How do I move into Administration?
If you've decided that Academic Administration is a career path you want to pursue, your next logical question is, 'How do I find an administrative position'? Unfortunately, the answer to that question can be complicated and is determined by your previous experience and current university's opportunities.
To get an administration position, you have to have previous administrative experience. It seems like a catch-22, right? You have to have the experience to get an administrative position, but yet, you can't get experience unless you have a position. So how do you maneuver around this conundrum?
To sort this out, it helps to think about recruiting Assistant Professors. Usually, those taking starting assistant professors do not have previous professorial experience. However, assistant professors must conduct research, teach, and do some service. Therefore, search committees look at candidates' last scholarly, teaching, and service records and use previous experience – even though it wasn't in a professorial position - to pick the candidate they predict will do the best as an assistant professor.
The same thing happens in beginning administrative positions. Again, search committees look at a candidate's experience in leadership and administrative roles and predict who will do the best job. Therefore, while you may not have previous experience as an Associate Department Chair, you will have opportunities to demonstrate leadership and administrative experiences in lesser roles that can help Search Committees predict how you will do as an Associate Department Chair.
Bloom where you're planted
If you want to move into and work toward having Administration as part of your workload, you must make the most of every administrative opportunity where you are now. Take advantage of the opportunities at your university; this experience will give you the foundation to take more extensive jobs.
Get started and do your best
If you haven't volunteered to take on administrative responsibilities in the past, now is the time to start. First, look within your department or unit to see if there are areas where you can begin.
If you have stepped up to chair a committee, do your best. "Do your best" encompasses more than just showing up on time and completing the assignments on time. Think about how to facilitate an effective committee and lead the group. Perhaps you're asked to lead a group looking at program accreditation, or you are a member of a University committee... do your best job. In short, approach these administrative activities with prior thought and consideration. (If you want tips about running a meeting effectively, check out our January ACDS newsletter).
When you excel in minor leadership and administrative experiences, your colleagues will notice, and you'll be asked to take on more significant administrative roles. When you show interest and the aptitude to be an effective administrator, you'll find administrative positions coming to you instead of having to seek them out.
In addition to the resources here at ACDS, seek out books and resources that effectively give you the knowledge you need to run meetings and committees.
A friend of mine almost didn't get tenure and promotion because he was on 13 different University committees and chairing seven of them! The concern was that he wasn't interested in scholarship and teaching because he was busy with administrative duties; however, he was very interested in scholarship and teaching. Still, he was also a fantastic administrator, and people knew that if he ran a committee, the work would get done quickly, effectively, and efficiently. So the lesson here is that even though you want to gain administrative experience, be careful not to get overloaded, especially if you haven't gone through tenure and promotion.
I can attest that being in Administration will provide you with opportunities that being a research-focused faculty cannot. I've been fortunate to work in three different Universities. While I got my first job as a research-focused Assistant Professor faculty member, the last two positions came solely because I had administrative experience.
Administration may not be for everyone, but if you have the skills, aptitude, and right attitude, Administration can take you places and give you opportunities that no other academic role can provide.
Remember that effective administrators, even if that is an official part of their workload, get to be well-known and soon get many requests for service. You'll find that as you gain administrative experience, opportunities will come looking for you.
You may start as an Associate Department Chair or even a Department Chair, but before long, other Universities will start filling your email inbox with administrative position openings. Do well as a Department Chair, and you'll also find your name on search firms' call lists when there are advanced administrative openings. Before you know it, you may find yourself as a Dean, Provost, or high-ranking administrator.
Ready to move into Administration?
Check out ACDS' academic coaching services. We custom-tailor our coaching services to give you the guidance, knowledge, and support to take you to the next level.
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