Defining Your Higher Education Career

For some, job searching brings frustration, anger and sadness, leading to various negative attitudes and self-defeating behaviors. For others, the same experience is viewed as a time of personal growth, increased self-awareness and abundant learning, giving time to reflect on accomplishments that may have been forgotten, to remember and showcase strengths, and to define what is wanted out of the future.                         

Knowing what you truly want out of your career might be one of the most important, yet overlooked, first steps in a fruitful job search. The environment we work in has a profound influence on us and can be the difference between a happy, productive career life and one that is dissatisfying and defeating. In looking for college jobs, what type of environment are you seeking? One that is research-based? Teaching focused? What kind of students do you want to work with? What do you want your supervision to look like? What degree of collaboration do you enjoy? And, ultimately, what do you want your contributions to look like at the end of your tenure? These questions are simple samples of considering what you need out of a post-secondary workplace in order to give the most back.

Visualizing your ideal work environment provides motivation and direction for your job search, and allows you to become strategic in your methods, both in the institutions you pursue and in how you begin to put together your “brand” as you embark on networking meetings and interviews. In many circles, visualization is also a key step in getting what you want out of life.

A career in Higher Education is a unique opportunity to not only pursue your passions but to influence the lives of others, whether through inspiring new learners, developing research that changes lives, or creating strategies to support new generations of educated students who will, in turn, be giving back to the community. Choosing the right environment to do this becomes essential, but the first step is to define what’s “right” for you as a unique individual.

Tara Wainwright is a Higher Education Career Counselor, Adjunct Instructor, and Lifelong Learner currently residing in the Seattle, WA area.

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