Is your age in higher ed years the same as dog years?

In a little under one month, I will be five years old. February 7, 2007 is my birthday. This is the date that I walked through the doors of my college as a student affairs professional. I don’t remember a lot of specific dates (so you can imagine how well I did in my history classes), but this one remains etched in my mind. Why? Because it signified the culmination of all of my 18 years of education (K-12, undergraduate, and graduate experiences included).

On that cold, blustery day in February, I sat in my new boss’s office filling out my newbie paperwork. That day had finally arrived. I had arrived and I was hungry. Hungry to learn all there was to know about the world of higher education, and boy did I eat my first few years. I found my institution to be a wonderful pasture, rich with experienced professionals who, for decades, had been shaping the lives of the students who had walked through their doors. It was filled to the brim with opportunities to jump into new projects and learn about many other areas of student services besides my own. Every day was new and exciting and I never seemed to be able to get my fill. Can you relate?

Now, with the five-year mark approaching, I’m starting to feel like someone pressed the acceleration button on my time clock. I feel a sense of urgency to evaluate where I’m at professionally and where I want to be. It’s not that I’m any less excited about my job. I love working with students and doing outreach in my community. My hastily scrawled sticky notes with programming and recruitment ideas for the upcoming year, which, by the way, are presently threatening to take over all the white space in my planner, bear witness to the flame that still burns in my heart for the career path that I’ve chosen. Higher education is where I will stay. Community colleges will always be my sweetheart.

But how old is too old in higher education years? Is five years too long to stay in any position?

In my previous post, I talked about the importance of patience and self-evaluation. And if you read some of my other posts, you will see these themes interwoven throughout them all. Why, you ask? Because it’s a tough lesson that I have had to learn over the years with costly mistakes. This year I will be 30 (in real life) and I’m determined not to repeat the errors of my twenties. The only way I can see this happening is if I stop thinking that I’m too old to learn something and continuously evaluate where I’m really at versus where I think I am.

So after some internal debates, I’ve realized that there is still room for me to get a few more good lessons in before I’m really ready to move on. In light of this, I have decided that this year I’m going to focus on assessing the experiences that I’ve been fortunate to have and determine what experiences I still need to seek out to prepare myself for the next level of my life. I am realizing that there are much worse things that I can do than stay in a position presumably too long. Like? Like moving on to a position that I’m not really ready for and ruining a good opportunity because I was too arrogant to adequately prepare for it.

I think I’ll take a slice of my birthday cake now.

Feeling the milestone blues at work? How will you know when it’s time to move on?

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