Most of us come into student affairs through some happy accident. Quite often, we were engaged as student-leaders and somehow discovered that we could get paid to do similar work. My foray into student affairs came through athletics where I started as an assistant coach/hall director at a small private liberal arts college in Kansas. At the time I was going on the track to being a head coach. After a few years, athletic director seemed like a better fit. A few years after that I was just confused about what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to stay in student affairs, I just wasn’t sure where I fit in. It wasn’t until a mentor of mine posed these five questions to me that I was able to focus in on what I wanted and was able to make clearer career choices.
Question 1: Do you have any experience not related to your undergraduate interests? In other words, are you getting out of your comfort zone. I came into student affairs because of my experiences in athletics and helping to manage a fraternity house. I hadn’t done much outside of the athletic space. For me I stepped out of my comfort zone and took a position in academic advising to gauge fit and to expand my knowledge. This would prove to be critical experience for me years later when I ventured out of athletics and into graduate student success work. Continue reading “5 QUESTIONS TO HELP YOU ANALYZE YOUR CAREER PATH IN STUDENT AFFAIRS”
s a child of the 80s one of the commercials I remember most are for Campbell’s Chunky Soup. The commercials were centered around a heated debate over whether Chunky Soup should be eaten with a fork (because it is so meaty you see) or a spoon (because that is what soup is meant to be eaten with). My favorite of the ads featured WWE Superstars because as a child I was a WWF fanatic. You can view that commercial here:
As much as I loved the commercials I never could decide until one day I saw a utensil that was both fork and spoon. Enter: The Spork. To me the Spork is the ultimate symbol of efficiency and adaptability. It can do the job of 2 utensils and takes up less space. More advanced models even have a small serrated knife blade on the side which increases its efficiency by 33%
Managers have to be Sporks as they are called to do more with less and constantly seek out new ways of achieving results. Spork management requires you to take two seemingly different things, find their commonality and blend them together. A spoon is used to hold liquids, a fork to spear solids and yet they are both eating utensils so combining them makes sense. A fork and chainsaw (Chork? Fainsaw?) probably wouldn’t work as well.
Continue reading “WHAT MANAGERS, SPORKS, AND WORK-LIFE BALANCE HAVE IN COMMON (Part 1)”
*Originally published in NASPA New Professionals and Graduate Students Newsletter
Student affairs work is great. I have always found it interesting, challenging, and rewarding. There are a multitude of job types within our profession that require different skillsets and abilities. As diverse the working world of student affairs is, finding the right job for you can be difficult. A job may seem fantastic on paper but once we start doing it….well we may quickly regret our choice. Conversely, we may agree to a job or project that we think is not ideal and discover that we love it. Six years ago, I would have never considered working with graduate students and yet I now find myself enjoying everything working with that population brings. Moreover, I also enjoy the culture of working in a graduate school and have found it is largely a better fit as it relates to both my professional and work-life needs. I was fortunate to find my optimal fit. To help you find optimal fit on your professional journey, here are three types of fit you need to consider during your career. These fits can help you in your current roles as much as it can during a job search. Continue reading “3 STRATEGIES TO FIND A BETTER FIT BETWEEN YOURSELF AND YOUR JOB”
Have you ever felt like your professional and personal life overlapped in a way that bothered you? Do your job duties interfere with your ability to have a balanced life (however you define it)? Almost all of us know how we want work and life to interact, but creating the ideal blend in reality can be difficult and frustration. To aid you in this process, here are four quick tips to help you better define your work-life boundaries.
Continue reading “FLAG ON THE PLAY! 4 QUICK TIPS TO ESTABLISHING WORK-LIFE BOUNDARIES”
All I heard was deafening silence. For a moment my podcast cut out. I felt an impact on my left side. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the front of another car tear my front end off. My eyes followed as I watched my bumper bounce through the intersection.
The podcast broke the silence.
I looked down at the deployed airbag that apparently hit me. I got out of my beloved Honda Civic for what would be the last time.
Being in a car accident is never any fun. I spent the initial 24 hours worrying about my deductible, how much I would get for the car (I knew it was a total loss), and what a replacement vehicle would end up costing me.
Eventually, my mind focused away from the business and (most importantly) into the life part of the accident. Here are six simple work-life questions I was reminded of as a result of being in a car accident.
- What are you grateful for (and do you practice it)? At the end of the day I was just grateful. I try and practice gratitude daily but after an accident I really focused on it. I was grateful for my health, grateful I got to see my family that night, I was even grateful that the accident occurred near my house (vs the middle of a strange road or highway). The next morning, I woke up as the sun rose over the pond in my yard and I just felt grateful for that moment of beautiful peace. Although the experience was stressful, gratitude helped center me and even forced a smile out of my occasionally grumpy face.
