Careers in Student Affairs Month – My Advice to Those Hoping to ‘Get In’

Did you know that October was officially Careers in Student Affairs Month?

I didn’t until I came across a couple of tweets which led me to this site organized by NASPA.  It is an interesting site and I’d suggest that you explore the links on the side with the proviso that some of the language and structures cited are American.

For more local content, Kate Kinesella (@KateMcGK) has organized an excellent series profiling student affairs professionals on the OACUHO (Ontario Association of College & University Housing Officers) blog.  Most of the people are from Ontario, are involved in the housing/residence life area and there are some real pearls of wisdom in this series.  What is also striking is that I don’t recall many other Canadian examples of a concentrated exploration on careers for student affairs.

This made me think about how intentional we are in engaging students in our careers and how we are structuring this engagement to assist them in their aspirations to be a student affairs professional in Canada.  I keep referencing the Canadian context because there exists The Placement Exchange for American schools which is a one-stop shop that links candidates to employers and is often linked to a graduate school program (really, check it out and be amazed).  From what I’ve noticed, there has been a steady growth in peer-based programming as a model across a number of disciplines (e.g. residence life being the standard bearer but also leadership, health education etc).  This has enhanced awareness that hey, people can actually do this stimulating, meaningful and rewarding work for a living.  

The challenge is making the leap.

A reality for most Canadian schools is that they are unionized environments meaning most of the entry-level jobs are posted internally before they can go external.  How does an eager, engaged, new graduate land one of those coveted positions in an era of budget cutbacks, internships and bumping?

There are three approaches I advise people hoping to ‘get in’

1) Apply for and accept contract positions – they are a great gateway and can lead to permanent jobs.

2) Apply for a position that may not be in the student affairs field but will allow you to develop your transferable skill set and give you posting rights.

Short term recruitment officer contracts are a great entry point.

3)  To complement the first two points, network, develop your personal brand via twitter, ask professionals out for coffee to engage them, identify/pursue graduate school options and actively contribute to this amazing profession in your own way.

What advice would you give to those who want a career in student affairs?  What would it take for a Placement Exchange to exist in Canada?

 

 

 

 

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