As I visit campuses all over the country, one of the questions I often hear is: Do you have suggestions on how I can advance my career? Having worked in higher education for more than 35 years, I have seen first hand a wide variety of ways that higher education professionals can advance their careers. I think these five recommendations are the most helpful.
1) Make your work more than a job
Those who advance their careers often view their work as more than a job. They have a passion to improve the lives of the students they serve. Whether they work in recruitment or retention, or with traditional-age students or nontraditional adult learners, they believe that their work contributes to their students’ lives. So my first suggestion is to be passionate about the work you do and the contributions you make. Passion drives us to do more, learn more, and impact the lives of those around us more.
2) Know where you want to go
I think it’s important to clarify the direction you want to take in your career. Regardless if it’s in an administrative role, as a faculty member, or as a staff member within your institution, get to know the positions you are interested in holding. I’m not suggesting that you become wedded to any particular path, but you need to have an idea of the direction you want to take and talk to those who already occupy those types of roles on campus.
3) Make learning an ongoing priority
Take every opportunity to advance your knowledge not only about the job you currently have but other aspects of higher education. Start now to prepare for the positions you want in the future. As opportunities come your way to attend workshops and conferences, make a point of advancing your knowledge. If advanced degrees or any certification are required, start now to pursue those opportunities. (For instance, Noel-Levitz has partnered with Capella University to provide a graduate program in enrollment management.) Take every opportunity to gain information and knowledge so you can be prepared for the next step.
4) Stay connected with colleagues in the field
Whether it’s the colleagues you currently work with or those you meet at workshops and conferences, make a point of staying connected with them. If appropriate, pass information to them as you come across it. If you haven’t already done so, I’d recommend that you read the book Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. It’s a wonderful book on building and maintaining a network. Make a point in your already busy life to keep your network alive and well. Whether on campus or at an event off campus, meet campus leaders, talk with them, and ask them about their careers. Volunteer for committee assignments in your regional and national organizations. Do the same at your job. Build your own network on campus. You can never tell who you will meet who could significantly improve your career or provide priceless advice.
5) Be the best at what you do
Go that extra mile and find out how to exceed at what you are already doing. Nothing advances a career like doing great work at the job you already have. You have to demonstrate that passion, knowledge, and collegiality described in the recommendations above in order to advance your career goals.
I am always more than happy to share my experiences with colleagues in higher education. Feel free to e-mail me if you have any questions about ways to work more effectively, find your passion, and serve your institution better.
Also, Noel-Levitz is hosting its annual National Conference on Student Recruitment, Marketing, and Retention this July in Chicago. Not only is it a rich learning experience, it is a great opportunity for networking with hundreds of other campus professionals.
Good luck as we head into the coming year, and remember to keep moving forward.
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