Amber Kargol, Iowa State University
I have been an academic advisor for almost 11 years and in that time have only changed institutions once. Even with this seemingly small change, I encountered some large challenges in my job search and new role which completely shifted my paradigm as an academic advisor.
In 2010, my husband and I decided to move to his home state of Iowa. My previous job search had taken six months, so I had a general idea of what to expect in this next job search, or so I thought.
I sent my first resume in November, 2010 and did not receive a job offer until February, 2012. Throughout that time, I had a total of nine campus interviews and two phone interviews. I had enough experience to secure an interview but wasn’t the candidate chosen for the job. This created a large amount of doubt in my abilities, career choice, and self-confidence. I took time with each interview to do my research on the institution, came prepared with relevant questions, dressed professionally, and had my resume and cover letters reviewed by my trusted colleagues. I had been on previous search committees and knew that institutional fit is a large factor in the process, but my confidence had started to wane.
I set up a meeting with some colleagues to brainstorm ideas on why I hadn’t been offered a position and to learn from their job search experiences. I researched different types of positions and considered leaving advising altogether. I also considered furthering my education, but what I really needed was perseverance.
My last and final interview was very perplexing. I met with several people throughout the day but couldn’t get a sense of how my skills were perceived. I was very interested in the position and the wide variety of tasks included. The people I met with were wonderful, and it appeared to have everything I was looking for in a position. It also happened to be at my husband’s alma mater. Thankfully, the committee took a chance on an out-of-state candidate and offered me the job. It was well worth the wait! The match was perfect in both location and scope, but I had no idea the challenges that I would face.
The only thing that was similar in each position was that they were both large, public, land grant institutions. I left the world of liberal arts education to join a science- and technology-focused school. I left a centralized advising center to be one of two departmental advisors. I left 550 students behind to meet 150 brand new ones. This was just the beginning.
I started my new job two days before the registration period began. I was shocked when students arrived at my door with very clear and concise course plans. My new institution required students to meet with their advisor to obtain their registration access number. I was pleasantly surprised by how prepared the students were for our meeting and how knowledgeable the students were about their planned courses. I had a large learning curve ahead of me in understanding all facets of the new curriculum in addition to navigating an accredited program.
I had been a more transactional advisor in my previous position due to a large number of students. It had been mathematically impossible to see every one of my advisees every semester, so I attempted to do as much over email as I could to serve as many students as possible. I took a more reactive than proactive approach. I dealt with student issues when they arose, rather than trying to prevent them. Our advising center had started a Walk-In Wednesday program in an attempt to reach more students since our calendars were so full. My Walk-In Wednesday record was 34 students, yikes!
My new position required me to be a more transformational advisor. I needed to take time with them, ask questions to be sure they were in the appropriate major for their career goals, and give them more direction regarding our accredited program, while attempting to learn all of these things myself. I had a wonderful partner who provided me with great resources and feedback, but I felt like I was discovering a new land.
I had spent 7.5 years in my previous position and had to unlearn some habits. I had to navigate a new office culture, new technologies, develop more relationships with faculty members, and try to learn as much about the career fields in my department as I could. Because I had advising experience, I knew the general processes at a university but had to be educated on the institutional jargon and memorize all the names of the common forms utilized by students and staff. “What is the change of major process called here? How do students drop and add a class? Is there a process for . . . ?“ My co-advisor was wonderful during this process. I also used the freshmen orientation materials as a cultural navigation tool so I could “talk the talk.” Did I mention I now had to teach a seminar course?!
Needless to say, I was a bit overwhelmed my first year. I had relocated to a new state, had my third child, and started a new job all at the same time. I made many mistakes but learned so much from my colleagues and students. I still have to review the campus map from time to time, but I know where to find information and am familiar with the campus resources available for my students.
I can now say with confidence that I am thriving in my new environment. I have built wonderful relationships with my colleagues, sit on a few campus-wide committees, am involved with learning communities, and have a supportive department chair who has allowed me to attend the Annual NACADA conference for the past two years. I have the pleasure of working with transfer students and can empathize with them on starting over in a new place. Although the process was long in obtaining this new position, I am thrilled to be a small part of the great things that are happening on my new campus.
Amber Kargol, M.Ed.
Dept. of Food Science and Human Nutrition
Iowa State University
Cite this article using APA style as: Kargol, A. (2015, March). The challenge of changing institutions. Academic Advising Today, 38(1). Retrieved from [insert url here]