5 Things You Should Know if You Want to Work at a College

 

Academic leaders explore ideas for a living … when they aren't arguing about them. Susan Herbst, president of the University of Connecticut, tells how she makes the hot seat fun. 

 

The Campus Can Be a Career

 

When I was an undergrad studying political science and communications, one of my professors wanted me to go to law school. He said he'd even pay for the LSAT! I told him, "I want to do what you do." I liked the idea of spending my life being part of a big intellectual community that socializes, argues, and learns together. You don't have to have a PhD. You can work in student affairs and plan everything from treasure hunts to bystander intervention programs to prevent sexual assault. You can work in research, helping scientists get grants and take inventions to market, or you could help coaches and athletes comply with NCAA rules. In all those jobs, you live among young people and shape lives.

 

Moving Around Can Be a Great Thing

 

Working in academia, I've lived in almost every part of the country. Being geographically flexible is important these days. Say your boss calls and says, "We need you in the London office for a year." Your immediate response might be "I can't leave." But if worse comes to worst and you decide not to stay, you will have gained skills and could always do something else. I have so many friends I never would have known if I hadn't moved for a job.

 

Try to Socialize With the Other Side

 

Whether we are 21 or 41, we all have to develop a thicker skin. If anyone is bullying you or physically threatening you, that is wrong and needs to be stopped. But when people just have a different worldview, you should listen and not be afraid to argue. Be passionate but respectful. College is a good place to practice. It's a safe environment compared with the workplace, where no one really cares how you feel. If you are in a discussion course, speak up. If you are pro-Israel, go to the Islamic students' panel on foreign policy and hear them out. The first time you go, it may be hard. After the second time, you may find that they become your friends.

 

Everything Can Be a Negotiation

 

Sometimes at work someone wants something from you, and it seems kind of crazy. Take a few days to think about your larger goals for yourself and your organization before you automatically dismiss some new project or job responsibility. Ask yourself, What do I want that I could get out of it? Universities have a culture of talk and negotiation ... which is why it takes so long to do anything. 

 

Sometimes You Have to Be Harsh

 

At any university, there are hard decisions to make, most related to personnel. Women often want to coax or shape people into the right kind of employee, but that's not always possible. When we have to terminate somebody or have a tough meeting, we get back to our office and think, Was I too mean? When I was younger, I learned to take time alone to regroup or call a mentor who could give me strength. You need to collect people, inside and outside your organization, who can remind you of the big things at stake. I run the university for the students, the board, and the taxpayers. I have to do the right thing for everybody.

 

 

Source: cosmopolitan.com