Campus Recreation is highly competitive and it can take a lot of time and effort to begin a career in this industry – but it’s worth it, trust me. As a young professional in campus recreation, I wanted to take the opportunity to provide aspiring campus rec professionals some food for thought as you work to build your resume and knowledge base. For the current campus rec professionals, I encourage you to reflect on your own experiences and think about how you can help your students and staff.
I was first exposed to the three E’s of career development during grad school and I have used it countless times developing my own professional goals, writing resumes and especially mentoring students. The three E’s are Education, Experience and Exposure. As you work toward your career goals through your undergraduate and/or graduate studies, and even as young professionals, you should work to add to and develop your three E’s.
Education is the most obvious of the three, but education is not just learning in the classroom and earning a degree in an area relevant to campus recreation. Education could and should include certifications, workshops, seminars, readings, etc. There are tons of resources and opportunities to learn that will help you be an attractive applicant for a professional position and improve your ability to hit the ground running once you are hired. When considering education opportunities outside of the classroom, I would encourage you to pursue areas you are passionate about, of course, but also consider certifications that differentiate you from others. For example, obtaining certifications to instruct certification courses like CPR or lifeguard, or becoming a certified official for high school sport(s). These things will differentiate you from other applicants, improve your knowledge base and provide some great experiences along the way.
There is no better tool for teaching and learning than experience. As an aspiring campus rec professional, you should seek every opportunity available to gain experience in campus rec and relevant areas. The best place to start is your institution’s campus rec department if you are still in school. Other options could include exploring local off-campus gyms for opportunities, working/volunteering at a recreation department, or volunteering with local schools or camps. When looking for opportunities to gain relevant experience, keep in mind campus recreation is very broad, the opportunities are practically endless and any experience is good experience.
Exposure to different people, places and ideas is valuable for both personal and professional development. Consider joining clubs or professional groups both in and out of campus rec. Young alumni groups, student or professional organizations, or even adult sports leagues can be great tools for building your network and cultivating new relationships. Nobody has ever regretted having a large network; it’s worth the investment of time and effort.
While it may seem like a lot, working on your three E’s doesn’t have to happen overnight and it shouldn’t. Take some time to research and think about professional opportunities in campus recreation and where you see yourself being the most fulfilled, then put together a plan and set some goals. No matter what, keep making progress.