- Is your workplace supportive? Whether it be a car accident, illness, or other household emergency, having a supportive and flexible work environment has a value that goes beyond dollars and cents. Having enough sick/personal days to bridge any time off is helpful as is a system that allows you to work from home, shift hours, and generally make any reasonable accommodations needed. Above all else, the response you want to hear is “Take care of yourself and we will find a way to work it all out.”
Continue reading “6 Lessons My Car Accident Reminded Me About Work-Life Balance”
I was recently at a conference when I overheard someone say “There is no work-life balance in this profession. People need to accept it.”
I took a few deep breaths as statements like this to me are complete bunk and do nothing more than reinforce a work-life culture that is negative and toxic. As I chewed on this sentiment later that night, I thought that instead of just complaining about individuals who spout this rhetoric, that I would offer one simple action step you can take to improve your work-life balance. Here it is.
Continue reading “STOP COMPLAINING! The 1 Action Step You Must Take to Improve Work-Life Balance”
Assigning tasks can be one of the more difficult issues leaders face. The choices you make as a leader will determine the quality of the task’s outcome and will have an impact on the amount of stress (positive and negative) an employee/teammate faces. When it comes to the issue of task assignment I want us to think about it in terms of the 3D hierarchy. At some point we utilize all 3 of these D’s. That being said, the D’s are not equal. As we go up the pyramid we become more focused and thoughtful in our task assignments which in turns lead to better results.
Dump: This is the least desirable and least effective of task assignment strategies. Dumping duties on people requires little to no thought. Dumping asks the
Continue reading “Leading in 3-D: Looking at 3 Levels of Delegation”
Taking a vacation from work is something we all need to do more often. The American worker does not take enough of their given vacation time at any given point. A recent study done by GfK Knowledge Panel found that 55% of Americans had unused vacation days in 2015. Beyond whether or not workers are taking vacation comes the issue of how work and personal life interact with each other when vacation time is taken. Listed below are five scenarios that are common to us all. Don’t look at any scenario as the “right way.” Instead, think of which scenario best suits your personal tastes. How you choose to navigate vacation is perfectly fine as long as it is your choice.
Scenario 1: No (or little) Vacation. Vacation? Who needs that when you got work to do and money to make. If your company will pay you for unused vacation days when you leave then you have even less reason to take days off. Work hard and cash those days out when you move on.
Scenario 2: Vacation Taken/Time Donated. Vacation sounds great so you decide to take it. You are so happy to visit the parents two states away or visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. You’re out of the office physically (you even set up your autoreply telling people that) but you are on your cell phone or laptop every chance you get to deal with work. You’re donating your vacation/personal time to the company and you’re glad to do it (or are you?).
Scenario 3: The Work-cation. You’re with the parents or at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and for a finite amount of time a day you have decided to deal with work so that things are manageable when you get back. You’ve negotiated with your boss that you’re going to claim 6 hours of vacation per day instead of the standard 8. There’s less chance of negative spillover because you are prepared for and agree to the terms.
Scenario 4: The On-call Vacation. . You go on vacation and you tell work to only contact you in an emergency or on an as-needed basis. How you report your time will depend on the scenario. I once had to deal with an incident while on vacation that ate up a day so we didn’t input that as a vacation day. That was rare and most of the time small interruptions were ok as they did not eat up major time.
Scenario 5: True Vacation. Turn off the tech and enjoy the time off. I think this is the concept of vacation most of us expect or at least were raised to expect. For many of us the world of work is far more complex but this is still a great and desirable option. The downside of course is having mounds of email and tasks to do when you get back. You’re willing to deal with that because recharging your batteries here and now is what matters most to you.
Like I said, there is no right or wrong in any of these scenarios and there may be times where one of these options is going to be the most logical. The key is to exercise control over these scenarios. It is when the scenarios are dictated to us that we begin to feel burned out, undervalued, or insignificant. Being forced to unplug from work can be just as ineffective as having vacation eaten up by office assignments. Understand and advocate for how you want your work and vacation to interact and increase your work life satisfaction.
Paul Artale is a work-life and leadership expert. For more information please visit www.paulartale.com
Work-to-family conflict is when events that occur at work bleed into your personal life. Taking office drama and stressors home with you can have a negative effect on your health (mental and physical) and strain the relationship between you and your loved ones. Over the past few months I have discussed different factors that can help or hinder work-to-family conflict.
These factors are all legitimate but neglect one extremely challenging situation: working with your significant other. Continue reading “4 Ways to Work with Your Significant Other and Keep Your Sanity”
Last week I discussed the tension that exists in the workplace between employees with children vs those without. You can read last week’s blog before continuing here if you wish to get a deeper understanding. If not, then what is important to note is that in the discussion of work-life issues the animosity between the two groups mentioned is often a byproduct of poor communication and a workplace culture that gives advantages to one group over the other. Managers are at the center of this battle and in some cases are fueling the fight.
Here are 6 simple suggestions to help managers ease the tension. They are not all encompassing but they will help.
Continue reading “The Work-Life War that Needs to End and How Managers Can End It (Part II)”