My recent blog post on the job search process resulted in several emails asking the same question about the concept of being “ready” for the next level. Mainly, how do you know? Do you need to ask someone? How do you manage all of the uncertainties of moving on? Since I believe in the mantra of once is a question, twice is a discussion and three inquiries equals a blog post, I have decided to address this issue based on the volume of questions about this issue.
The Readiness Factor
What does “ready” really mean? Ready means you feel professionally comfortable in tackling the duties required at the next-level position. It also means you are looking for enhanced responsibilities in your professional portfolio in all areas—especially supervisory and budgetary oversight.
Who decides if you are ready? Only you can truly determine this but your performance appraisals combined with feedback from peers and supervisors can help you see the full picture. Are you being tapped for progressively responsible duties in your department or division? This can often be a sign of confidence in your talents and skills.
Do you need to ask your supervisor? Not necessarily. But I think it is helpful to ask what they perceive as the biggest challenges for you at the next professional level. Consult with the people who have worked with you in some sort of professional capacity. Include mentors, peers and professionals currently at the level you aspire. What area of growth do you still need to consider? Who will provide you with honest feedback?
Have you mastered the core competencies of your position? Think about the skills and attributes needed to be successful at the next level. While positions in higher education may vary a majority of us will need to have strong supervision skills, excellent administrative proficiency, a record of consistent collaboration with colleaguesand the confidence to lead effectively.
Another concern echoed in the emails about this topic was about project management. Are you involved in a project that is just getting off the ground and are worried about it getting dropped if you leave the institution? The reality is that it probably won’t. If the department is truly committed to it then it will continue to develop. If it fails, it is not because you left. The hard truth is that everyone is replaceable but sometimes in higher education we feel like everything will fall to pieces if we don't take care of it. Not true.
I personally made the decision to start searching because I had achieved most of the goals that I set when I started at my current institution. I enjoy my work but I could also feel that tug of “it’s time to move on.” I spent this past year constantly challenging myself to think “as if” I was already at the next level when dealing with certain situations. Although this is not easy, I have become more comfortable in that frame of thinking. Are you thinking about decisions from the perspective of the level above you? Think "as if" for the next week--you might be surprised at what you see!
The experiences that have helped to shape my professional philosophy are the result of my work in this position. I am now more self-aware and confident about my unique skills and talents and will be more purposeful about the career choices I make in the future. Readiness is knowing that you have accomplished your goals and feel prepared to add value to a new position. Because past performance is the best indicator of future success I know that I will be ready for the next step and anything that this role has in store for me.
One final concern about the readiness factor was the difficulty of leaving a staff that you have come to enjoy and care about. We are a relational field. But your professional ambitions and needs are also important and good people can be found wherever you go. I know that my department will hire a (hopefully more) talented new person for my position and that our staff will move forward. Our field is full of outstanding professionals waiting for the opportunity to shine at the next level!
What concerns do you have about being ready for the next level?