I recently participated in a panel in which I was asked to provide a word of advice to new graduate students in the College Student Affairs program at Rutgers University. Maybe it was my stomach growling, or maybe I was prepared to be truly insightful, but my one word of advice was: “Lunch”.
What is it about lunch that makes me advocate so strongly for it? Having lunch serves many purposes aside from keeping my energy up and providing my body with nutrients. Here are my arguments for why it’s important to take time to smell the peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Read up. Who says a “working lunch” has to take place at your desk, in front of your computer, answering e-mails? I often take a lunch break with a good book, many of which I consider to be a part of my professional development. My latest recommended reads include Drive by Daniel Pink, A New Culture of Learning by Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown, and The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubins. It’s professional development at little cost!
Network. There are few things I love more than having a great lunch date. Are you planning to run some ideas by a colleague for an upcoming training? Brainstorming ways to get involved with a student affairs conference? Meeting up with colleagues outside of student affairs? These are just three of the reasons why I’ve set up lunch dates, and all of them have been worthwhile. Just make sure that you’re up front about whether you are buying or bringing your food – things can get awkward if one person is eating a homemade snack and the other is eating a heaping portion of burgers and fries.
Brown bag it. Many professional development opportunities come in the form of a “brown bag” discussion on topics like student supervision, higher education law, and assessment (we’ve done all of these at Rutgers, and recently). Consider hosting a brown bag lunch in order to get feedback from colleagues on a recent program or event – treat it like an informal focus group.
Refresh and recharge. The end of August is the most stressful time of year, and lunch can be the saving grace for student affairs professionals. Leave the office or take a walk with someone just to shake off the stress of the day. Taking a break is the simplest thing you can do to improve the quality of your work.
Do you look forward to the clock striking 12? From burritos to Lean Cuisines, lunch is about more than just the food.
Central Regional Coordinator