Why I Left Student Affairs To Become An Entrepreneur

Original post on LinkedIn, when I started this journey in 2015. 

About five months ago, I made the decision to leave my job in student affairs, specifically residence life, to explore interests I’ve had for some time. Leaving my first full-time position after ten months was an unexpected obstacle I faced at the beginning of my professional career. I’ve always been a student affairs fan: I knew I wanted to be a residence director my sophomore year in college and I was involved with everything under the umbrella of involvement.

After graduating with a Bachelor's in business management and public relations along with a college student personnel Master's degree, I held onto that vision. With it included a five- to ten-year plan of becoming a living-learning community specialist and a director of residence life. By the time I was ready to move onto the “new professional” stage of my career as an area coordinator, I felt overcome with anxiety. I was finally out on my own – no grad classes or long readings to complete on Saturday nights. I felt ready for this stage but I did not feel like I fit into structures that student affairs professionals often impose on themselves or new professionals in the field. Some of the only ways I felt reinvigorated was through a great #sachat discussion or connecting with colleagues and students in work environments that prioritized creativity and collaboration. My inner voice told me to stop complaining. Everyone I knew on the job search wanted to get a job as soon as possible after grad school, so I put my head down and tried to find ways to love my job.

So I did- I worked hard, took risks, and created some new diversity initiatives within my position and on campus. I also incorporated social media and marketing practices into my work. I truly wanted to make the student experience more enjoyable while sharing my experiences and teaching others about modern technology. However, I noticed these interests outside of my position started to become a priority in my first year as a student affairs educator. Unfortunately, my job wasn’t challenging me in the ways I’d wanted it to.

Something else had been on my mind as I began my career. I had seen women in leadership roles that seemed like they couldn’t move up the student affairs ladder (never mind queer women). How long would it take me to “climb the ladder” and prove I was worth it? Why did I feel like I had to? Things like work/life balance and lack of women in leadership positions in a field heavily populated by women made me think advancing was impossible (in addition to moving across the country if I wanted to take higher level positions in the future). Considering the quality of life and systematic deterrents I decided to consider entrepreneurship in higher education instead.

I hope it’s understood that I enjoyed my time in student affairs and loved making impactful contributions with students and colleagues. However, I felt my greatest contributions to the field would be utilizing my talent to bring innovative tools to my colleagues and bringing more diversity to a field where we’re lacking diversity. I realize the entrepreneurial field has it’s own drawbacks, but I know the opportunities and skills I’m obtaining will help me give back to the field of higher education more than before. Although not the “dream” job I’d imagined as a director of residence life, I’m happier than I’ve been in a long time.

In the short time I’ve been with our startup company, I’ve increased my sense of resiliency, self-confidence, and sense of self twofold. Pushing myself to apply to a position that aligned with my professional goals outside of my comfort zone has strengthened my inner voice immensely. Now, on the outside looking in, I encourage women who are new professionals in student affairs to lift each other up, create strong networks, and have real conversations about opportunities for women who look to advance in the field. The jump from student affairs to higher education has allowed me to dive into my life of authenticity and I hope that all women have a chance to feel a similar way.

Post update:

I left my job in January to pursue coaching full-time.