Academic Advisors and Versatility

Academic Advisors are versatile

Full disclosure: I am currently an academic advisor. It’s my first full-time academic advising experience. I actually was quite pro-active about avoiding academic advising experiences when I was in graduate school. I never thought that I would be an academic advisor. I’ve been in my current advising position for 3 years. It’s been an incredible experience. Having said that, this post is not about me. It’s for anyone who has ever been an academic advisor who has dealt with the subject matter of this post.

A friend of mine is an academic advisor. She’s currently looking for a new position within student affairs. Having applied for several positions that have not yielded an offer. She came to the conclusion that having “academic advisor” at the top of her most recent experiences on her resume was resulting in her application being ignored or devalued. We chatted about how her resume could be re-worked to be more of a skills-based document. While I wasn’t happy about the apparent devaluing of academic advising that seemed to be occurring, I could empathize with both my friend and prospective hiring departments.

The state of academic advising in higher education is that it is a field that is predominantly seen as being in academic affairs. What this means is that while academic advisors may do exactly the same kinds of work as their student affairs colleagues, they might not be recognized for this due to the “silo effect” in higher education.

A lot of folks who are in charge of student affairs hires are looking for people with experiences and credentials that match the positions for which they are hiring. For example, let’s say that a student affairs unit is looking for an Assistant Director of Greek Life. Resumes with “Academic Advisor” on them might not be given as much consideration as they should do to the aforementioned “silo” mindset.

I would like to re-introduce anyone who has not thought of academic advisors as “versatile” to the myriad of skills that are required to be an academic advisor:

  • Listening and Empathy: The cornerstone of any practitioner’s toolkit.
  • Oral and written communication: We talk more and write more than most people…and that’s just the first hour of our day.
  • Knowledge of FERPA: Others may make the policy, we are the ones who have to walk the tightrope of privacy.
  • Ability to work with ANYONE on campus. Students, staff, faculty, parents, family members, etc.
  • Knowledge of student development theory: Academic advisors are the epitome of challenge and support. Thanks Sanford!
  • Event planning and management: Workshops don’t come out of thin air.
  • Public speaking: small groups to gigantor-sized groups. Hello orientation!
  • Collaboration: We have to know everyone on campus. It’s just a fact.
  • Career advice: Grad school, career planning, pro school, life..we set our students on the path to success.
  • Student Org Advising: What, you didn’t think that we just sat in our offices all of the time. We lead individuals and groups.
  • Teaching: We teach students in both individual and classroom settings.
  • Learning outcomes and assessment: We not only set goals and strive to reach targeted outcomes, but we also engage in comprehensive assessment projects.

According to the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education: “Academic advising is one of the very few institutional functions that connect all students to the institution.” Academic advisors are versatile. It’s part of the gig. Will someone please hire my friend now?

The next time you see “academic advisor” on someone’s resume, give it a thorough read.