Are you looking to move to a different department on campus or a new type of institution? If so, it may seem like a daunting task trying to prove you are qualified when you don’t have direct experience with a new department (maybe you’re moving from housing to career counseling) or institution type (perhaps you’re moving from a community college to an HBCU).
In episode 31 of the HigherEdJobs podcast, Dr. Cameron Beatty joined Kelly and Andy to share advice on navigating these transitions.
Dr. Beatty has worked across various departments on campus. The good news is that times have changed. In the past, higher education professionals were expected to work three to five years in a role. However, now both junior and senior professionals are “moving either quite a bit from one office to another or from one campus or institution type to another,” he said.
The key is communicating your transferable skills, but first, you must discover and outline what those skills are. Dr. Beatty says that often people think that two functional areas are vastly different, but when you ask yourself questions, particularly about the scope of your work outside of your job description, you can discover skills that would be transferable. He uses the example of a residence life professional looking to become a career counselor.
“What did you do in your hall director role?” he often prompts people. “[Were you] only managing facilities? Were you able to advise students in programming? Were you able to mentor students or think about judicial affairs or other things within that particular role?”
These are the sort of questions that help you dig deeper to uncover skills that would lend well to your desired department. Hall directors often mentor RAs and support and mentor students. That might include career counseling, thereby making you a good fit for that department.
Adopting a generalist attitude about your career in higher education can also help you navigate these transitions.
“You might have an expertise in a functional area, and what I mean by functional area might be […] residence life, fraternity/sorority life, leadership programs, diversity programs,” he said. “But we are all in the business of educating students. I think when we work in higher education, no matter if you’re managing the budget or that you are being a hall director, our goal is for the success of the students in which we’re trying to serve. And we can think about our skills in a more generalist way, and we might have a focused area or might gain expertise, but then those skills can then be transferred to another area of campus or another context of higher education.”
Beatty advises students in the higher education program at Florida State to consider internships in functional areas and at institution types they aren’t familiar with. Similarly, he says professionals can collaborate with other departments to differentiate their experience and ‘test out’ whether that functional area is one they’d like to work in.
Listen to the full episode and let us know if you have questions for Dr. Beatty via email at email@example.com.