It wasn’t the career I had intended to pursue. My experience was in agriculture and most of my classes were also, but an opportunity presented itself as my alma mater opened a new recreation facility. After 20 years, I still say I truly love my position and working with college students. Every day is a learning experience for both of us. At this milestone year, I wanted to share some top lessons I’ve learned:
Nearly everything is a teachable moment. How often have we said, “The student employee should have known this”? Most of our students are between the ages of 18 and 24 and don’t have the life experiences professionals have. Rather than criticize them, take the time to make their error a teachable moment. Encourage decision-making on their part. Previously when I supervised front desk staff, I often told them, “I’d rather you make a decision at the time with the best information you have available than to make no decision. We can review your decision later and see if there was a better course of action. Indecision is not acceptable.”
Learn to network. When I encounter something I’m not well versed in, I reach out to peers, friends and alumni to help educate me. I’ve looked at every opportunity to attend training sessions, conferences and meetings as an opportunity to meet and add individuals to my “Resource Pool.” Don’t be afraid to cultivate those relationships.
Never stop learning. I decided to return to school and earn an Master’s of Science in Recreation, Park and Tourism Administration after 15 years in my career. The act of learning brought new insight to recreation and leisure and helped me connect with our graduate assistants on a new level. Learning sparked my brain to think more creatively about problem-solving. Every day, in every way, never stop learning.
Find a mentor/Become a mentor. Early in my professional career, I looked for people to follow and learn from. Find those individuals who have the experience they are willing to share. Identify the person you would like to serve as your mentor and ask them. You may have more than one “mentor.” You can use the concept of identifying your own “Board of Directors” who will help mentor you through all aspects of life. In return, pay-it-forward and make sure to become a mentor or “Board Member” for someone else.
As each semester begins, I am excited about the challenges we face and the new students I will meet and learn from. Twenty years can go very fast.
Julie Terstriep, M.S 2013, is a business manager at Campus Recreation, Western Illinois University in Macomb, Illinois. She is also a certified Illinois High School Association volleyball referee and was named the 2015 IHSA girls’ volleyball Official of the Year. Her family is the seventh generation to farm in western Illinois.
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