Patrick’s previous post on “Losing Touch, but Gaining Influence” really inspired me to think differently about my student affairs career. I am an entry-level student affairs professional who is lucky enough to have an endless stream of students in and out of my office, but I recognize that I want my career to be about much more than developmental conversations with undergraduates.
When I first began my position here at Rutgers University, I was entrusted with a large-scale event called the Involvement Fair, juggling over 450 student organizations and departments, 30 student performances, and thousands of attendees. My supervisor said the phrase that has stuck with me throughout my student affairs career: “you’re so in charge”.
I relish being in charge. I love having full control over my projects. I can make all the to-do lists in the world (and check things off!) and organize my binders for each project. That is the juice that I run on in my daily work life. But for me, being in charge is easy. It’s letting go of the control that’s the hard part.
With over a year of full-time, professional work under my belt, I knew that it was time for me to utter those words to someone else. I was waiting for the opportunity to pass the baton and truly challenge myself to entrust someone else with the control of a major project. I snagged one of our stellar graduate interns and charged her with the Involvement Fair, full steam ahead. I even used my favorite catch phrase to get her motivated and excited about owning this project.
But I questioned myself. What if the project doesn’t meet her expectations? What if I’m too overbearing and don’t give her enough space to breathe? What if I’m leaving her to the wolves and she feels unsupported? Excessive clichés aside, I was worried about my first supervisory experience. I knew that I could put together a really organized folder (paper and electronic!) for our first meeting, but what would come after that? There’s no guidebook about how to hand off a project, especially when you’re not an “official” supervisor. I took a deep breath and soldiered on, offering my support and guidance along the way. I was present and available for meetings, walked up and down the stairs to chat with her, sent e-mails when needed, and overall felt no desire to regain control.
Needless to say, the students showed up at the fair! Check-in lists were printed! Student organizations tabled and made a mess in the auditorium! All was right with the world.
I am actually looking forward to the opportunity to lose touch and gain influence over the years in my student affairs career. For me, direct contact with undergraduate students is fulfilling and entertaining, but I think the real challenge is being able to inspire staff to take charge and gain influence on their own. I look forward to being able to balance both for the years to come.
I welcome thoughts or feedback on supervising, the perks of having awesome graduate students, or anything in general! Feel free to respond here or follow me on Twitter @kristaknj.