Current Position and Institution:
Assistant Dean of Students & Director of Residential Life, Gustavus Adolphus College
First Position and Institution:
Area Coordinator, St. Olaf College
I learned several awesome lessons as a first-time professional. I carry many of those lessons with me to this day. Ever since I finished graduate school, I have spent my time at small liberal arts institutions. For a long time I assumed that what I experienced at these institutions would only be applicable to similar institutions, but the more I have learned and the more experience I’ve gained, it’s evident that ALL experience is important and is widely applicable.
Some of those lessons from that first job I draw upon every day:
1. Focus on the job first. The best professional development is doing your job well. Your instincts might be to focus on networking or focus on the next step in your career… but trust me… don’t focus on job number two before you know you’ve done job number one. “Entry level” isn’t just a stepping stone – it’s the foundation.
2. Say yes. When your supervisor presents an opportunity or asks you to step up – do it. Be prudent with what you add to your plate but if your supervisor asks, it’s because they trust you and/or want to challenge you. Be open to it. In my frist position, I remember very consciously thinking “I’m not above anything or anyone.” Need a bulletin board created? Sure. Need me to mop the floor before the program starts? Yup. Be willing to do the things your organization or department needs done. It’ll make a great impression on those who will serve as references for you!
3. We’re all replaceable. And I mean that in a good way… stick with me here… I knew that in my first job, I was simply the current Area Coordinator, and many came before me and many would come after. Know that you have a limited amount of time to make a positive impact and while it’s important to think about legacy and making change, students (not YOU) are the priority. Most of the time it’s about doing your job in such a way that positively sets up the next person who will do your job.
The #SATBT series asks higher education and student affairs professionals to share a picture and reflect on a memory and/or one of the most important lessons the learned from their first job in the field.
Consider contributing your story for potential inclusion in the book version…