Moving Up in the World of Higher Ed Administration
January 17, 2013 7:17 AM   Subscribe

The president of the college that I work for recently asked to see my resume and has set up a time for me to talk about 'my future career track' at the college. I am honored, shocked, and flustered. I have no idea how to navigate this situation.

I am an academic advisor at a college, fairly low on the totem pole. I've only been working there for about three years. At our departmental Christmas party, I had a casual conversation with the president of the college. I told him I was getting my masters in higher ed admin (will graduate in December) and shared with him some of my previous work experience with a well-known organization. He was impressed with my experience and credentials and asked me to email him my resume and set up a time to come talk with him in his office.

Is this like a job interview? I don't even know what job I'm interviewing for? How can I prep for this? What should I do? I'm totally freaking out. Totally totally totally. Also, thanks to a nosy co-worker, everyone in my office knows that I'm going to meet w/the president, but I sort of bullshitted (bullshat?) an excuse.
posted by chara to Work & Money (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Yes, this is a job interview, but not in the traditional sense. Look, he already has met you in a social situation, and has interest knowing more about you than a resume. This is not a cold interview. Be professional, show motivation, and talk about your accomplishments, but treat it like a conversation.

I'd go into this looking to ask the President about the direction of the college and where he sees the most growth opportunities. I'd talk about that. I'd talk about ways I'd be interested in contributing to that. I'd tell the President more about myself and ask where he thought I'd be a good fit.

Mostly I'd chill out, and remember the nice conversation we had at the Christmas party, and pick up where that left off.
posted by bfranklin at 7:22 AM on January 17, 2013 [10 favorites]

He is volunteering to mentor your career because he believes you have potential.

This is a wonderful thing but is not going to change your life right now. It will change your life in 10 years, though!
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:23 AM on January 17, 2013 [4 favorites]

What do you want your future career track at the college to be? Get that sorted in your mind first, then follow bfranklin's excellent advice.
posted by Etrigan at 7:23 AM on January 17, 2013

Well, it's an opportunity for you to develop a helpful alignment. Not a traditional interview, but this is part of how things get done. It's a chance to make yourself and your goals better known.

Don't freak out. Take some time to write down your interests and career goals. Think about your trajectory - where you'd like your career to be in 5 years, 10 years, etc. What would you like to do more of and less of? What would you like more training in?

Also, be prepared to ask him about his own career, too. And be prepared to ask him to do some futurescoping on the field you're interested in, in general. Where does he see this field going, what are the major changes he predicts (demographic, financial etc). He's going to have a lot of views on this sort of thing, and it will be both flattering to him and interesting to both of you to talk about his observations.

Also think about your commitment to this college specifically, and to higher learning in general. Is this where your career is definitely headed? Or are you still in an exploratory phase? Keep in the back of your mind that it's likely he can connect you to not just opportunities in your own school, but others as well.

This might be just a nice chat and a way for the president to understand things better. It might be part of a bigger "there's a restructuring coming in three years" thing and he is wanting to know what his options are. It might just be that he's fantastic at identifying and cultivating talent which, bless him, is an awesome and rare-ish skill in a leader. No matter what, jump at the chance.
posted by Miko at 7:24 AM on January 17, 2013 [4 favorites]

I love the blog Confessions of a Community College Dean, which talks a lot about the daily realities of academic administration. Even for someone like me who is not at all involved in academia, it's really interesting and thought provoking. Basically anything tagged "Ask the Administrator" will give you stuff to think and talk about.

It might help if you viewed the meeting as a chance for you to interview him rather than vice versa -- if you can spend the time gathering info on what direction the college is going then you will be well positioned once you finish your master's.
posted by selfmedicating at 8:21 AM on January 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

Are you considering going on for a doctorate? If you are, be sure to mention it. If you want to move up you'll need it. Your co-workers may not be as ambitious as you are, nor as talented. The president sounds like a good administrator, someone who is capable of recognizing potential. Ask him for advice, and ask him if he can suggest someone higher up on the totem pole who might be a good mentor. Don't assume that he has the time or the desire to mentor you. And let us know how it goes!
posted by mareli at 8:21 AM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

One of the most important things you can get from this meeting is the names of people who can help your career, and permission to use his name as a "so-and-so said I should talk to you" style reference.

If there's time, try reading a book about networking before you go. I'm in the middle of this one; it's good, if a bit silly in terms of the use of jargon (this is an ongoing plague among business how-to books.) However, it's a fast read for anyone who's academically oriented (also a plague among business how-to books, in my opinion.)
posted by SMPA at 9:00 AM on January 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

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