Anyone reading this knows that the hall director position is filled with challenges and opportunities creating a lifestyle that only a special few can live. However, no matter how much you may like being a residence hall director, there will likely come a time when you feel ready to move on, and hopefully, move up.
If you look at the hierarchy of residence life or student affairs you will notice that, like most other hierarchies, the number of positions available decreases. So, what can you do to make sure you stand out as the person to fill one of those positions? The following are some things to keep in mind if you are thinking of making a career out of residence life or student affairs.
Flexibility: Be willing to bend. Sometimes you need to go with the flow.
Attitude: Be positive. Help others to see the good. Look at how we CAN do something instead of why we can’t or shouldn’t.
Volunteer: Take on tasks for the good of the department.
Education: Always look for opportunities to learn. Besides getting a Masters or a PhD, attend on campus workshops, read professional articles, take part in discussions, etc.
Take Initiative: Don’t wait for people to ask you to do something. Step up and ask them what you can do for them.
Prioritize: When your supervisor, or your supervisor’s supervisor asks you to do something, give it high priority and see it as an opportunity to show your capabilities.
Be aware of the “Big Picture”: See how issues and decisions across campus are interconnected and can affect one another. Also keep in mind that an issue that is important to you may not be as important to those above you or in the larger scheme of things.
Get Your Hands Dirty: Don’t be afraid to do the work that needs to be done.
Be Visible: In your hall, on the campus, at departmental functions…. take advantage of every moment to be present and make a contribution.
Be “World Famous”: When given an opportunity, don’t just do the bare minimum. Whenever possible, make the “world famous” decision and go the extra mile.
Role Model: Make sure you are demonstrating the type of expectations you have of others.
Don’t Worry About What Other People Do: Focus on what you do, do it right, and do the best that you can.
Be Honest: Take responsibility for the mistakes you make and show that you are learning from them.
Communicate: Be willing to challenge, but also be willing to listen.
Be Professional: Don’t take part in office gossip. If you have an issue take it to the person that it concerns and work it out. If you can’t do that, then Let It Go!
Balance: Show how it is possible to maintain a balance between work and personal time.
When asked what advice he would give to hall directors interested in moving up in the field, Ray Franco, Vice-President of Student Affairs at SUNY Cortland had this to say:
“Directors are always looking for people who aren’t afraid to accept challenges. It is vitally important that entry-level professionals approach the job as an opportunity to learn as much as possible and contribute wherever possible. Volunteer to be on departmental committees and take a leadership role within the department. Given the nature of residence life structures, in order to move up you must stand out. In order to stand out, you must complete all of the basic responsibilities of the job and go well beyond. Be the person on the staff who not only identifies what the problems are (anyone can do that) but have some well thought out and researched solutions as well–that’ll get you noticed.”
Residence life and student affairs positions are not your typical 9-5 job. In order to move up the professional ladder you can’t be a typical 9-5 employee. The field needs people who want to solve problems, work with others, and who honestly believe in what they do. No matter what be real and be true to yourself. That may mean realizing that this field isn’t for you, or it may mean realizing that you have a lot to contribute to your department, your institution, and your field. Whatever path you choose, good luck and good fortune!
Submitted by James H. Manley, Jr., Assistant Director, Residential Services, SUNY Cortland