Anne R. Stark, PhD
Current Position and Institution:
Director of Residence Life, University of Central Florida
First Position and Institution:
Community Director, University of Alabama
I used to… well, let’s be real… sometimes still… struggle with the idea that my good work alone speaks for itself. Relationships matter. Everyday relationships will help you soar to success or hold you back from reaching your full potential. The relationships we build allow others to help us tell our story. The more people we have telling our stories, the better.
During my first year as a Community Director at the University of Alabama, an opportunity became available that I was very interested in pursuing. I remember methodically thinking through all the tasks I would need to complete and the competencies I would need to demonstrate in order to be considered. Months went by and I was doing great work, but when the decision was ultimately made, the opportunity went to a peer. I was dumbfounded. I had been doing good work! I was doing everything right!
I sought out feedback from my supervisor and from a trusted peer. I shared with them all the work I had done, and they were impressed. The hard part was, they didn’t know about my good work until we had those conversations. In that moment, I learned two lessons: 1) I needed to learn how to tell my story and 2) I needed to build better and stronger relationships with others who could share my story and act as my champion.
I had to get out from behind my computer screen and interact with people. As an introvert, this was difficult to accomplish. It was hard to “cold call” people across campus in an attempt to set up an introductory meeting with them. It needed to be done, however. I bit the bullet and started meeting people in person rather than just via email. The relationships I was able to build allowed me to have personal connections with a variety of offices. These relationships not only enabled me to better help students, but also provided me with a platform for me to share my story.
At the first conference of my professional career, I started to notice who was connected to whom and I began to realize the importance of broad-reaching relationships. Relationships cannot only exist on your campus. Networks must be cultivated across disciplines and across the country. Today, new professionals have the ability to see these connections both in person and through social media. It took much longer to notice connections pre-Facebook and pre-social media.
My advice? Take advantage of the resources around you to build a strong, broad network. You never know who will be sitting at a decision making table with the power to put you in the lime light, push opportunities in your direction, or decide whether or not you are best candidate for a promotion. Be brave! Get out from behind the computer screen! Go build relationships!
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…