Cheri Kau and Michelle Tagorda, Advisor Training & Development Commission Members
The benefits of peer advisor programs are well known, most prominently for providing and supporting advisees with a relatable and approachable peer perspective. For peer advisors themselves, the experience also serves as an invaluable opportunity for professional development and can provide benefits similar to those that internships provide in other fields (Kring, 2005). The skills gained by students as they work in peer advising programs can be very transformative and influential in their plans following graduation (Zabel & Rothberger, 2012).
With increased interest and support by advisors and administrators, peer advisor programs are in greater demand on campuses, with more students interested in joining each year (Taylor, 2011). As the field of advising continues to grow, many students may look to peer advisor programs to explore potential pathways or to even start their career; support, guidance, and training are needed for these students as they transition into professional advising roles. Just as advisors teach their advisees to navigate the transition into college and prepare for careers, seasoned advisors and peer advising program administrators are in the ideal position to mentor their peer advisors and new professionals in order for them to thrive in their first professional position. Peer advisors are often taught academic curriculum and university policies through intensive training programs that prepare them to work oneon-one or in group settings with their peers. With a solid foundation to further develop advising skills, often some form of formal training, firsthand experience advising students, and fresh insight from their personal student experiences, these recent peer advisors should be considered to be competitive applicants for entry level positions and a positive asset to transition into new and established advising offices.
Peer advisors who are transitioning into professional roles must keep in mind a few things to help them with the transition. The following sections will help new professional navigate the transition by developing professional advising skills, learning advising competency areas, recognizing policy and politics and finding mentors.
A Guide for New Professionals (transitioning from peer advising)
Advising competency areas. An advisor early in their transition is often eager to advise students in her or his new role and may find this to be the most comfortable part of the job. But like any new advisor, it is essential to build key advising and administrative skills that come with being a professional by identifying the ways in which the role is different from a peer advising position. In a professional academic advising role, there are many skills and competency areas that new professionals need to learn for success in their first year.
To excel during the initial months as an early professional, it is important not to take the transition lightly. It is fundamental to have a candid conversation with your supervisor to clearly outline the roles and responsibilities of the position, along with related resources and institutional details such as advising structure and organizational culture (Blanchard & Andrews, 2015). Work with your supervisor to invest time early in training to learn what type of experience a peer advisor brings with them and how her or his academic background allows training schedules to be tailored and focused on areas that individual advisor needs to develop, similar to the way an advisor would work with a student to build an academic plan in developmental advising. For an individual guiding their own training, NACADA and related professional associations provide members formal and informal resources such as the Online Graduate Certificate in Academic Advising, New Advisor Guidebook: Mastering the Art of Academic Advising, Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook, the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources, and Academic Advising Today.
Learning policy and politics. Part of the training for new professionals includes staying current with academic policies common across institutions and policies unique to specific campuses and departments. Being familiar with the institution’s mission helps to shape the goals, objectives, and desired outcomes of academic advising (Ford, 2007), making it especially important for a new professional to spend time continuing to learn about the institution to expand on what he or she knows through their experience as a student and peer advisor. In addition to training on policies and procedures, new professionals with previous peer advising experience navigate through unique issues around building relationships and identifying boundaries. New professionals confront issues including “understanding organizational culture and its impact on work, thinking through career configurations, reflecting on the aspects of collegiate life that affect the way work unfolds, exploring the values and belief systems of the field” (Amey & Ressor, 2015, p. x). The transition involves working to build a professional presence among faculty and department administrators as colleagues rather than superiors (i.e. previous instructors, research mentors, etc.), as well as parents and students who might be similar or older in age or life experience. It entails developing relationships within the department to be effective advocates for student learning. In contrast to the experience as a peer advisor, new advisors must manage a professional presence with advisees while still remaining relatable to students.
Finding your mentors: Experienced and peer mentors. Navigating the transition can be overwhelming, but resources are available, and new professionals are not alone. Little (2010) explains the concept of knowledge management and the storage of wisdom that exists among seasoned advisors that is ideal for sharing with new advisors. Avenues for knowledge management are available through formal and informal gatherings of advisors within departments and across campuses. Working with mentors and developing professional advising networks are essential for promoting development, cultivating skills, and sharing resources (Bryant, Chagani, Endres, & Galvin, 2006). Peer advisors making the transition to professional advisors have the opportunity to tap into existing or familiar relationships and seek advice from peer advisor program directors and advising supervisors. Mentoring programs organized by an academic advising council on campus can also support new professionals who may not have an existing network on campus. New professionals can also benefit from relationships with colleagues experiencing the same transition. Through sharing cases, questions, and concerns, collectively, strategies can be developed to add to an advising toolkit and contribute to future career development.
A Guide for Administrators Hiring New Professionals (with peer advising backgrounds)
Developing advising skills. Moving into a professional advising position can seem daunting for any individual if not managed intentionally. A new professional may feel that their students or supervisor expects them to know everything from the start, or may put additional pressure on herself or himself expecting their peer advising background to have prepared them completely. Even with previous peer advising experience, it is paramount to remember “advisors gain experience over time, student by student, through an experiential synthesis of the conceptual, informational, and relational components of advising, much of their development occurs after the initial training program” (Folsom, 2008, p. 323). During training and throughout the first few years, supervisors should not take for granted that the responsibilities of an advisor are clearly understood. Peer advisors may have come from settings of limited advising capacities with little exposure to the multiple roles of their previous supervisors and may just now be learning that “academic advising is more than scheduling classes or tracking progress towards satisfaction of degree and program requirements” (Brown, 2008, p. 312). Supervisors are in an ideal position to help support new professionals by clearly providing expectations and roles for the new advisor.
Folsom, Joslin, and Yoder (2005) challenged administrators and seasoned advisors to provide new advisors realistic training to reach their potential. As individuals who work to support the holistic development of students, advisors should focus on supporting those who aspire to be the next leaders in academic advising and foster the success of the newest in their field: peer advisors. Now that the career pipeline into academic advising includes early professionals with peer advising experience, administrators of peer advising programs can use this information to implement professional development trainings to support peer advisors trying to start their careers in higher education.
Department of Biology
University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
HCOP Summer Bridge Coordinator
Student Equity, Excellence & Diversity
Office of Student Affairs
University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
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Brown, T. (2008). Critical concepts in advisor training and development. In V. N. Gordon, W. R. Habley, & T. J. Grites (Eds.), Academic advising: A comprehensive handbook (2nd ed., 309-322.). San Francisco, CA: JosseyBass.
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Little, T. (2010). Understanding knowledge management: Developing a foundation for future advising practices. Retrieved from NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Web site: https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Knowledge-management.aspx
Taylor, M. (2011). Professional advisor credentials, career ladders, and salaries. Retrieved from the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Web Site: https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Professional-Advisor-Credentials--Career-Ladders--and-Salaries.aspx
Zabel, L. & Rothberger, S. (2012). Peer advising: Bridging the gap between professional advisor and students. Academic Advising Today, 35(2). Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Academic-Advising-Today/View-Articles/Peer-Advising-Bridging-the-Gap-Between-Professional-Advisor-and-Student.aspx
Cite this article using APA style as: Kau, C., & Tagorda, M. (2016, March). Peer to professional: Navigating the transition. Academic Advising Today, 39(1). Retrieved from [insert url here]