The Residence Life Professional’s Superpower? Transferable Skills

As my peers embarks on new, post-graduation adventures, I am left reflecting on my own academic and professional experiences from the last two years. Though I have one more year of school before I begin my formal job search, seeing my cohort finding new opportunities, I’ve begun to ponder how I can capitalize on my own professional experiences from working in housing. 

As professional staff members, we encourage our RAs to reflect on the transferable skills they have attained from their positions, but we frequently don’t take time to do this ourselves. Furthermore, as housing professionals, we know the difficulties of our work, though we are rarely accurately compensated for such soft skills. Calling customer service or people-facing skills “soft” already reinforces an inherent lessening of value from hard or firm technical skills. However, we know the work that we do in residence education has value. We help to provide safety. We teach. We listen. We demonstrate care. But how do we market these skills to people that may not know the depth and rigor of our experiences?

“You have developed the skills that will allow you to be successful in a job and set you on the path to a rewarding career…don’t get discouraged if it takes you a few tries to find the position that will allow you to harness those strengths. Trust your instincts on what is right for you and your hard work will put you in the right place.” 

Greg Thompson, PhD.; Director of Residence Education, University of Iowa

While this may have been more of a challenge before the pandemic, Covid-19 has in part initiated a cultural shift of values. Lacking human interaction for months on end made us realize how much we do in fact value soft skills. Researchers are finding that T-shaped employees are in higher demand than in previous generations. The concept of T-shaped employees refers to a base content expertise in one area with several accompanying skills that can be applied to a myriad of institutional needs or settings. To learn more about T-shaped employees, read here.

As housing professionals, we are generally subject-matter experts in student development as most of our daily interactions stem from communication with residents on our campus. However, when reflecting on becoming a T-shaped employee, our transferrable skills shine through. Whether it’s project management, administrative duties, creating analyses, serving on committees, working with HR, or editing policies, as housing professionals we hold a variety of skills, hard and soft.

“Every experience, every position, every success and every failure in your life – professionally or otherwise – has prepared you for this moment. Start reflecting on those experiences. Start appreciating the skills that were born from those experiences. Start bragging about those skills to anyone that will listen. Humbly, of course.” 

Azubeze Uzoma, M.A.; Hall Coordinator, University of Iowa

As much as you can prepare for the application process of a new position by reflecting on your own experiences, it can be helpful to talk to people who have also been in your place. Ask around. Learn from others. We’re on this journey together.

What advice would you offer to young housing professionals during the application process?

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