In my last blog post, I advocated for the usefulness of writing in advising (“Sharpen Those Pencils!” November 3, 2016). Well, keep those pencils handy and those notebooks open, because in this blog post I’m going to encourage you to go to class!
You may not realize how many practical—and often fun!—trainings are available through the FSU Human Resources department. (Of course, they are all free.) These trainings can be a tremendous asset to any advisor, new or seasoned. They are great resume’ builders; but more importantly, they are great skill builders. The trainings pertinent to advising fall into two broad categories. First, I will highlight those that can teach “soft skills.” Second, I will share which trainings help us work with special advising populations.
“Soft skills” are non-technical skills needed in any career, such as the ability to communicate or work well with others. The first skill-builder I encourage is any of the courses in the Customer Service Certificate. Although we do not work a traditional customer service job, we all know that customer service skills are vital to building strong relationships with students, faculty, staff, and parents. The customer service classes include topics such as “Speaking your Customer’s Language,” (a general approach to customer service) and “Working with You is Killing Me” (on working with difficult people). I attended “Speaking your Customer’s Language” and enjoyed it. Like many of the trainings, it had a passionate and engaging teacher. Customer service is such an important tool in advising because we aim to share a positive attitude with every student who walks in our door, regardless of the situation at hand.
FSU also provides us with opportunities to take leadership classes. Human Resources offers a certificate in Frontline Leadership. While not all of the courses will apply to advising, certain key classes will give us useful skills. Most of these trainings cover specific supervisory issues, such as “Internal Controls and Fraud.” Obviously, that will not be pertinent to advising. But “Team Dynamics” sounds incredibly useful. This course will help you discover your personal leadership style and learn how to best interact with a team. We definitely all need to be working to build the strongest teams we can in our sites, on our committees, and in Advising First.
Beyond general soft skills, some trainings help you advise particular student populations. This group of courses are probably the most useful to advisors, especially those new to the job. My first elective training was “Seminole Allies and Safe Zones.” This class covers issues of sexual orientation and gender identity. It is an all-around great class: informative, interesting, and fun. It will help you be reflective about your own identity. It will help you advise students in the LGBTQ community—or really any student with a sexuality (ie, everybody!).
Beyond taking a class or two, you can work on certificates that will better prepare you for advising various student populations. The Center for Global Engagement offers a Global Citizenship Certificate. These courses teach cultural competencies that will help you advise international students, or any student coming from a cultural background different from your own. The Diversity and Inclusion Council also offers a certificate.
The Diversity & Inclusion Certificate will have you taking courses on matters of race, disability, intercultural encounters, sexuality, and inclusive language. This certificate is the most comprehensive for developing the broad swath of skills needed to work with Florida State’s—or any university’s—diverse student body. What is particularly useful about the Diversity & Inclusion Certificate is its emphasize on moving from theory to practice. After completing coursework, one must conduct a capstone project for the certificate. The emphasis is on incorporating the knowledge into your work, and on being creative with your execution of new ideas. That requirement provoked the advising team in one of my sites to start thinking seriously about how we can work on the diversity issues particular to our academic department.
Signing up for a training is easy: on your myFSU page, expand the list under “Training & Development.” Next choose “Request Training Enrollment,” even before you pick the class you want. That tool will let you look for classes by title, or browse by date to see what is coming up. You do not have to commit to an entire certificate—you can start by choosing a class that sounds interesting to you. Of course, communicate with your site supervisor that you will be out of the office for the class. Then just show up, with your pencil and paper, ready to learn!
This article was authored by Elizabeth Scott, Advisor in Computer Science and Math.