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My supervisor is horrible. She's nice, but is lazy, negligent, and inattentive to everything work-related. She revels in this, proudly proclaiming to everyone (including students) that she "just doesn't pay attention" or "is too lazy to care." This has been tolerated by the upper administration for 8 years, with no sign of it changing. I intend to start looking for a new job in the Fall; should I bother bringing my unhappiness to anyone or just wait until my exit interview?

Anonymous

ugh. I’m sorry this is happening to you. 

I’m a bit of an overachiever, personally. I would have a REALLY hard time not saying something about this. Actually, I’m having a hard time fathoming that these kinds of comments and behavior would fly for that long - and it makes me wonder if there is some part of her performance that you’re not privy to, or even if these comments are a (very) misguided attempt at connecting - like when I downplay my enthusiasm for something out of fear of seeming like “too much.”

Have you talked to your supervisor about the way that her behavior and comments impact you and your ability to do your job? Ideally, this would be your first step. Framing this in a nonjudgmental, non-accusatory way that is focused on how it impacts you is probably a safe place to start, since this is long-standing behavior. Having the conversation allows you to be heard and lets your supervisor show all that is going on for her, if she wants to take that opportunity. It isn’t really your job to hold her accountable for this (even though, as an overachiever it sounds very frustrating to “let her get away with this”) - instead, your focus should be on how this is impacting you. Why is it that this bothers you? Why would you like it to change? 

Anyway - the question to ask yourself is, what would you like to happen? It sounds like there isn’t anything about this job situation that feels “salvage-able” for you - so what will both make it tolerable for the fall, and what can help you in your search for a new position? 

Specifically, is there a way to “befriend” your supervisor’s supervisor, or someone else who is further up the food chain? My thinking is - without intentionally or maliciously going around your supervisor, can you build a productive relationship with someone who might be able to influence your supervisor to, you know, do her job, and provide a decent reference as well? This is a somewhat tricky situation to navigate politically - depending on your relationship with your supervisor and how you handle it, complaining about her could have negative impacts on how she’d reply to a reference check. Building a relationship with someone above her allows you to have someone else from your institution to speak to your work. 

Also - tread carefully with how you speak about your supervisor, to others on your campus or outside your current institution. Student affairs is such a small field - your supervisor could have folks “on her side” in unexpected places, and you want to appear diplomatic, gracious, and competent. Even if folks don’t know your supervisor, I know I definitely don’t want to hire someone who spreads rumors, gossips, or otherwise “trash-talks” their current institution or supervisor.

Search-Induced Guilt

I’m approaching the 2-year mark at my current job, and honestly thought I’d never make it this long because I’m rather miserable; but life circumstances kept placing the search on hiatus.If my direct supervisor finds out, my life will become more miserable, and I don’t feel any guilt about leaving her.

The real issue is with my Dean, (to whom I report for about a third of my work) who has some huge project expectations for me and is taking a mini-sabbatical for the summer—I hope to not be here when she returns in October. Do I confess my guilt away, or keep her living in a dream world? If I do confide in her (I trust her discretion), do I leave it as a general “oh, well…professional growth…better fit” platitudes, or come clean about my supervisor, who is already a joke within the department?

It’s kind of eating at me to talk about these huge plans with her, then hang out on HR websites and write cover letters that very night.

On Authenticity, Networking & Mentorship

This is a guest post from our contributor Bossy Clementine. For more of their posts, check out this link.

I want to be honest about something. When it comes to strengths-based leadership styles, I am no ‘positivity’ or ‘woo.’ In fact, you couldn’t get me to touch those strengths (among others) with a 10-foot pole. As a middle-ground extrovert with a loud(ish) personality, I often get mistaken for an ultimate social butterfly that graces and flutters from social group to social group, making connections and friends with ease. I view this as the time to clear the air and make it known- despite colleagues and friends viewing me as a networking fiend- the thought of meeting people for the first time, interviewing, and socializing in the field of student affairs terrifies me.

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You are an orchid. it takes a lot of time for orchids to grow and mature into the beautiful flowers they are. if you are in a place that isn’t willing to feed you, love you, water you, give you space for sunlight, and sometimes replant you in spaces that help you continue to grow…. and you whither, shrivel, your pigments start to fade… then it’s time. it’s time to go. because you’re precious and rare. and they need to cultivate you so you can grow more and plant new seeds. that’s what you do for people like you.

- contributed by a new professional, advice they received from a SSAO mentor. Beautiful advice! Thank you for sharing.

First Year Fumbles

This is a guest post from our friends Bossy Clementine and Prickly Pear (pseudonyms, obvy.)

Fumbling is a necessity in your first year as a student affairs professional. Some of us will have tragic outfit malfunctions and mis­matchings, others might experience a strong­-willed student culture that doesn’t like the concept of challenge by choice. Regardless of the “oops,” there are definitely some points of growth that come from taking off the rosy-­colored first year professional glasses. So, here are some reflections from two young, glamorous professionals who 1.) absolutely love their jobs, 2.) find humor in some of the engagements they have with students, and 3.) wanted to share some precious moments from the first month of working at their current institutions.

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By request, for all you preparing for conference interviews - from the TPE ‘12 folks!

What’s the best way to highlight committee work on your resume?

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I’ve seen it done many ways, and of course which you choose will depend on your own circumstances and experience. In particular if you’re a grad student the best format may be different than if you are a professional staff - your best bet is always to have a career counselor or coach (and/or a trusted friend in the field) take a look!

One way is if you have your experiences organized by institution - let’s say you have multiple positions at the University of Awesome. It might look like: 

University of Awesome, Awesomeville USA
My Job (June 2010 - Present)

  • some stuff I do
  • more stuff I do

Committee for Increasing Awesomeness, Co-Chair (November 2010 - January 2011)

  • OPTIONAL bullets here (again depending on what the accomplishments, responsibilities, and roles you had on the committee).

My Department Professional Development Committee (June 2010 - December 2010)

  • More optional bullets
Or, if you have multiple positions at that institution, it might be: 
University of Awesome, Awesomeville USA
Assistant Director of Awesome, July 2012 - Present
  • duties
  • duties
Program Coordinator for Awesome, June 2010 - June 2012
  • accomplishments
  • accomplishments
COMMITTEE WORK:
  • Awesome Committee Co-Chair (January 2012 - Present)
  • Diversity Training Committee (July 2011 - December 2011)
  • Department Professional Development Committee Member (June 2010 - July 2011) 

Another option is to either create a “Professional Service” or “Committees” section at the end of your resume, or include these with a broader category that includes professional service.

However you choose to present your committee work, make sure that the amount of space and time you spend talking about it is relative to how closely related it is to the job you’re applying for. If you’re applying for a social justice education position and you’ve served on lots of related committees, make sure to include it. If you’re applying for that same position and have served on other types of committees? Include it if there’s room (because it’s always good to see how someone serves their institution, skills and other interests they bring to the job, and how “well rounded” a candidate they are), but don’t use up valuable resume real estate if it’s going to mean more important information gets lost or left out.

Check out our additional posts about resumes!

Why are you REALLY in the field?

It’s job search season. Scratch that, it’s always job search time - there is always an opening somewhere! But we’re definitely entering the “high season,” so to speak. The grad students I work with are polishing their resumes, figuring out their roommates for conference, and doing some (more!) thinking about the kinds of institutions and roles they are hoping for.

I remember a conversation a job searcher last fall when I asked them why they were looking for a job in student affairs. Their response was along the lines of, they wanted to be in a field that was inclusive and personally affirming. They talked about their own journey in developing one of their identities, and that being in the field of student affairs felt safe - and that they could continue to work on their own development.

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