The A to Z of Transferable Skills in Student Affairs

If someone offered you a job outside of student affairs, could you name the skills you would bring with you? What if you had a chance to move to an area of the country (or world!) you have always wanted to experience; do you think you have that courage to work outside the field of student affairs?

I’ve shared before that unexpected life changes lead to me taking a break from work. With the arrival of twins and my husband’s company closing, we both had to make a choice that would work best for our growing family. As a result, I have to find a new job in a new area. As I continue on that journey to find my next place of work, I am discovering that my work in student affairs is very unique, but at the same time, our field of student affairs offers tons of transferable skills!

Think about the favorite part of your job. Now think about what other kinds of college jobs, academic or student services-related, your skills can apply to. Studies continue to show that you will change jobs approximately seven times in your life time. At some point, you will face budget cuts. You might come to a time when you want to be closer to a loved one. You will most likely find a life partner, and their job might affect where you work. And sometimes, you’re just ready to make a change. So, thinking outside the Student Affairs Box is useful!

I wasn’t working on a college campus in 2014, but when I look back at the year, I used a lot of the skills I used in student affairs. So many, in fact, that I came up with the A to Z skills that every Student Affairs professional most likely has and probably use every day.

A – Accounting. Many student affairs professionals, including myself, have experience managing either a Student Activities, Student Center or a Student Body fee. If we don’t document and account for the money of the students, students will come after us with questions and demands. This past year, while serving on my twin club board, I found myself addressing the importance of documenting and accounting of expenses.

B – Budgeting. Every year we teach and advise our AS students on budgeting their money for the upcoming year’s activities. Budget skills are a huge asset at most jobs. When my husband and I moved to one income, we signed up for It helped us handle all the changes, helped me with applying my budgeting skills, and kept us from going over budget.

C – Conflict Resolution. An excellent student affairs pro knows how to defuse a student conflict and to get a group of students or adults to work together. Now imagine two toddlers learning to play together. I’m defusing mini conflicts on a daily basis!

D – Developer. Student development is the foundation for anyone who works in Student Affairs, and the great thing about having developer skills is that you can work easily with others: you have the ability bring home the development side of any project. Every company, city government and non-profit is looking for employees who support the development of their services and others.

When I was co-leading my twin club garage sale, I put an emphasis on growing as a team as much as developing our sale. I started each planning meeting with an ice breaker/check in because I wanted the members to get more out of their experience. At the last planning meeting, I had everyone share what they learned from the experience. It was great to hear everyone’s answers, and I thought the exercise gave us that extra push of energy and support to make it through our three day event.

E – Experience. If there is one thing I learned from my stay at home in 2014 it is that experience is something you take with you to any job, to any activity, to any group. Trust yourself and your talents when you are transitioning to a new campus, a new stage of life or a new career field! Any work experience you have will benefit your new place of work, even if the environments are totally different.

F – First To Know. Student affairs professionals are trained to have a thumb on the student pulse so that our deans, vice presidents and even our college presidents are not caught off guard. Think about it: we work so close with students that we are often the first to hear things. How often have you picked up the phone or walked into the college president’s office right after you heard of a student disruption or an unfavorable agenda item? This skill is huge when building trust, especially with supervisors, at any job or on any team. It shows you have excellent communication skills.

G – Group Facilitation. I’m at my best when I’m facilitating a group. It doesn’t always have to be the actual leading of the meeting: the real skill is to keep the meeting on track, and every group needs that kind of person. At my previous job, my student government officers appreciated me keeping them focused; currently I’m the person sending out the agenda and meeting reminders for my Chamber of Novato Leadership Team. Once we meet, I hand over the facilitation. If I need to, I step in and get us back on course.

H – Hotel Reservations. Need to book hotel and plane reservations for 10 people? Count on a student affairs professional to make it happen! With you have to take student leaders to three conferences a year you get this hotel reservation thing down – an easily transferable skill at any work place.

