Imagine you were a Dean of Instruction for five years and your supervisor, the VP of Instruction, was an exemplary professional and a wonderful person. You loved being a Dean but the work started to feel like routine.
You missed the challenges and opportunities for growth that come with a new position. Your supervisor sensed it, took you to lunch, and told you he was certain you were ready for a VP position. With his warm encouragement and outstanding recommendation, it didn’t take long for you to get your dream job.
Now you are VP of Instruction at another college and it’s giving you nightmares.
Even though you met or exceeded all job requirements, nothing prepared you for the stress, politics, and mind-games you have to navigate on a daily basis. You wake up in the morning with a knot in your stomach, secretly wishing you could go back to your old job. But you can’t.
So here are 5 powerful tips to help you transition and settle into your new role.
#1. Stop doubting yourself. Remember that you got the job because you are qualified for it.
Your former VP was exceptional and had ten years of experience so do not compare yourself to him. You might be just as exceptional in ten years but you can’t know now as much as you will in a decade. Set realistic expectations for yourself. You will do your best but can’t do more than your best.
Have some understanding and compassion for yourself – like you would for someone else. You meet all job requirements and you just need some time to gain experience. That’s perfectly normal!
Now is not the time to be excessively humble. If you appear to doubt yourself, others will doubt you too. If you don’t really believe you deserve to be a VP, others will sense it and treat you like you don’t belong here. I can’t emphasize this enough: it is critical that you focus your thoughts on your strengths, not your weaknesses.
Every morning, before you start your work day, take a moment to think about your expertise, knowledge, accomplishments, as well as your potential. Build yourself up and remember your worth. Remind yourself that your college chose you among many others and you deserve to be there. Trust yourself more.
#2. You are a Vice-President now so act like one.
Your professional identity used to be “Dean at a college where people work well together.” Now, as a VP in a more challenging environment, you may have to deal with conflict resolution more than ever before. You may not be able to have many professional relationships rooted in friendship. It is important for you to present yourself in a way that commands respect.
To be clear, I am not talking about using your title as reason why people should do what you say. It’s not about fear or coercion but about respect and leadership. Your new identity should be related to being a strong leader. Ask yourself what that means to you. Create your personal definition and develop a one-sentence statement about your new identity.
Ask yourself what standards you want to set for yourself and how you want to be perceived by other. Make sure your behavior is congruent with your intention and preferences.
#3. Don’t expect people to be more than you can handle.
You may have to supervise one or two people who applied for your job and weren’t selected. Don’t let yourself worry about them being hostile and uncooperative. Could this happen? Of course it could. But don’t treat these people as if you expected them to create trouble.
Think of ways you could turn them into allies. Talk to them, learn insights about the college, and make them feel appreciated. Consider having an honest conversation with them and saying that if they want to become VPs, you would really like to get to know them professionally and give them a glowing recommendation if/when they choose to continue their job hunt. Remember that if they are applying for jobs and you are their direct supervisor, they can’t afford to have a poor relationship with you.
#4. Really take the time to listen and understand.
If the morale is low on campus and the atmosphere politically charged, you will most likely have to deal with lots of people wanting to speak with you privately and complain about all sorts of things they expect you to fix. My clients often tell me that it is difficult to listen to trivial complaints, unjustified arguments, and unreasonable demands from irate faculty and staff members. So the first thing to do is to seek to understand. What looks ridiculous or inappropriate to you is significant to the other person.
Your goal isn’t to assess the merit of the argument. You should never dismiss people and make them feel like you don’t care about their work-related problems. Listen to what they say with a genuine desire to understand and ask clarifying questions to uncover what is causing such an emotional reaction. In most cases, you won’t even have to change the situation, only to validate the person’s viewpoint and help that person gain a different perspective. Talk it though, show that you care, and help the person find a resolution.
#5. Refuse to turn everything into a crisis.
When people who come from the private sector go into higher ed admin, they are often baffled when they see little things treated as crisis. Let’s face it, most issues aren’t real crises and the emotional response to problems is often exaggerated.
To be successful in your new role, you need to have daily self-care practices to keep you in touch with reality and help you see problems as they are but not bigger than they are.
If you are surrounded by craziness, don’t become part of it. Consider making mindfulness a daily practice, meditate, exercise, get a massage regularly, spend time in nature, and enjoy quality time with loved ones, especially children and pets. Stay grounded. Your inner peace will be your strongest success factor.
In summary, if your dream job is giving you nightmares, it is because of the thoughts you have about the situations you face and your ability to handle them. Don’t believe everything you think. You have the power to shift your focus and approach your new role and responsibilities from a place of self-empowerment.
If you agree with these tips but struggle to implement them, keep in mind that you don’t have to do this alone. I am here to show you how to believe in yourself, become more assertive and charismatic, resolve conflict, build strong professional relationships, lower stress, and feel empowered. Simply click here to schedule a time to speak with me and find out how together, we can make your dream job what you hopped it would be. Imagine how your life could change for the better.
About the author: Since 2010 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.