position where I'm not only going to make less but I will also be living in a more expensive area. Nevermind the fact that I'm going to have to make new friends, find new people to trust, figure out how to do this new job, find an apartment with a reasonable rent, etc.

I've also thought about how I chose to spend my hard earned dollars each month. I eat out for dinner a good bit. I will spend $20 on random stuff. I'll go to Target and buy a bunch of things I don't need. Capitalism can ruin us Americans! I have credit card debt that I can't even begin to tell you why the amount owed is so high. Just plain foolishness and nonsense!

So what's the payoff? Well, I've come to realize what's important to me. A little self-actualization if you will. The goal is to live a simpler life.

In the five years I've worked and lived in Las Vegas I've nurtured things I love - my art, being creative, imaginative, and being myself. While I need money to do many of these things, I don't necessary have to have a lot of things in my life to make me feel good.

Living a simpler life has never felt so good. This past weekend, in preparation of leaving for Washington, D.C. I sold what seemed to most, everything at my apartment sale. So much "stuff" that in fact, I made well over $400 on Saturday alone. What makes it so bad is that everything I sold, I never really looked at for a year or more, had it travel with me each time I moved, and sometimes even forgot I had it. That's a shame. NO ONE should ever have so much stuff that you can't even account for what you own. I was just acquiring things without thought to, "Is it necessary?" I am leaving Las Vegas with my essentials; clothes, music, movies, my art and a better sense of self.

With this new found understanding I am wagering that I made the right choice. That the cards on the table will show me some love and have a nice pay-off career-wise and socially. Wiser wagers and better bluffing.

Here's to simple living, taking risks, and makin' it work!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Wow.. My words actually helped!

Yesterday I received a message from one of my blog readers. It's crazy how you never know how people will take what you write and what they'll do with the words if they choose to do anything at all. This particular reader had emailed me a month or two ago saying their job search wasn't going so well and that he had forgotten how to use his light saber. Here's his email from yesterday.

Hey Dennis,

How's the new job going? Did you start already?

I got a new job too. I'll be moving to Seattle in a few weeks!

Your blog about keeping your light saber at full force really inspired me during my job search. Ironically, just when I had about given up on ever finding something, I thought back to your blog, built up a rejuvinated sense of confidence in myself, and had a job offer two days later. Of course, that's just a coincidence, but it inspired me none the less. Keep writing!

Have a great night!

How about that? biggrin

I just learned today that we have the exact same start date.

To the rest of you still searching. Use "The Force" - your confidence. Everything you need is within you. Your light saber is your ability to wield the power of all you know. Be nimble!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

But what about the children?

I really didn't think it would happen. I had hoped for it to happen but at this point, I figured it just wasn't going to work out. Especially when I thought I completely bombed that last phone interview! You've guessed it. I have scored a job and the deal is verbally sealed!

Remember my posting about totally screwing up the interview? Or the one where I didn't have my light saber of skills ready? Or even when I said... "even if they call I'm not taking the on-campus"? Well.. I lied. HA!

Pretty much everyone goes through levels of self-doubt. I was concerned about not being ready for the next step - although I've been doing the level of work of someone who would be a level above me. I just lacked the confidence to believe that in myself. During this last and final campus visit I was ready! I even made a portfolio - WHICH by the way is a smart thing to do if you create a lot of things in your position. My portfolio consists of articles I've written that were accepted into publications, marketing materials I've created, assessment materials I've created, and presentations. It's a smart thing to have - Thanks for the tip, Kyle! I may not have used it.. but it kept my mind on the skills I possessed and gave me reassurance that, in the words of Rev. Jesse Jackson, "I AM SOMEBODY!"

The moment I accepted the negotiated terms of the offer (yeah.. salary negotiation is a scary thing all together too which could be a stand alone topic) I felt nervous and disoriented. Is this the right choice after 5 years? Will I be happy? What about all of the events, conferences, and activities I am currently working on? What about my colleagues? What about the friends I've made? What about the children?

What will happen to the students I've worked with all year? This really concerns me because it's going to be really hard on them to transition so quickly. Six weeks to move through all of this change? Will they receive the same or higher level of dedication to help them successful leaders and programmers? I'm not only leaving behind my student groups but also other student leaders that I've grown closer to - Resident Assistant, Multicultural Assistants, Students in the Activities and Involvement office, Office Assistants. Students who've grown accustomed to me always being here no matter how many times I've threatened to depart our fair city. And we can't forget the folks in the Dining Commons, maintenance and custodial staffs, people on my committees, classified staff, the list just goes on. There's a lot still buzzing about in my brain because it has year to even be 12 hours since I've said, "yes".

These relationships are important to me considering I'm such a relational person and had 5 years to develop those relationships. The connections I make are so vital that I want to make the transition as smooth as possible for both my sake and the sake of those I'm closest to. Just thinking about the group of friends I started this position with and leaving them makes me a little "emotional". It was like our own version of MTV's Real World. It's so intense!

Then I think of the opportunities before me. How exhilarating this will be. The newness. The freshness. The new challenges that will cause me stress out in the first year but become so "easy like Sunday morning". I'll be "the new guy". What's also exciting is that I'll no longer be working in a housing program. I'll actually be working in student activities!

So this is really "Where I wanna be" (to quote lyrics by Donnell Jones). I've been wanting to focus on student activities since I was in my first semester of graduate school. This is just another testament of "things always work out in the end" and while I may have to leave my students abruptly, there is something positive that can be drawn from the time we've spent together.