I – Ice Breakers. I love this skill! In my opinion, one of the top proficiencies that student affairs professionals bring to any department is the ability to lead a group in an ice breaker. Ice Breakers are huge! They build trust. They break up a day or meeting. They can be used in many different work situations, but not everyone is big on them. It takes someone with experience and confidence in the exercise to make the magic happen. If you are forming a new team or leading a work retreat, volunteer to lead the ice breaker. In a job interview, don’t forget to sell yourself on that skill.

J – Jump. Student affairs professionals have an amazing ability to jump from one task to another: While I was volunteering to co-coordinate my twin clubs annual garage sale fundraiser, I remember thinking: “If I can run a college commencement, I can do this.” Come that Saturday morning, before we were ready to open the doors to the public, after thousands of items from 94 different sellers where organized and ready to be sold, I took a deep breath and rocked it for the next 8 hours! I jumped from helping the cashiers to moving items, to making sure the bathrooms were stocked, to unloading the racks in our club’s storage. I loved it. Having the skills to move from one task to another is huge and I’m grateful to my years in student affairs for making me an excellent floater.

K – Keeper Of Documents. Who is better at keeping documents than a student government advisor? Just watch yourself every time the students vote to approve a financial expense! I bet you are back in your office filing away a document to document the vote, keeping a paper trail of every decision that has been made. It is all about history and transparency.

L – Learning. The ability to incorporate learning into your work with others is a skill worth sharing. Some of us love learning and it shows in our work. Some of us love supporting others learning and always find a way to ask the question, “What did do you learn from it?”

M – Multi-Department Management. Student affairs teaches us how to manage more than one program. Because campuses and budgets are small, many of us often find ourselves managing multiple programs and projects. Companies and agencies appreciate someone who is capable of managing more than one area.

N – Negotiation. Student affairs pros always negotiate with concert promoters, speaker managers, students & administration. This is valuable experience that any place of work benefits from. Think of a time you negotiated to positive results! It also helps at home! This past year, I had to negotiate with my husband on who was going to get up during the night feedings. (Remember, we had twins so this it was double night feedings).The result was a happy wife, and a happy life.

O – Opportunity. Student affairs is a field of opportunity. There are always new programs in development and new students arriving on campus. Which means that you too can find new opportunities when you need them! The key is to not sell yourself short. As I mentioned, many people might not understand what you did for a living but remember, you bring unique skills that can benefit many places of work.

P – Promoter. Who is the person handing out flyers to upcoming campus events during the monthly managers meetings or the weekly staff meetings? The student affairs professional, of course. I don’t know a single SA professional who is not a promoter.  When I enrolled in my local Chamber Leadership Class I had been home with my twins (and away from a college campus) for over a year. During my first leadership class we took the DISC personality assessment and predictably, I scored in the Promoter area. I kind of laughed to myself. “Hmm.. how many past concert or speaker series posters have I held on to? When was I not handing out flyers on a daily basis before I went home with the twins?”

Q – Qualification. Never doubt that you are not qualified. The challenge with finding a new job or transferring to a new area is that sometimes, it takes more than skills to land a new job. You also have to find the right fit. It takes rewriting a cover letter. It takes practice on selling yourself. It might even take starting over. And that is okay. We are all qualified for the next job we will do. Trust yourself.

R – Retreat Planning. When I think of my ‘top five musts’ at any job I do, I always put retreat planning on my list. I love the planning of, and the experience of going on, a retreat. Retreat planning brings out our teaching, facilitating, organizing and creative skills. When my students return after moving on, they always tell me that our AS Retreats is one of their favorite memories.

S – Shopping. As a student affairs professional, you know your way around Smart & Final, Office Depot, Costco, Custom Ink and countless other stores. Think about all the shopping you do when you plan events! Depending on where you work next, that experience will come in handy to get the best deals for the next company event!

T – Team Building. Team building skills are needed everywhere, and most places of work rely on team projects to make things happen. Use your knowledge in personality assessments, team dynamics, and trust-building to make your current or next place of work shine.

