Musings of a Not So New Professional…

I am just staring my seventh year of full-time employment within higher education. Two of those were prior to completing my graduate studies, so if we throw them out, we are talking four full years and kicking off my fifth. I find myself in some new territory that I have not been in previously, so even though I have been doing this work for a bit, it is quite different and often makes me feel like a new professional from time to time.

Over the summer, I was promoted from Coordinator to Associate Director for Fraternity & Sorority Life. I am the senior-level staff member in my department. In the beginning, it took some time to make the adjustment. I was the only full-time staff member in the office and had the assistance of a part-time student employee.

It was rocky at the start. Summer came and went, and we made it through the rough waters. The semester started, recruitment happened, and then luckily found the perfect complement for the office in our newest full-time employee. As exciting as this was, it was also terrifying as now I needed to supervise a full-time professional staff member for the first time. This created a new set of challenges and opportunities.

Some things I have realized/learned in my short time as Associate Director…

1. I really like it. Do I see myself doing it forever? Nope. And that is not a knock on what I am doing or where I am. It is more about my future aspirations. But for right now, this is the right thing for me. It has provided me with great experiences and allows me to use strengths of mine that I did not always get to use in the past. My strategic and analytical strengths get to take front and center in my new role, as I plan proposals for future staffing, budgets, and assessment cycles for our office.

My work is different now than it was before. I advise a bit less and administrate a bunch more. I have to work across the division more with other offices and departments. My day-to-day work has a stronger focus on the future. I always need to think about what is next. How is our work fitting into the divisional and University learning outcomes? How do we (FSL) contribute to the state of Florida metrics? I love this type of work. It has allowed me to think about these things from an office perspective, and in addition to FSL, I have been asked to reflect on these things for the division on a larger institutional level.

This new position has also provided me credibility to pitch other ideas that are more divisional in nature and that leads into the next thing I have learned/realized.

2. Titles do mean a lot. I have been at the table for some important conversations recently and it genuinely seems that people listen to what I have to say. I am no different a professional now than I was a couple months ago. My responsibilities have changed and I have learned a little bit more, but not that much more. It is interesting how much a title means and how people will treat you differently because of the words ahead of your name.

3. Keeping our staff happy is one of my main responsibilities. We have an amazing staff. I am extremely lucky to have the staff around me that I do and they work hard. They put in the time and energy necessary to do things right and to do them well. My job is to continually advocate for them and provide them with additional experiences/benefits to reward them for their work. We intentionally take time each week to not focus on work and just have fun. I bring in coffee for them. I buy them meals. I may not always say it, but I greatly appreciate their work. We would not be nearly as successful as we are if it was not for them. I am able to do all of the administrative aspects of my job because I know they are taking care of business on their end.

4. Our work is tough and can be stressful at times. We work long days. Forty hours a week is a myth. I do my best to keep them to that as much as possible. Some times our work does not allow for it. I ask them to come in later or leave early on certain days to make up for it. I force them to take the time that they deserve when it is best for their schedules. I want them to enjoy the work they do, and to not burnout and dread coming to work each day.

5. Expectations are extremely important. Our staff members know what I need from them and I know what they need/want from me. This allows us to be on the same page. I ask them how I can help out. What do they need from me to be successful. I provided our coordinator with the yearly performance appraisal document now, so she knows what to expect at the end of the year. Now that she has been in the position for a few weeks, we will talk more about structure for meetings, position goals, and professional development goals at UNF and outside of the institution. I want her to know that I am invested in her as a person and a professional. By providing her opportunities that help her achieve her goals, it makes her a better professional now and in the future, for when she will hopefully be in the role that I currently occupy.

6. I always want them engaged with what is happening. I may do work from time to time on my own for the office, but I always ask them for feedback prior to moving forward with anything. Most of the time, we discuss new initiatives or ideas during staff meetings and I spend time later compiling the information/discussion points to then present again at a future meeting. If there is something important happening at the University that may affect our office, then I inform them on it. I do my best to create a team atmosphere in the office. We are all in this together.

7. I make more money than the other staff on our team, therefore, I need to work harder than they do. I feel that this is pretty self-explanatory, but still needs to be said. I expect more of myself in my role because my paycheck is bigger. Some times the staff will out work me on certain weeks. It is important to me that I let them know I appreciate it and then work harder the following week.

At the same time, it is necessary that I am a positive role model for the work ethic I expect, and I am reasonable about it as well. I know that I can easily go overboard and work far beyond the 40 hours a week I am paid. When I do this, it can create an unhealthy unspoken expectation for our team that they need to do the same. This leads to burnout and resentment. As I stated earlier, I want them to love the work they do and not hate waking up in the morning.

As you can see, it has been a great learning experience to be in this new role. It has not always been perfect. Each opportunity provides new information and insight to my role and how I can be better in this position.

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About Justin Sipes

Learner Input Strategic Achiever Analytical
This entry was posted in Higher Ed, Leadership, Personal, Professional Development, Student Affairs. Bookmark the permalink.

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