The Women in Housing series is a month-long project featuring the voices, stories, and experiences of women who currently or formerly work in housing and residence life. Today's post was written by Janielle Tchakerian.
Working at an all-women’s residential college, I have the amazing opportunity to work with young women daily. From the students who live in our halls, to the staff that work in them, amazing and inspiring things happen every day. This doesn’t happen because we wish it to; it happens because of the dedication and commitment these women have to be strong leaders.
In my role of Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs, I share five professional lessons with the residence life staff yearly in hopes of helping them understand my expectations of them as professionals but most importantly as role models for our students.
Being a role model is not just two simple words. It means understanding the importance of the great responsibility it is to be a role model for your peers and our students. To be a role model, you need to understand and respect the mission, vision, ethics and values of the institution and how your words and actions reflect on them. In turn, these are the guiding principles you look towards when you are faced with a decision in your professional role. You need to be active with educating and challenging yourself; just like we expect our students to do. Being a genuine role model is not something that you can “fake your way through.”
When people make the choice to work at a small sized institution, they have decided to be part of the “small and mighty” and not the “large and strong” mindset. Opportunities exist in both institution types, but how you take advantage of what is presented in front of you makes all the difference. You should challenge yourself to increase your knowledge base and then offer to use your skills horizontally at the institution. For example, if you are skilled at assessment, take the self-initiative to continue learning on the subject but offer to assist other department with an assessment plan who may be short staffed. Take advantage of working with a new department where you have limited knowledge or experience in, and make yourself valuable to them. This will increase your marketable skills but also your professional network. This is a calculated risk but with confidence and assertiveness it is worth it. At a small institution, building your network is crucial.
As a professional, especially in a small department, knowing when, where and to whom you should confide in is a key to your success. Confide in your colleagues if there are personal issues that are impacting your work. Confide in your friends (outside of the institution) when you are facing work challenges that are impacting your personal life. Confide in family members when work and/or personal issues are impacting your personality. Remember that confidentiality is not granted amongst colleagues, and mutual respect for privacy should be expected. Do not be afraid to ask for help and guidance from others but others should expect that from you in return. You should ask yourself what is important enough to share with others so that they can be supportive but not be excuses as to why you are not meeting expectations.
Do not criticize yourself or compare yourself to others. We are all unique human beings that have different gifts and talents. Know that these are revealed in time and strive for fairness not equality in work responsibilities. There are times when you need to work, but there are times when you need to leave work behind. The more you work, the more you need to retreat later to reenergize before they can come back. The scales of balance are at play here. Engage your supervisor in a conversation when your scales are out of balance and you need to let something go.
Lastly, remember to have fun. Find outlets for your personal passions and pursue them. Take a risk and try something new. Volunteer to help another department or in the greater community. Enjoy life and celebrate life’s wonderful moments with those around you. Embrace opportunities that come in front of you and pave a path for others you want to explore. Never stop growing, changing and learning for that is when complacency takes over.
These are just a few things I have learned along the way. What other lessons have you learned along your life’s journey?
Janielle Tchakerian is the Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs at Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana. She received her Master's degree in Higher Education from the University of Toledo and her Bachelor of Art's degree from Aquinas College, Grand Rapids, Michigan. She enjoys spending time with her family, organizing just about anything and decorating any space.
The Women in Housing series is sponsored by Adirondack Solutions.