U – Unity and Social Justice. When a campus is in crisis, people look to the student affairs professional to provide insight, support and advice. Beyond our experience and training in diversity, social justice, and advocacy, we have the innate ability to bring people together.

V – Visionary. Every year, you must lead a group of students to think big and envision what the upcoming school year will look like. Each year, in your program review, you have to envision what students will learn, what your department will achieve and how you are going to make it all happen. That vision will be useful anywhere!

W – Willingness To Try New Things. We constantly encourage our students to try something new.  As one student affairs pro to another, I encourage you to try something new! There is usually a reason we give this advice. Maybe our students are stuck planning the same kind of events. Maybe one of our students is lost. We have this ability to encourage others and to try new things in our lives too. This past year, I tried writing more and got published. I tried leading a group of women who where not students but fellow twin moms and made a whole new group of friends. If your boss or you see a new opportunity come up, go for it. I know you can naturally do it.

X – Roman Numerals. Don’t you just love it when your student government insists on numbering their agendas with roman numerals? How is it that, even after 20 years of high school, I still use roman numerals?

Y – Young At Heart. There is an old saying that working with college students keeps you young at heart. It’s true! It also flows right into our last letter: Z.

Z – Zip Line. If you have been on a retreat with a ropes course, you have probably gone on the zip line. And this zip line brought you back to life. I’ll always remember my first retreat after I had given birth to my son Sam: it was 8 months later, and I was back at work on my AS Fall Leadership Retreat. As I stood there, watching my students go on the zip line, something happened: I usually pass on the zip line! But this time, something came over me. “If I can give birth, I can do this.” So I climbed up, wearing my favorite AS t-shirt, listening to my students cheering in the background. And as I pushed off I felt a huge wave of energy. The kind of exhilaration that reminds you that are always young at heart. Always. At the end, we took an amazing group photo and I never felt more alive.

Okay: I’ve given you 26 reasons, words, skills why YOU can work wherever life takes you and wherever you want to go. Any place would love to gain the skill set of a student affairs professional, be it in leading the ice breaker or in leading the team through the Zip Line.

blog check in End P

Checking In-Twins at Sweet Sixteen Months

Reading:  Driving Lessons, a novel by Zoe Fishman

Watching: The twins go everywhere! I don’t think an hour goes by where you don’t hear my husband or myself say, “Where’s the other one?”

Listening to: Praise. Earlier today, I was at my local Starbucks getting some Me/writing time in. Near me was a teenage being tutored. I happen to hear her say to her tutor that she never thought she could be tutored or really enjoy it. Now she does.

Looking forward to: Every day. It kind of goes with my black board quote photo: “Endless Possibilities”. Each day offers us something new to learn. To experience. To love. If you get the chance, every day offers something to look forward to. If you think about it, children bring you endless possibilities because you never know where they will take you, where they will want to go, or what they will be become. At the same time, you too have endless possibilities. I never thought I would have twins or would marry a man from Germany and be able to travel there! We set the sails but it is the wind that takes us.

Sam Update: Joined his first club. Drum’s the Lego Club! He even has the Lego Club schedule flyer handing on his wall above his bed. He also loves to tell me his plans. He likes to tell me what is suppose to happen tomorrow, the upcoming weekend, what we need to do, who will be there, etc. Like mother, like son.

Twin Update: Sweet Sixteen Months. This month the girls turned the Sweet Sixteen Months and it has been living up to its name. The girls are so sweet, funny, and caring. They love to eat. They love to hold their stuff animal while they explore the backyard. They love to dance, play with water, and play together. They also love to take things from each other. When they are both hungry or thirsty, they both love coming at me, pulling at me, trying to tell me what they want. Then once I give them something to eat or drink, they calm down, laugh and run off to play. It reminds me of the endless things I can and need to teach them while I’m still home with them.

