Two Career Challenges That Don’t Have to be Roadblocks

September 14, 2016

By Ellen H. Badger and Shawna Szabo

Throughout your career, you will be faced with unavoidable realities that may disrupt your journey. Rather than having these realities affect you in a negative way, why not turn lemons into lemonade? Transforming a possibly negative situation into a positive one is not easy, but it is a skill that certainly can be learned.

During our Career Center Speaker Series presentation at NAFSA 2016 in Denver, we discussed a number of these “career realities” and offered different strategies for dealing with them. We’ve chosen to focus on two for this blog: the increased mobility of employees and the challenge of unfilled staff vacancies. 

Employee Mobility

Let’s look at the increased mobility of employees first. In today’s workforce, people rarely stay with the same employer for 20 years. But this reality could be a potential opportunity for you.

If you’re a supervisor, be proactive about the inevitability of staff departures by having your staff engage in cross training. If you’re a staff member, discuss this idea with your supervisor as something you would like to pursue. Not only does cross training help enhance skills and knowledge in areas outside of assigned job duties, it also ensures your institution is providing the best customer service during staff absences or vacancies.

The first months can often be exciting for new employees, but they can also be a time of uncertainty, stress, and confusion. One way to anticipate this situation is to develop a mentor program. A fellow staff member who is available to provide support, encouragement, and assistance during the first critical months of employment can greatly enhance a new employee’s success. Being a mentor can also highlight your profile within your institution and develop your networking skills.

Unfilled Vacancies

Now let’s look at the career reality of unfilled staff vacancies. While some vacancies will be filled once a qualified candidate is found, sometimes a position will be deliberately left unfilled, usually as a cost-savings measure. Unfortunately, the work doesn’t go away with the position, it just gets redistributed. That may mean your workload (and likely the workload of some of your colleagues) will increase. But additional tasks don’t have to send you off the road and into a ditch. You might be more in the driver’s seat on this one than you realize.

Start by taking control of the situation. Consult with your supervisor about prioritizing your assignments, and determine whether some things may have to be paused. Have you already been cross-trained on your new tasks? If not, training will definitely be a priority. This may be the time for the entire staff to come together and brainstorm ideas for the best way to manage workload. Staff will feel empowered if their ideas are implemented.


Ellen Badger is retired from Binghamton University - State University of New York. Shawna Szabo is international student adviser at the Rochester Institute of Technology. For more resources, advice, and information to take your international education career to the next level, visit the NAFSA Career Center today.


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