By James Steur, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Over the course of a career, it is natural for your professional goals to change over time. For many members of the academy, especially faculty members, moving into staff and administrative roles are one prominent and rewarding path. The Roundtable, “Transitioning from Faculty to Administrative Roles” identified (1) strategies to make existing faculty members competitive for administrative roles, and (2) important skills to cultivate once obtaining their desired role.

Before discussing these strategies and skills, the panelists offered an important warning about pursuing these types of positions. Although administrative roles tend to result in higher salaries and levels of prestige, the panelists echoed that prestige and money should not be the reasons you pursue these positions. Staff and administration roles tend to take a large amount of time that focus on service-oriented work toward the university and working toward changes that benefit faculty, staff, students, and others inside of the university system. As a result, you have less time to focus on your own scholarship, teaching, and other areas you may enjoy as a faculty member. While the panelists emphasized it’s ok for you to explore the possibility of administration or staff positions, there’s a big difference between exploring the idea and pursuing the position for money.

Strategies When Seeking Administration Roles

1). Seek Mentorship
Staff and administration face a different set of challenges than faculty. Given these challenges, mentors are especially critical to foster your growth and development if you wish to pursue these opportunities. Mentors can take a variety of forms as more senior colleagues or individuals at outside institutions. The key is finding a mentor that works for you and invests in your growth.

2). Establish a Trustworthy Reputation
Administrators are often known for doing a large amount of work and being team-players. This reputation is often cultivated over the course of years by saying yes to new opportunities, demonstrating a willingness to work, and working well with others. Take intentional steps across your research, teaching, and service to demonstrate you are a trustworthy, team-player who is invested in building relationships and supporting others.

Skills of Administrators

1). Develop Emotional Intelligence
The most frequently mentioned skill the panelists brought up was the importance of emotional intelligence. When you work as an administrator, it is common to have emotional reactions when you evaluate faculty members from the same department. And, you will have many challenging conversations with individuals at all levels of the university. Cultivating emotional intelligence is important to both understand your own perspective and others when having difficult conversations and making difficult choices.

2). Engage in Realistic Self-reflection
Every professional brings their own set of strengths and weaknesses to the workplace. It is especially important for administrators to be intentional and realistically reflect on these strengths and weaknesses given their important leadership role in the university. One strategy to engage in self-reflection is looking up online questions that explicitly ask you to reflect about yourself and write down your answers. After doing this, take a day to revisit what you wrote down to see if you are overstating your strengths or weaknesses in a realistic way. In doing so, you can identify what contributions you can make to the different committees and teams you work with, and the areas you may ask for additional assistance with based on your assessment.

In the end, as one panelist noted, you should focus on coherence and not linearity in your professional path. While administrative or staff positions are often the next linear step for faculty who excel in their jobs, it is important for you to assess your professional and personal goals to achieve coherence.


About the Author

James Steur is a PhD Candidate in political science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  His research interests include  political psychology, political behavior, and the role of emotions in citizen  decision-making.  He is a first-generation student, passionate coffee drinker, and excited to be blogging (for a fourth time!) at MPSA. You can find James on Twitter at  @JamesSteur