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CREATING A STUDENT AFFAIRS CAREER STRATEGY

As you begin considering the development of a career strategy, there are two concepts from which to view it – the intentional and the spontaneous.  These concepts create the “both-and” framework from which you should create your career plan, both holding yourself accountable for assessing your goals and developing plans to meet them and embracing unexpected opportunities to learn and grow even if those may potentially shift your path a bit.


Intentional and Spontaneous

There are two methods to crafting your career strategy: being intentional and leaving room for the spontaneous to occur. Both are important to your strategy. That may sound odd, but it is the truth. Let me explain. Intentionality means you make time and dedicate effort to reflect on and construct a strategy for yourself. It means that you assess what skills and expe­riences you possess and what skills and experiences you need to gain. Inten­tionality means that you reflect on and determine how you can go about demonstrating what skills and experiences you have and how you can go about gaining what you need. It means setting goals for when you want to accomplish it all, determining who can help you along the path, and understanding why you are doing all of it. Intentionality means you have purpose. It also suggests that you can answer that ever-appearing interview question, “Where do you see yourself in 1, 5, and 10 years?” I do not like that question; I never have. I think it asks us to predict something that we cannot. However, I understand why it is asked. People are trying to determine if you can plan, strategize, reflect, and project. Do you have a purpose and goals? Do you care as much about your own development as you do the development of others? How can you plan to assist students or staff in their growth if you never pay attention to your own?

But, as anyone in higher education knows, plans do not typically work out as they are written or discussed. Rather, plans are a framework for direc­tion that ebb and flow based on environmental circumstances. It is why we have backup plans, risk management plans, and crisis management plans. We know plans go awry. And that is all right. It is the process of planning that matters more than the exact plan coming to fruition. What we should be reaching for is not perfection but, rather, progress. As long as we are making gains in the direction of our goals and visions, we are doing it right. Plus, we ought to leave room for unexpected opportunities for learning, because those are sometimes the best lessons.

Leaving room for the spontaneous speaks to the parts of your career plan that you did not know existed or that you did not specifically seek out. These are the opportunities that happen to you. Things you are “voluntold” to do. Spontaneous opportunities may be committees you are required, or asked, to sit on. They may be presentations someone seeks you out to facilitate. These chances are the random professional development webinars, connec­tions, and conversations that fall into your lap. It may even be the job posting someone forwards to you just to say, “Hey, thought of you when I saw this!” All of these spontaneous instances can derail—mostly in a good way!—our purposeful plans, our tactical strategies. But, we must leave room for them. These are the opportunities that help open our minds to prospects that may not have been on our radar and that can initiate new directions and strategies.

Therefore, it is a “both–and” concept rather than a traditional either–or concept. We should be both intentional in our career strategy and willing to embrace the spontaneous. It is only when we achieve this “both–and” that we will be able to fully discover the possibilities that lie within our career path.

By Sonja Ardoin

Click on the source code STYSG4 to receive a 20% discount

The Strategic Guide to Shaping Your Student Affairs Career by Sonja Ardoin, March 2014, 192 pp, 6″ x 9″, Paper, 9781579229580, $24.95, E-Book, 9781579229603, $19.99

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