We each take inspiration from those around us. This is a common practice of learning in education, among our families and in our professional lives. But lately during the health crisis brought on by COVID-19, it has become evident to me that at the heart of what will see us through these unusual, unprecedented, “new normal” times are the relationships and the connections we will build, and strengthen, with one another. We will deepen these connections as we collectively wrestle with the state of change that has been thrust upon us, and we will figure out how to bring forth something beautiful and useful in its wake.
In a recent social media exchange, an author posed the important question, “Are there only either/or answers for students?” The author then asserted that students are fully participating in, and redefining, the evolution of higher education as they inch forward in nuanced ways. I embrace the author’s request that we encourage each other to think more deeply in order to live into these unprecedented moments We must seize the opportunities before us to define and change our world.
I apply this thinking to a recent conversation with colleagues seeking individuals for higher education enrollment leadership positions. In addition to the predictable recitation of the complicated skills of communication, collaboration, data orientation and interpretation, and partnerships, I hear the desire—the necessity even—to identify individuals who possess the flexibility to pivot without losing their moorings. Leaders in enrollment management (and higher education in general) must be able to innovate, move forward and embrace the times, noting what changes to build upon for the future.
Take charge in times of change
In addition to pivoting in leadership, now is an ideal time to assess one’s career steps and professional self-care. What is your leadership brand? How can you refine, and elevate, your professional voice and expertise? What connections—people and organizations—can help you realize your professional goals? Now is an ideal time to update your professional assets—resume/curriculum vitae, LinkedIn profile, letters of recommendation—to reflect your highest-levels of thinking, learning and achievements. Consider these questions as a guide:
- How are you innovating? What do you bring to the table during staff discussions? How are you leading through uncertain times? Are you the idea generator or the idea implementor? (Spoiler: Both are needed. The key is to recognize what you authentically offer.) Record what you and your team have done—key performance indicators, strategic initiatives, new platforms introduced—and indicate the role you have played for each. Tomorrow’s jobs will look different from today’s jobs. Proving how you adapt and innovate is even more helpful to showcase your relevancy and performance.
- What is your flexibility quotient? Reflect on examples of how you have demonstrated leadership over the recent months. Capture key milestones on paper, incorporate them into your resume and into notes that can be used in a cover letter. Also consider ways you have demonstrated adaptability and the positive results this has created for you and your team.
- What are you learning? There is so much about serving within the world of higher education that I have always loved (besides the fact that I internally orient my year when traditional fall classes begin in September and not in January when the rest of the world says the year begins.) What inspires me most is that we are our best selves when we learn from what we are facing. How can you improve your processes by actively observing the problems and how can you help? Think about how the individual decisions that students and their families make provide an aggregated pattern of what has been in front of us all along. How can you employ your skills and abilities based on what you observe and learn? As you answer these questions, record how you have stretched your thinking and beliefs. Capture in words what you know about your foundational values and what new, or renewed, convictions you bring to the world.
- How are we connected? Since March, stay-at-home orders and online work and learning have melded our personal and professional lives together in new and interesting ways. Zoom and Google Hangouts backgrounds are filled with personal keepsakes, artwork, pets, and even people who surround us. We are richer when we connect with one another, acknowledging how our personal and professional lives blend together. What have you learned about yourself, and others, during these times?
There are learning opportunities that surface during crisis moments. Leverage these times of constant, and unknown change, to prepare for the next opportunity in your career. Update your professional materials to include the items discussed above. In addition, make sure to complete a Contact Form (LINK) on our website to include your personal email and cell phone so that you’ll receive notifications of exciting new opportunities in enrollment management (LINK to open positions page).
Reflect on and understand your key observations and skill acquisition during this time and actively incorporate both into your professional portfolio. Don’t neglect the simple, but meaningful housekeeping tasks that will ensure you stay connected, relevant and moving forward.