As a multifaceted professional, you can increase your value. Greg Corack explains how to expand your horizons so you can be prepared for whatever may come your way.
I remember hearing about a job posting a few years ago for a coordinator of aquatics and intramural sports. Seemingly two very different positions with some minor overlap.
My initial thoughts were how would you ever find a professional who could train a referee on Tuesday and teach a lifeguard back boarding on Wednesday? Oh, how a short nine months of a pandemic can change your mind. We are now faced with shrinking budgets, furlough and layoff uncertainties, and a workforce that is becoming increasingly specialized. The jack of all trades is more needed than ever, and for the most part many of us are unprepared.
Are you a multifaceted professional, or does your resume only list skills for one concise area of recreation and wellness? The time is now to make some changes and expand your horizons so you can be prepared for the next generalist position when it opens this summer.
I know everyone reading this has thought about their next step and considered what it would be like to take over their supervisor’s responsibilities. Now think about applying for that role tomorrow. Are you ready? More importantly, is your resume ready for that next step? Did you take the time to finish an important certification, attend a campus training, join a working group or learn an important new piece of technology?
I am guessing you just read that last paragraph, said no to at least one of those items and are now thinking “I need to make some changes.” Early retirement offers are just around the corner for many institutions and the opportunity to fill upper-level positions with internal candidates is enticing. The steps you take today will help you put the best possible foot forward tomorrow.
There are a select few people I know who revisit their resume once or twice a year to ensure it is updated. I would venture a guess you have not looked at your resume to see where gaps appear in the last few years.
In July I peeked at mine and realized I had not made any recent updates and needed to take stock of the last four years in my current role. There is no time better than now to look at your resume and see if you have any gaps in experience or areas you need to improve to make your next step. You may consider yourself to be in the top 10% of your specialization, but that is no longer good enough.
The best bet to get to the top of the resume pile is to be in the top 10% in one area with skills in a variety of disciplines. You probably will not be nationally recognized in fitness and intramural sports, but I bet you can be a decent basketball official who is certified to teach cycling. We must look to generalize a little more and become a multifaceted professional in a time when the job market is shrinking, and salary lines are being combined.
The days of the being a specialist are over. Looking for the next set of skills to make you more marketable is essential to your future. I remember a tense conversation with a supervisor after about five years in the field when he told me I was not ready to move on to an associate director role. He told me my resume was great for intramural sports, but it had no variety and showed little knowledge acquisition outside of officiating and conference sessions. My advice to every young professional in the recreation field is to get a new certification, learn a skill from someone in your office, and get outside of your comfort zone now.
I completed my first aquatics facility operator certification in 2006 and have supervised pools for a total of six months in 14 years. My knowledge of aquatics has allowed me new opportunities during interviews, the ability to impact conversations on capital projects and I can even balance the chemicals in my backyard pool.
In the fall of 2014, I had the chance as a seasoned intramural sports professional to take on the role of interim coordinator of health promotion. I had served as instructor of a lifetime wellness course for six years but had very little knowledge of the field. For the next eight months, I learned a vastly different set of skills beyond anything I had gleaned from my nights as a referee on any field or court.
My willingness to entertain these extra job duties paid huge dividends as I was an extremely attractive candidate for associate director positions supervising multiple programming areas. My eye-opening experience in health promotion led me to investigate other facets of recreation including fitness equipment maintenance, earning a certification in wilderness first aid and as a personal trainer.
In the past 11 months, five professionals left my institution under their own volition to take on new professional challenges. The departure of these shining stars created deficits in our work force which simply could not be filled due to budgetary constraints.
One of our team members specializing in leadership development volunteered to take over an important responsibility on our facilities team, working with our outdoor field complexes. His willingness to take on a new role not only benefits the future of our department but also his resume and future job prospects. As he applies for new postings in the coming years, the marketability of a candidate with significant experience in two vastly different specialties will undoubtedly help his chances of making the interview stages. You may feel overwhelmed in your current role but grabbing extra responsibilities now will certainly assist you in the long run.
The next 18 to 24 months are going to be a challenging time for the higher education job market. Fewer jobs and possibly more applicants will make the competition for openings even tougher. The time to expand your resume, learn a new skill, and challenge yourself to move beyond your previous limitations is now. Research a new certification in an unfamiliar expertise, ask your co-workers to help you learn a new trade and ask your supervisor for additional responsibilities. You may not want a new job today, but with a new set of skills you can make yourself indispensable at your current institution and much more attractive as a multifaceted professional when the next opportunity arises.