The Supervising Series | Tangible Steps

It’s important to acknowledge that some of you will have to blaze a path all your own. You may have a supervisor who isn’t interested or able to support your journey (perhaps they are in a place in their own career where they are still “climbing the ladder” or perhaps they never gathered the tools to be an engaged and supportive leader for their direct reports). What is important to keep in mind is that you still have the capability to get where you want to go. Below we will explore methods to advocate for yourself and garner supervisory skills and experiences.

Tangible Steps for Appealing to Future Positions
Whether you have a co-pilot or are charting your own course, below are tried and true methods for opening the door to your next opportunity:

Starting Conversations and Leveraging Your Networks…
As I alluded to previously, conversation is key! However, conversations are not (and should not!) be limited to your direct supervisor. You should dialogue about your goals with everyone in your professional sphere with whom you feel comfortable sharing. This network can include colleagues in your department, campus partners, other leaders on your campus and, of course, colleagues within professional organizations like AHEPPP. You really never know where an opportunity might arise for experience or that next role.

Leading (is a form of supervising by the way!) in spaces formally or informally
One mistake many employees tend to make is assuming there is only one path to gaining experience and skills for supervising others. We often think the only “legitimate” experience of managing others is in doing so in our day-to-day work overseeing other full-time staff. However, supervision covers a broad swath of experience and methods. It’s important to think outside the box when both gaining experience and conveying said experience to future employers. Examples include…

  • Overseeing student workers: whether a single student or two dozen, this is direct supervision. You can elevate the experience for both your student(s) and yourself by building in monthly or quarterly performance reviews, which allows professional development on the part of the student and improves your ability to navigate challenging conversations when they arise.   

  • Managing volunteers, including parent councils or boards. This is actually an incredibly marketable skill set for future employers. Dealing with individuals volunteering their time often takes even greater communication, finesse, and oversight to ensure an enjoyable experience for your volunteers and positive outcomes for your organization. 

  • Leading committee or task force opportunities on your campus with colleagues from other departments. This is another incredibly valuable opportunity to develop a skill set that lends itself to supporting and directing peers and, in some cases, even managing up. 

  • Taking on leadership roles within professional organizations, AHEPPP or otherwise, professional organizations are a great space to flex your leadership muscle. You might serve as Chair for a region or conference, both roles which require organization, influence and management of peers.

Conveying your experience on a resume
Regardless of where your experiences originate, there is a way to include them on your resume. The most obvious is to add them as bullets under your current role when relevant. Whether with student employees, volunteers, or campus colleagues, clearly outline your role as a leader. An example of this could be “Oversaw # students/volunteers/campus colleagues in [XX capacity], including coordinating projects/tasks, setting meeting agendas, communicating monthly/weekly, etc.”. For those spaces outside of your day-to-day, focus on the transferable skills. Though certain roles or skill sets may not be part of your job description on paper, they can still apply to a potential future role. This Indeed article does a great job of identifying the skills to include and how to tie them directly to the position for which you are applying.

Reiterating your experience in an interview
For many of us, it can feel difficult to “toot your own horn”. We are humble servants to dedicated, hard-working staff for our constituency and our institution. We keep our heads down and do what needs to be done to achieve the mission and goals of our department. As such, we often forget our power and abilities, and find it difficult to articulate all we have accomplished.  Find the words, write the words down, and practice the words required to highlight your accomplishments! Master the art of the #HumbleBrag. This Career Karma article breaks down a great approach called the “STAR technique” that may help you in crafting the perfect response when asked to “describe your leadership experience”.

The road to supervision is both exciting and winding. Keep your eyes peeled for those less apparent leadership opportunities and hone how to highlight your transferable skills. Regardless, I encourage you not to wait for your supervisor to give you answers or growth goals; take matters into your own hands, and be a leader for yourself so you can be a leader for others. 

If you have additional ideas, or would like to contribute to the series with your own tips and experiences, please send an email to Alex Brown at [email protected].

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