Sunday, April 23, 2017

Academic Leadership Part 3--Creating Opportunities for Advancement

 Recently I led a workshop with my terrific colleague, Terri Shapiro, on academic leadership. We split the workshop into two parts. I covered introductory topics around academic leadership and how to find a position to fits one's skills and Terri reviewed information on how to avoid pitfalls once in a leadership position.

In this multipart series, I will review some of the highlights from my part of the presentation. Part 1 introduced the series and defined academic leadership. The second post detailed how to find a position that is right for one's skills. In this part, I will review 4 simple ways that you can create opportunities for advancement. Coming up, Part 4 reviews issues around whether to find opportunities at one's current institution or whether to ponder a move.  Part 5 will consider what step-up skills to build as one prepares to advance. Finally, Part 6 summarizes the steps one should take to start to advance within an organization. The complete series is linked here.

In this post, I will review for simple ways to create opportunities for advancement.

1. Show up

Click for photo credit.
Woody Allen famously said that 80% of success is showing up. In higher education, we obviously show up to classes, department meetings, and committee appointments. However, universities have a myriad of events one can attend on any given day such as a college-wide gathering, a union meeting, or a talk by a colleague or external expert. While many faculty attend these types of events, it is surprising to many outside of our field that most faculty do not show up. By taking the time to attend meetings, talks, and events one can get a broader understanding of your university that will be useful in many ways in your career and that gives you an advantage over your colleagues who do not take the time to participate more broadly in campus meetings and events.

2. Say yes

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Universities are managed, in part, by the hard work of committees. While every faculty member steps up and does his or her fair share at some point of their career, most tend to do just what is needed for promotion or what is expected in their department or college. However, there are ample opportunities to gain tremendous experience within committees that will help you throughout your career. Most committee chairs are constantly searching for new committee members to add value to the work of the team. For example, right now, my university is in the midst of its 10-year accreditation process. Everyone involved in the various committees associated with our accreditation will gain great value in understanding how a major accrediting body works, how to manage an in-house accreditation process, and how to develop an accreditation report. While some may run from committees that do these types of tasks due to the workload involved with such an intensive process, many involved with the process fully understand that the experience will be extremely valuable.

3. Chop wood, carry water

Me sitting on a log as my brother and father saw fire wood.
Service work at universities can be a thankless task. However, those who do service work well are often good candidates for future administrative roles. Some service work can be grunt work--writing a report, analyzing data, conducting interviews, etc. There is no glory in this type of work. However, you do gain valuable experience and you become known as someone dependable who understands the workings of your university. The skills will prove to be useful as your career develops. Most people I know in administrative positions point to time spent working on a particular service project as the key experience that helped them recognize that they were interested in career advancement.

4. Point out problems and offer to fix them

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Universities are constantly changing. Each academic year starts a new cycle of experiment and change. With such dynamism in a system, there are often problems that emerge. Certainly it is important to report any serious problems. But it is especially helpful if one can identify solutions to problems. Say, for example, your department has a serious issue with its curriculum and it needs updating. Instead of pointing this out without a solution, think through a process by which the curriculum could be improved. Everyone knows someone who always points out the flaws but who fails to look for solutions. They are great at identifying issues, but often fail to recognize that they have the power to be part of the solution.

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Coming up next, I will review the pros and cons of promotion in place or taking your talents to another institution.

Previous posts on this series:



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