Saturday, May 20, 2017

Academic Leadership Part 6 -- Steps for Advancement

Click for photo credit.
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 skillsIn the third part, I reviewed 4 simple ways that you can create opportunities for advancement. Part 4 reviewed issues around whether to find opportunities at one's current institution or whether to ponder a move.  Part 5 considered the step-up skills to build as one prepares to advance. Finally, I conclude today by reviewing the steps one should take to start to advance within an organization. The complete series is linked here.

Okay, you have made the momentous decision to move into some type of leadership position at your educational institution or professional association. Now what? Here are several suggestions to get you thinking about the next steps to take to start you on the path to advancement.

Click for photo credit.
1. Find a mentor. If you don't have a mentor yet, you should try to find one. Having a good mentor can be invaluable. They can guide you on career choices, give you honest feedback about your skills and decisions, and give you advice on how to improve. Some suggest that you have an institutional mentor that you can go to on your campus and others suggest that you have an external mentor. I have always had an external mentor because I was not always comfortable seeking advice at my home institution. My external mentor has been with me from the time I received my Ph.D. She provided advice that helped me through the tenure process and through important hinge decisions that changed my career path. If you are just now looking for a mentor, try to find one who is in a position at the level you are seeking or higher. For example, if your goal is to become a dean, find a dean as a mentor. Some find it awkward to ask someone to be a mentor, particularly if they don't know the potential mentor well. My advice is to start slowly by reaching out with some general questions and see how the relationship builds. I never formally asked my external mentor to serve as a mentor and the relationship built over time. To start, ask someone to review your CV or ask them about their opinion about a particular opportunity. The important thing is to find someone who will be honest with you. You don't want a friend who will only say nice things about you. You want a mentor who will tell it like it is.

Click for photo credit.
2. Develop a personal mission statement and a set of goals. Some people fall into administrative positions and are rudderless in what they want to accomplish or how they want their career to evolve. If you are considering entering administration, ask yourself why you want to move in that direction. I was walking across campus yesterday and I ran into a friend of mine who in general conversation noted that she would never move into administration and couldn't figure out why people make the change from faculty to administration. She wanted to know my motivation. It's a great question. I had an answer ready (I'm not giving it away here) because I thought about this particular question long and hard before I made the move. I have found that the most effective administrators are those that have a clear personal mission and a set of goals that they want to achieve in their position. Let's say that you are trying to become an associate dean for faculty. Why do you want to take on the position? What goals do you want to accomplish in that role? How does the position fit into your long term career goals? Answering questions like these will help guide each decision you make in your career.

Click for photo credit.
3. Evaluate social media and personal outlook. We all have a friend who posts everything on social media. We know their moods, their favorite foods, their romances, and their day to day dramas. Social media can be fun, but it can also be a pitfall if you post too much or if you post inappropriate content. Just recently, the Chronicle of Higher Education published an article about an associate dean who got in trouble because she posted offensive Yelp reviews. I know some fantastic faculty who would never be hired as an administrator because their Twitter feeds are inappropriate for an administrator. If you are considering moving into administration, now is the time to evaluate your social media presence. I also urge you to consider posting largely mission-driven social media content. What I mean by this is that you consider posting largely items that relate to your research, your institution, and your broader professional interests. Certainly you should continue to post personal things such as family photos, your cat, and your favorite meal out with friends. However, eliminate the rants, the complaints, and the political as much as you can. Search committees check on social media content these days. I heard of a case at another institution about a candidate up for a high level administrative position who was rejected due to some relatively racy Facebook content that many would find offensive.

As you evaluate your social media presence, it is worth evaluating your personal outlook. Are you positive about the institution you wish to serve? Is your glass more than half full? Of course you don't have to think everything is perfect, but you can't publicly disparage a place and expect to get a job as an administrator. A good friend of mine was a professor at a nice institution in the Midwest, but he really didn't like his chair and his dean. He let everyone in the country know about it through long Facebook rants. One day, he called me to tell me he was applying for the dean position at his institution and he wanted a letter of recommendation. I wrote it, but advised him not to apply. I told him he would never get the job because he was so publicly negative about the institution. Deans are representatives of the institution and the faculty. They need to be a positive force to help advance the goals of the institution. It is hard to do the dean job with a glass half empty. Needless to say, my friend did not get the dean job. If you have a negative personal outlook about your institution or the profession in general, it will be difficult to advance.

Click for photo credit.
4. Consume information about higher education. There are many national sources for information on higher education administration. For example, The Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed are all great sources for up to date information. They also list national and international jobs in higher education administration. As you focus your interests in areas like research, faculty development, accreditation, etc., you should find more specialized sources. There are publications, associations, and conferences for almost every area of higher education administration.

Click for photo credit.
5. Communicate your goals to your family and supervisors. Most administrative jobs require one to be on campus for more than 40 hours a week. There are evening receptions, student and faculty meetings, weekend events, and graduations. You should make sure that your family is aware of the changes ahead as you go down the administrative path. I usually have 2-3 evening events I attend during the week and there are occasional weekend events that require my presence. Many of these events, such as receptions and evening lectures, are family friendly and many administrators integrate their families into their professional life.

You should also communicate your goals to appropriate supervisors. Many universities struggle to find good administrative talent. It is important that leaders of your institution know you are interested in advancement so that they can be on the lookout for a good position either at your home institution or elsewhere.

-----------

This concludes my series on academic leadership. If you have any thoughts on the topic, please post a comment on the blog. I would love to hear from you if you have ideas. For those of you looking for advancement, I wish you luck and success.

-----------

Previous posts to my series on academic leadership:

Academic Leadership Part 3--Creating Opportunities for Advancement
Academic Leadership Part 4--Going Mobile vs. Promotion in Place
Academic Leadership Part 5--Building Step Up Skills

No comments: