The critical Renaissance, Entrepreneur skills necessary to thrive as an admissions professional does not only apply to the Director but ideally to his or her staff as well. I have always felt that through our formative years we have been born with and developed certain talents and as well as certain skills. Essentially, at a certain age we have a core package of skills and talents that we present to prospective employers. Things like a positive attitude, a kind nature or being a clear communicator.
Clearly, many admissions skills are not held by potential candidates for the simple reason there is virtually nowhere that one can get a degree in Enrollment Management. Rather, it usually comes from on-the-job training. Assuming this, there are some core skills and talents that will not only allow your potential employee to succeed and hopefully thrive in admissions individually but become a crucial component to the success of your office.
Moving forward, you can no longer be satisfied with the limited talents required by the admission office needs and structure of the past. In the past and unfortunately still today, many young people come to admissions almost by default. For example, a school may have a need for a part time coach but the person needs full time work. Consequently, the Head of School may come to you and say… “I have got this great guy, wonderful personality and I know that he would be great for admissions…” or the head or a trustee sends you the son of a wealthy donor who just graduated from college and needs a job, since his English Literature degree just isn’t opening many doors. Consequently, and they want him to start in admissions, since the English department chair is not about take a chance on this rookie…but somehow admissions should. Lastly, how about the woman who is an alum and just loves the school and wants to tell all the prospective parents and students about the school.
Unfortunately, these alums present a particular challenge as they may love the school and teachers deeply, but are many times used to being catered to by faculty as a student, and not experienced being in the role of employee and no longer afforded special perks that they came to expect as a student. I had an experience with one young woman who liked to sleep in and figured it was OK just as long as she got her work done at 10 PM…clearly, she was not a fit and didn’t last.
Unfortunately, the above personas have been standard paths for admissions employees. Commit yourself, as the Director, to develop an awareness for the skills and talents you need for the entrepreneurial admission office staff, but also the type of person that would fit needs and culture of your office. As a starting point your own faculty is a great place to look as the have an insight into the school, as well as someone you can perhaps groom for a future date. It is effective that you let it be known that you would like to speak to anyone who is interested in learning more about the profession. Keep your eyes open for the teacher who, when you ask for help giving information about events at school to promote the school through social media, this teacher responds quickly and seems to want more responsibilities outside of her subject matter. You also get a chance to see their other attributes.
Additionally, be aware of people you interact in your personal life who might present themselves as a potential fit…Also, remember that just because someone has come from another admission office, does not mean that they have what you are looking for. Grooming someone with raw but great potential and willingness to learn quickly may be the way to go.
Regardless of where you ultimately find your next staff person, I feel that the following skills and talents are important to have. Clearly, a love of education and its benefits to the future life success of students is paramount. Furthermore, an upbeat person that hits the office with a smile on their face and an excitement for accomplishing goals for the day is also important. When promoting the school with enthusiasm, is a talent that can never be underestimated. Obviously the desire to truly help people and get satisfaction from the end results of matriculation is a trait that quickly builds trust and engagement by potential families. Additionally, the ability to communicate clearly on paper and face to face, and have a basic understanding of the social graces is also a must.
Furthermore, you must remember that past behavior is the greatest predictor of future behavior. Therefore, it is crucial to review and study their past jobs and social or athletic involvement. For example, if someone was the captain of the soccer team and a member of the debate team, they are probably an articulate leader. As far as athletics go, you are also looking for a person who is motivated and organized to achieve goals in their own life through their association with a team. It is particularly helpful, if they can articulate their professional goals. For them to have the desire to make more money by achieving results is not a bad thing either, as I advocate the discussion of commission and bonuses as part of the admission professional’s compensation.
The persona that I am describing you are probably thinking would be a tough combination for talents and skills to find in someone under 25 if not 30… and you would be right. So, if you don’t feel you have the time to intensely mentor a younger person, then my advice is to look for someone with proven life and personal skills and truly wants to grow in this highly competitive and fulfilling profession. Ultimately, no longer can the personas of the potential admission professionals merely be the alum with the great personality, or the son of the trustee, but rather they must possess a much wider core of personal and professional attributes, and a willingness to learn the additional knowledge necessary to become a true admission professional.