Meaning of home: Decorative Pillows. Do you have that one thing you do that adds something to your home? That brightens up a room or makes a chair or couch come alive? OR maybe it is a new piece of art or new flower out front? For me it is a new decorative pillow. It seems so small, yet it makes a huge difference to me and to our home. There is something about being able to go to a place in your home and relax. Or for your kids to climb and play. This week, I added a couple new pillows to our couch and before I knew it,  I was watching the kids have the time of their life throwing themselves on the pillows. For me, as I snuggled in for my evening T.V. watching, I lean my head back on the pillows and knew I was home :)


Bucket List

1) Give a TedTalk
2) Work at a University
3) Run for public office
4) Take my kids to Disneyland
5) Take my kids to the Grand Hyatt in Kauai
6) Host a baby shower/house warming party in our new house
7) Travel to Spain
8) Walk some part of the Appalachian Trail
9) Walk the Santiago De Compostela
10) Be there for my parents



Successful Teams = Life-Long Friendships Made

Growing up, my parents sent my sister and I to a small Catholic elementary school called Mount St. Mary’s. I pretty much had the same classmates from 1st to 8th grade. What they didn’t realize they were doing by sending me to MSM was that I would experience the magic of forming life long friends. When high school arrived, majority of them went to the a different high school and myself and one other classmate went to the other local high school. As I moved through high school, I yearn to experience that close-knit group feeling. It wasn’t until I went to college and joined the Associated Students Productions Programming board and living on campus that I would meet a group of people who would then become life long friends.

I tell this story because it hit me today, as I looked out on to the college soccer fields, that it was just last May, I lead a group of student leaders who formed a bond that will forever give them life-long friends. It was on the same soccer field that Jose Mayen (AS VP) and Doris Vargas (PTK VP) started a tradition of Student Government vs Phi Theta Kappa Honors “end of the year” soccer game. I was looking out onto the soccer fields because a week ago, we lost Jose to a car accident. In my 12 years of advising student leaders, he was the first student leader I ever lost. His leadership, he willingness to include everyone, and his ability to be there for his team made last year’s student government team bond so well, they all became life long friends. As they all learned about Jose’s passing, it hit me how much they had grown to appreciate each other. Something that comes not too often. It makes me really proud that I was part of it.

Student life departments, student leadership programs, student engagement practices in the classroom; they all offer students the opportunity to bond with other students. They get to experience what is feels like to be part of a team either from experiencing an overnight leadership retreat together, weekend conference or simply meeting every week. And maybe, if the timing is right and so is that advisor or teacher, the students will form friendships that will last a lifetime.

In the field of student affairs, you have to ask yourself, do you have the magic, the energy, the desire, to build student teams? Do you know the tools? It can be learned. It for sure comes with practice. And boy, I pray you get to experience it some day. And I pray you also have a student like Jose.

Below is a picture of 2011-2012 ASCC board at their Spring Leadership Retreat. Jose is in the back row, 3rd person from the left.



Checking In

Reading: For me, when I have more than one book on my night stand, I end up reading none of them. Then I go out and get a whole different book. Last Sunday, did just that. Picked up “The Paris Wife” by Paula McLain at an independent bookstore in Truckee CA called Bookshelf. The novel is a love story from the point of view of Ernest Hemingway’s wife Hadley Richardson.
: Most Sunday mornings between 8am-9am, you can find me enjoying breakfast, the Sunday paper and watching “ABC News This Week with George Stephanopoulos”. Love the round table discussions. Huge fan of Donna Brazile.
Listening to:
 The Zac Brown Band. As I write this, they are preforming for the pre-show for the Daytona 500 which I might add, has the first female driver ever in the Pole Position. Go Danica Patrick!!
Thankful for:  Being part of the Redwood city/San Mateo/San Carlos Leadership Class. We meet once a month. Next month’s theme is City Government. I’ve really enjoyed learning about economic development, local housing, and transportation.
Looking forward to: Just saw in March Oprah Magazine there is a new book coming out about Secretary of State Hilary Clinton called “The Secretary: A Journey with Hilary Clinton from Beirut to the Heart of American Power” by Kim Ghattas.
Sam Update: Sam turned 3 last week and we are soo proud of him. I’m heading into the “final 100 laps” of my twin pregnancy and Sam is doing really well handling what I can and cannot do with him. He already is a great helper.


