If your career is important to you, you have to be strategic. All too often, administrators seem to forget that sooner or later, they will be competing, once again, for a new position. If you want to move up in higher ed. administration in a year or two, start preparing right now.
If you do the following five things, you will be extraordinarily well positioned to get your dream job, so let’s get started.
1. Start with the basics
This one is obvious, yet often overlooked. Look at job descriptions for the type of position(s) you will want in the near future and review all requirements and preferences. Identify what is missing on your resume and find new ways to gain more experience.
For example, if you need to know more about accreditation, get yourself on an accreditation team. If you’ll need teaching experience, become an adjunct and start teaching at least one class each semester. For most positions, you’ll want to volunteer more on your campus and be an active participant, if not the president/chair, of senates/taskforces/committees.
How about your references? Make sure you have at least five strategically selected people who would be happy to give an excellent recommendation for you. And don’t forget to nurture your professional relationships with them. Also, do the best you can to have a good relationship with your supervisor. Even though you are not obligated to list your current supervisor as a reference, well… people talk. I’ll leave it at that...
2. Develop a strong professional identity
You will be more likely to be sought after if people perceive you as an expert in select areas than if you try to be somewhat good at everything. It is important to be reflective and get to know yourself first.
Ask yourself: Who am I? What am I most passionate about? Which parts of my job do I love? What do I do exceptionally well? At what level do I want to serve next? What do I want to be known for? How do I want people to perceive me?
Update your resume, LinkedIn profile, and other social media platforms to show your professional identity and your personal brand. Make it easy for people to know what you are and what you are not, so that you’ll be on people’s mind when the right opportunity arises.
3. Be congruent
Once you have clarity on your professional identity, align your actions, decisions, and behavior with your identity. This is the problem I see most often: administrators want to be selected for higher level positions but they do not embody the type of qualities people would need to see, to be able to picture them in these roles.
For example, some want to be perceived as strategic thinkers and visionary leaders but they manage their time poorly and look overwhelmed most of the time. If someone keeps talking about how busy they are and spend their days responding to crises because their department is total chaos, they won’t look like a good choice when a position opens.
Ask yourself what attributes you have to display in order to be congruent with the professional identity you defined above. Identify what you need to stop doing, what you need to start doing, and what you need to do differently.
4. Step up your level of professionalism
Moving from being a Dean to a Vice President or from a Vice President to a President will require you to grow personally and professionally. The higher up you go, the more your behavior will be scrutinized. You will have to choose your words more carefully. Your professional relationships will change. And now is the time to prepare for that shift.
Start paying attention to the senior leaders you admire and notice what is so special about them. Let me be clear: I am in no way suggesting you should copy someone else and become who you are not. My point is to be consciously aware of what types of behaviors inspire you, so that you can decide in which direction you want to grow. Think of other people as a giant buffet of ideas. You can pick and choose what resonates with you and become a better version of yourself.
For example, it is time to remove yourself from any conversations that include gossip, complaining, or comments that are not supportive of your leadership team. Pay attention to your emotions throughout the day and if you often feel frustrated, stressed, or even angry, you need to work on your mindset and emotional fitness immediately. Changing their internal state when outside circumstances are challenging is tough for most people but you don’t have to do it alone. If you want my help, let’s talk.
5. Network with peers outside your organization
The best time to connect with people is when you don’t need anything from them. Go to conferences, network with your peers online and in person, and give people a chance to know you. Don’t try to impress them; simply add value to the conversations and be of service when you can.
Let’s face the truth. We use rigid hiring processes because we want to give everyone equal opportunity to compete for the jobs we create. But what happens when someone leaves or a new position is created? We immediately start making a mental inventory of people we want to call because we’d love to hire them. It is natural to want to attract talent and to think of people who would be tremendous assets to our organizations.
So go, be that person who jumps to mind when the right job becomes available. Start preparing right now.
If you have ambitious career goals, or if you are facing some challenges, I invite you to make an appointment for a free consultation with me and discover how I can help you get your dream executive position in higher ed administration sooner than later.
About the author: Dr. Audrey Reille has empowered thousands of professionals through one-on-one coaching, group coaching, speaking engagements, online courses, and interviews on international telesummits. Audrey is the go-to coach for leaders in higher education administration. She empowers them to thrive by reducing stress, optimizing strategies, improving professional relationships, and developing a strong and empowered mindset.