Honest Higher Ed Truths Part II

Career Sustainability

I currently work in a position that is not part of a career ladder. I am considered support staff, so there is no clear path for me to make it to a “professional” position. Even if I were to be hired as an advisor, there is no path from there. You can be promoted to Senior Advisor, but (from what I can tell) there isn’t much difference.

Even if you work in a position that is part of a career ladder, that ladder gets considerably thinner (and harder to attain) as you move up. There is only one SSAO (maybe) at each institution, we all can’t be SSAOs, it just isn’t possible. When we make the choice to stay in higher ed, when we choose to take part in ladder climbing, we need to be very realistic about what that means.

We also need to understand that some people are going to leave student affairs, and that’s totally okay. Again, not all of us can be SSAOs.

The big problem is, when is our profession not sustainable? When are we educating too many professionals for too few positions? If we continue to grow as a profession, or increase the number of positions on campus, we need to carefully think about career ladders and sustainability. If we constantly have to defend our value (a very different topic), shouldn’t we value the positions and people enough to make sure there are ways to climb the ladder?


Oh silos. I currently work in an office that is silo-ed. What do I mean by that? The two support staff in my office are paid by the department. There are full-time permanent, full-time temporary, and part-time faculty in my department, which are separated further if we discuss tenure/tenure-track vs lecturer. There are two advisors who work within my office but are supervised by a person in the Dean’s Office, and paid by our central advising office. Not confusing at all.

All of these positions have different expectations, supervisor, professional development support, and plans of work. We work together, but separately. We work toward common goals (student success), but framed differently. We develop different plans of work, expectations, and professional development plans. We share resources, but have to pay for supplies out of different budget numbers.


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