Checking In

Reading: Still enjoying Jennifer Weiner latest novel “The Next Best Thing”
Enjoyed the Olympics. Right now, nothing particular. Might get sucked into a Lifetime movie on the weekends.
Thankful for:
Sonoma County Goat Cheese at Costco. Sounds kind of random, but it is so affordable and I’m loving it on everything.
Looking forward to:


Just Back From: Big Island Hawaii

Inspired from the S.F. Gate Sunday paper “Just Back From” Travel section.

Hilton Waikola Village

I went because: We have never been to the Big Island and found a great deal on Costco Travel. It also was our time of the year to take a vacation, just the two of us. So important when you are parents.
Don’t miss: Kona Brewing Company, driving out to the Northwest Point in Hawi, and swimming in the awesome salt water lagoon at the Hilton Waikola Village.
Don’t bother: Planning. Each day, let yourself go with the flow and see what comes to mind that you want to do.
Coolest souvenir: Big Island shaped Christmas ornament and a very cute dress at this tiny local store in the tiny town of Hawi.
Worth a splurge: Going on vacation to the Big Island! If you have not booked a real vacation to happen in the next 6 months, do it today! Oh, and rent a jeep!
Other comments: We’ve been to Kauai and Maui. I have to say the Big Island is truly big but so peaceful, relaxing and spiritual. I loved how the land was open and undeveloped.



Thursday, July 15-word of the day “Joy”
Centered in God, I joyfully allow my good.

I am joyful even as I feel the need for something more in my life. Whether I desire financial abundance, a healthy body or a closer walk with God, I know with complete faith and trust that it is now coming into being. I’m willing to experience the joyful stage of waiting in the creative process. My life is always expanding, so I choose to be joyful while anticipating my highest good!

I put my mind on God and appreciate the continuous creative process of asking and receiving. I am deeply grateful as I receive the blessings of answered prayer. Every day is a miracle, filled with opportunities to give and to receive. In joyful awareness of God, I am open and receptive to my greatest good.


Defying Gravity

I recently came across the Glee recording of “Defying Gravity” from the musical Wicked on YouTube. It got me thinking about all the things that have happen in the last year that has ‘defying gravity’ or another way of seeing it- took risk.
-the show “Glee”.
-for those who let go of one job and took another or let a job go to find the one meant for them.
-for those who took the leap of marriage.
-investing in your health, future.
-having a baby.
-saying yes when you thought you wanted to say no and then saying no when you know yourself too well and would have said yes.


Birthing and Beyond Meditation

With the baby coming in less than a month, I’ve started to read books on labor. My mom got me this great labor booked called “Better Birthing with Hypnosis, mindful Pregnancy and easy labor using the Leclaire Childbirth Method” by Michelle Leclaire O’Neill, Ph.D., R.N. I’ve starting skimming it and I came across this wonderful meditation about staying in touch your purpose and body. It could be used for more than labor. Here are a few lines from the mediation. Page 180:

  • Feet: Walk your own path. What does that mean to you?
  • Legs: Support yourself and get proper support from others.
  • Hands: Reach out and hold onto what you want and need. Let go of what you don’t need or want.
  • Arms: Comfort and embrace yourself, your baby, and others whom you chose.
  • Shoulders: Carry what you want and need. Let go of the rest. Ask your own inner guide or your own higher power for the wisdom to know the difference.
  • Eyes: See what you choose to see. Fill your eyes with beauty. Choose your literature, television, and movies carefully. Spend as much time as you can in nature in the midst of wherever you are. While you’re pregnant, make a list of what you want to to show your baby.