3-minute mentor: Growing your career when moving isn’t an option

June 24, 2019
  • Professional Well-Being
  • Registration & Records
  • Mentoring
  • mentorship
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Not everyone can move among different institutions to find their career fit. For some professionals, familial obligations and other ties to an area mean it’s not so simple to make a change.

This was the case for Meredith Braz, Registrar of the College at Dartmouth College, who instead of moving early in her Registrar career, took advantage of opportunities at her current institution as well as both NEACRAO and AACRAO.

Your personal life matters

When Braz’s children were young, she worked sometimes part-time and sometimes from home in roles such as a technical test writer for an educational firm and staff in the Admissions Office at the institution where she earned her Master’s in History. As her youngest child grew up, she shifted more time into work, eventually taking a position as Assistant Registrar at Bates College.

Braz was tasked with modernizing an office which needed to adapt to changing technologies and demands. Her job became a familiar one to many registrars in smaller offices -- an amalgamation of multiple roles and responsibilities -- and in time she was promoted to Director of Student Financial Services, overseeing the Registrar, student billing, and financial aid offices. Supported by colleagues in NEACRAO and AACRAO, Braz ultimately determined her interests lay in the academic side, not financial.

In her fourteen years at Bates, Braz worked her way up to Dean of Academic Systems, and never sought to relocate as others climbing the career ladder do.

“Location does matter when you have a family,” she said. Uprooting her young family in pursuit of a career change didn’t make sense to Braz, plus she found ways to grow at her institution.

Learn the culture before making changes

Later, when her children were older and the timing was right, Braz accepted the Registrar position at Dartmouth College. Figuring out the office culture, dynamics, and college rules was not easy after being comfortable and well-known at her former institution for fourteen years.

“I was surprised by how hard it was to be new at Dartmouth,” she said. The staff was less intimate than what she was used to at Bates, and she had to build new relationships. It took time to figure out how to restructure her office and implement improvements, as well as develop the skills and adaptability of her staff. But that patience paid off: Braz has led over 100 projects at Dartmouth, and also served as NEACRAO president in 2006 and AACRAO Vice President for Leadership Development in 2018.

“It is important to contribute and expand your knowledge and understanding of higher education beyond your institutional role,” she stated.

Remember: We’re not in it for kudos

Braz loves her profession -- the variety of work and the ever-evolving nature of the field and especially the relationships with her colleagues -- but she observed that it can be a “thankless job.”

“You could work tirelessly on a two-year long project and it is possible no one will notice it,” she said. “Most people have no idea what goes into our work, or even what we do.”

The sense of satisfaction has to come from knowledge of a job well done. That knowledge can also motivate a leader to endeavor to recognize others’ accomplishments -- especially staff, Braz advised.