Good luck to all those who are job searching. Keep your light sabers handy and believe in and use "the Force". You'll be just fine.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Still Thinking of the 80/20

The hiring season is upon us.  

In the past several months I've been on a job search. What have I been searching for?  An escape from my current position or a step up into a new one?  The decision to job search when you're not having your hand forced is a tough one.  I'm sure many a student affairs professional has pondered when the right time to leave is.  I've been debating it for 2 years!  

I've been in this current position for 5 years now.  I like/love what I do.  It ebbs and flows, ya know.  Some days I think, "I have the greatest job on the planet!" and other times I have a hard time making it through a work week.  The latter is pretty rare.  

This time last year I was pretty certain that this current school year would be my last.  Man.. it's been tough to figure out what I want. I know what I want to do - work in student activities.  But what is it that I'm looking for in particular at a new institution?   I have it pretty good here.  I have a down to Earth supervisor, I get along with everyone in the department, I know tons of people on campus, I've cycled through an entire graduation class, I do well on my annual evaluations from peers and my supervisor, and I've garnered a reputation of respect, trust and achievement with staff and students.  

I've shared with close friends, my desires to conduct a job search.  While everyone is supportive, some have asked why do I want to leave if things are going so well.  I've thought about that myself.  After writing the first blog about the 80/20 rule I thought, "Wow, I have a close to 80% here and I'm off looking for that 20% and who knows if it'll even equal 80%."   If you've followed my blogs, you'll recall one from way back that talks about a student that came to talk to me about student organization "stuff". That conversation caused me to want to stay in my position for another year.   Yes, I'm in my 5th year here.  Yep, I'm pretty comfortable.  With that comfort comes the idea to "shake it up a bit".  I have an opportunity to "shake things up" for next year and change a couple of my duties - however, I haven't committed to this yet.  

I've gone on two campus interviews.  I didn't get either job.  One school hired an internal candidate.  The other hired someone who fit into their budget (at least that's what I gathered considering the type of conversation that was had with the Assoc. Dean).  I just interviewed with another school and that was probably not my best interview.  It was my birthday, I was on my cell phone for the interview and totally had my mind on other things.  The Light Saber was tucked away in the other suit that day! HA!  Even if by some chance I'm offered a second interview - I'm going to decline.  The pay simply isn't enough for the D.C. area.  This leads me to one other application.  It's an awesome opportunity.  A position that I can see myself fitting into just from the job description alone.  If this one doesn't work out - guess what?  I'll be here at UNLV doing a job that I enjoy.  

I really do think this university is a great fit for me for right now.  It's amazing how many people I've seen come and go for whatever reason - and I'm still here.  Longevity.  Now there's a word you don't hear from many people in the field.  Not until you reach a much higher level that is or if you work at an institution near or in the city you were raised.  

With that said.... I think I have 80% satisfaction for sure.  If it's this difficult to decide to leave, then there must be a whole helluva lot that keeps me vested.  

What makes YOU want to stay at your current institution? What's your percent of satisfaction that you feel you have in your current position?  

At any rate, here's to one more go 'round with the resume and to everyone finding their 80%!  

Friday, January 11, 2008

Reverse Telecommuting

I saw this in my email from Urban Dictionary and it made me laugh.

Happy (reverse) Telecommuting!

January 11, 2008: reverse telecommuting

Bringing personal work to the office: paying bills, playing games and reading online newspapers on company time ([OCT]).

Friday, January 4, 2008

The Lessons We Teach

I was sent this video from a friend.  It's crazy to think of the things that people do and say out of fear.  I was thinking about this because I have a childhood friend who is pretty right-winged with his beliefs.  He and I go back and forth on issues and the whole immigration issue was one of them (among other things).  

Working in student affairs, I think I've become... wait.. I KNOW I've become more accepting of things, more knowledgeable of people's feelings, and more politically correct - and we all know that this can sometimes be taken wrong by those who don't understand why I/we choose to use certain words. I am often dubbed a liberal. I'm okay with that.

I was thinking about how I now, since becoming a student affairs practitioner, have become an advocate for so many things and find myself sharing what I've learned not only with the students I work with, but also with my family, friends and acquaintances.  

  • Instead of assuming someone is married to a man or a woman and saying husband and wife - we say partner or spouse. 
  • Instead of saying someone is black, people will say African-American (although I still ONLY say black - because I did not immigrate from Africa). 
  • Instead of saying Merry Christmas, we say Happy Holidays.
  • Etc. etc.... 
In the last 5 years, I find myself advocating for things that aren't even related to me. Be it someone's religious beliefs, to the poor, the homeless, beggars on the street, people who are extremely different from myself and so forth.  There was a lesson that I learned from Mr. Wagner in 5th grade. To give people the benefit of the doubt (although it was most often related to when we scored classmate's tests and quizzes). 

After having watched the video, I started to think about how we try to educate our students. I plan to spark a discussion with them to get them to think more about more important matters than what's happening with Britney Spears or how the next episode of a reality show is so intense.  

I give the people in the video the benefit of the doubt.  My first instinct was to think, "Wow, these people are crazy!". Then I thought about how they're not so much crazy as they are afraid. I also don't perceive them to necessarily be racist but they are wanting self-preservation. All of this comes from not being aware of how the other side feels.  One of the lessons I learned in life is to place myself in someone else's shoes before I make a judgement.  What would I do and how would I feel?

Watch the video and think about how you're doing your part to teach the lessons you've learned to the students you work with. 

Just something to think about.