8 Months In

by Olivia Miller

Today (January 23) marks my eight months as a professional Academic Advisor – ¾ of a year has somehow already gone by, and I have already learned so much about my role, my institution, my professional association and myself. To break down these eight months by numbers I have had 166 scheduled appointments, 514 walk-in appointments, worked with 35 students on academic probation, and have asked hundreds of questions to my supervisor/our director/my coworkers, and had a few less donuts along the way. The past eight months have been full of learning, personal and professional growth and building relationships. This article outlines the top eight lessons I have learned in my first eight months as an SAPro.

  1. You do not know everything, and you are not supposed to (or expected to) know everything. I have not had a week go by yet without asking my supervisor something about a policy or a student, but I do not feel stupid or silly asking for help.
  2. Relationships are key. My favorite part of my job is my relationships – with my staff, with my department liaisons, with other advisors on campus, and of course my students. Many people go/get into this profession because of people and wanting to help people, and I get that every day at my job. I love meeting with students who feel comfortable with me and seek me out as someone they can trust will help them.  I also thoroughly enjoy working with my staff – they say it is all about fit during the job search, and I found the best fit at UNL.
  3. Build connections outside of your office. Another aspect that I have enjoyed is meeting and working with people outside of my office. I voluntarily joined a “cluster group” – a mix of advising/student affairs professionals of various levels and experience, and have connected with a group of advisors who have been at UNL for less than a year. Both of these are unique support groups outside of my office that I feel comfortable going to and grow with together.
  4. Track your growth and development. Early on my supervisor had me outline goals that I had as well as my own advising philosophy, then we have put into place new quarterly self-assessments. During my graduate assistantship, I only had reviews at the end of each semester. With these quarterly assessments, I have found myself more accountable with what I want to work on, achieve and how to get there.  I also keep track of my numbers – how many appointments, what types of appointments, so I can quantify my work.
  5. Get connected with your professional association. As an advisor, NACADA is my professional work and I find myself on their website multiple times a week to see how I can learn from them and get involved. As many of you know, I attended my first national conference last October, got connected with many other advisors in person and on Twitter, and have had extensive conversations with my supervisor about my professional development. Goals for 2017 include: be a conference proposal reviewer, write a book review for our journal, and possibly submitting a proposal of my own.
  6. Be patient. As an advisor, and any levelheaded adult, you need to be patient. Students come in wanting to know “the easiest course”, how to graduate, and seeking classes after 9:00 AM. Students also come in after enrollment season without having enrolled or come in to discuss their probation status in late November/early December and you have to be patient and help them best grow and develop.
  7. Work/Life balance. This is not new information; we hear it all the time, but for good reason. You cannot work and worry about work constantly. I have tried very hard to leave work at work, focus on myself after five during the week, and not check e-mail over the weekend. Invest in me-time, so you can invest in your students.
  8. Reflect – both backwards and forwards. It could be my intellection strength (or writing for this blog each week), but I find myself reflecting on my growth a lot. I take time to reflect on how things went well, how things did not go as planned, and how can I improve? I also take time to reflect and prepare for the future (as much as you can prepare). Each day brings something new and is a learning opportunity for the future. With tracking my growth and development, I can tentatively outline what the next 8 months can look like for me – or the next few years in my career.

Student Affairs - the First Years

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