“The only thing constant in the world is change. That’s why today I take life as it comes.” India Arie
The lyrics above are from a song called “Growth” by neo soul artist India Arie. I was driving the other day when this song came on the radio and as I listened to the words—really listened–I began to reflect on my personal and professional life. As I reflected on the last six years of my professional journey, all I could say is, “my life did not go according to MY plan!” Although I took extreme care to plan my trajectory, change was (and still is) inevitable.
In 2007, I was about to complete a Masters degree in Public Health. I was so excited abut this accomplishment and was looking ahead to my next goal of pursuing a Ph.D. in Health Education. My desire was to help young people become more informed about their health, guiding them on how to make healthier decisions. In June 2007 I was working a new student orientation when a student approached my table asking about getting involved on campus and how they could be a student leader. At that very moment the plan I had designed for my life took a different direction. That one encounter ignited in me the desire to change my plan to switch from Health Education to Higher Education. Although I had previously had hundreds of student interactions before, this particular one changed the course of my career and academic pursuits.
I was accepted into a Ph.D. program and secured a full-time job in admissions. I loved my job. The opportunities to travel, meet students and families, attending college fairs, and help students make their college decision was fulfilling. In the midst of things moving along fairly well, then change happen yet again. Little did I know that a life-altering change was about to happen. This next change created a new path that I never would have imagined because it was not according to my plan. But I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason and for a greater purpose.
In the summer of 2008, due to family related issues I resigned from my job in admissions and relocated near my hometown. There, at a local university, I became a Residence Hall Coordinator. The university was a lot smaller—and so was my salary. Initially, it was a difficult transition into the RHC position. I felt like the students did not like me, many of the staff seemed reluctant to my ideas, and as a result, I regretted this new career and life change. I considered this a career setback.
After the first semester, things began to look brighter. I began to meet more people on campus, participate on different committees, and establish relationships with more students. There began to be some sunshine peaking on this experience. My plan was to remain working in Residence Life for two or three years, start a Ph.D. program, and find opportunities outside the university. Once again, my plan changed.
Due in part to the relationships I had built across campus and my work ethic, I was promoted within eight months. I moved from Residence Life to Financial Aid, where I was charged with developing the university’s financial literacy curriculum and managing scholarships—and it was a great fit. I was able to build relationships with students, academic departments, and college access partners. I was afforded the opportunity to write grants, develop new programs and supervise staff. In 2010, I told myself I would remain in the position until I completed my degree. I would complete my degree in four years and be ready to move into senior-level leadership roles.
In the spring of 2011, my path took another diversion.
I was asked by the Provost to oversee the implementation of a new college. I was totally honored, shocked, and scared. This confirmed for me that I had been doing a good job within my position and as one of mentors told me, “your gift will make room for you.”
I humbly accepted the position. Two years later, I am still here.
In sharing this story, the overall message I hope to communicate is that change is inevitable, but necessary. As women, I believe we are designed to be planners. We like to ensure all our ducks are in a row for a particular event, program or life situation—and when change comes we at times do not manage it very well. The fear of the uncertainty can be overpowering and overwhelming for many of us. However, when change causes a setback, that setback is preparing you for a comeback that will be amazing.
When it comes to your career and life, plan for two things–plan to make an impact, and plan to have passion. Be open to change and embrace it when it comes. You never know, the next change can catapult your life to a greater level of success.
Stephanie Krah is the Associate Dean of University College at Central State University. You can follow Stephanie on Twitter @StephanieKrah.