When I was teaching a graduate school class on enrollment and retention management, I asked students what quality in an enrollment or retention manager would be most likely to guarantee success and promotion. My answer surprised the class, and I am sure it will surprise you. The quality more likely to guarantee success and promotion, in my opinion, is curiosity. The most successful people I know in our field are those professionals who look beyond numbers and are able to anticipate the future. They ask probing questions and are rarely satisfied with answers that do not go beyond the obvious.
Whether you are an entry-level admission officer or an assistant or associate enrollment manager, you will, at some point in your career, desire to move to the next professional level, either at your current school or at another college or university. These five recommendations may help you make a successful transition.
1) Embrace technology
The explosion of massive open online courses has the potential to change the current higher education business model. How will that affect the work you do in admissions or enrollment management? How has social media changed the way you “prospect” and enroll students? How could technology change course registration and scheduling? How could technology alter graduation requirements? How do you anticipate technology changing the way you do your job in the future? If you want to learn how technology is changing education in the country, I recommend reading Getting Smart: How Digital Learning Is Changing the World (2011) by Tom Vander Ark.
2) Read, read, read …
… and when you finish reading, read some more. I am not talking about digesting the “usual suspects.” I am suggesting that you read outside your current comfort zone. I recently conducted a seminar on trends in higher education and student mobility. Among the books I used for the presentation were
- College: What It Was, Is, and Should Be (2012) by Andrew Delbanco
- The Innovative University (2011) by C.M. Christensen and H.J. Eyring
- That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back (2012) by Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum
- Generation on a Tightrope: A Portrait of Today’s College Student (2012) by Arthur Levine and Diane Dean
- The $10 Trillion Prize: Captivating the Newly Affluent in China and India(2012) by Michael Silverstein, Abheek Singhi, Carol Liao, and David Michael
- The End of the Chinese Dream: Why Chinese People Fear the Future (2012) by Gerard Lemos
Without exception, these books forced me to consider newer ways of doing research and conducting presentations. My writing and presentations became more robust as I incorporated relevant information from outside the field of higher education into my current knowledge base.
3) Use statistics
Become your own cheerleader. Every year, compile a list of relevant statistics describing your work. Use less text and more graphs and charts.
Don’t wait for your supervisor to ask for your annual report; have one ready before the end of the academic year that includes telling and (hopefully) positive statistics highlighting your accomplishments.
4) Go beyond the minimum requirements
We all know employees who do the minimum to meet their job requirements. We hear their doors shut at 4:30 p.m. If you want to be considered for promotion within your division or office, this schedule should not apply. Come in a few minutes early and stay a few minutes late. Volunteer to do something extra for your supervisor, perhaps something not in your job description.
5) Be honest
If you are serious about being promoted or are considering employment at another college or university, you owe it to your supervisor to be up front about it. Over the course of my career, I had a few employees hand me a letter of resignation without any prior notice. In my estimation, this is not very professional and speaks volumes about the employee’s internal integrity compass. It also forced me to consider why I was not trusted enough with this information, which resulted in addressing this issue at the interview stage and during the three-month evaluation process.
It is very natural for admission counselors and enrollment and retention management staff to want to, at some point in their careers, move on either to another school or to the next level at their current school. There is nothing wrong with ambition. But that quality should be combined with the painstaking process of making yourself more marketable because you have conducted relevant research and have increased your knowledge of the many facets changing higher education today.
Marguerite Dennis is a contributing editor of Recruitment and Retention and has more than 30 years of experience in enrollment management.
Reprinted from “Your Next Promotion: Five Recommendations to Advance Careers in Enrollment and Retention Management,” Recruitment & Retention, 27,3 (2013): 8. © Magna Publications. All rights reserved.