New HERC ED on Finding Your Ideal Job

 Marketing Director   September 15, 2021  Career Advice

We’re excited to introduce you to Derek Smith, HERC’s new Executive Director! Derek takes on this role during a year of increased attention on workforce diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and changing workplace policies largely driven by the COVID pandemic. We asked him a few questions to get to know him better.

What was your first professional position in higher education?

At the College of Southern Nevada (CSN). I started out as a Human Resource (HR) analyst where I managed and supervised the recruitment and compensation team. I participated in the CSN classified council, the President’s strategic planning committee, and CSN’s internal recognition committee. These roles gave me direct insight into how decisions are made when there are competing needs and limited resources.  It also gave me insight into how relationships, clear communication, and shared objectives are critical to advancing the team’s agenda.

You’ve been working in the HR and DEI space for a long time. What inspired you to do this work?

My family and childhood. My father was one of the early pioneers in the industry. He worked with the non-profit organization INROADS and helped hundreds of young, diverse professionals start careers through internships.

For many, getting paid to do meaningful work is the ideal. What are your tips for job seekers trying to figure out what the ideal job is for them? Where should they start?

The first place to start is self-realization. In part, this means know what you are good at. Know what skills, strengths, and abilities you have.

Then look at what topics you spend most of your own time focusing on and the areas that keep you captivated. This typically shows people where their areas of interest reside.

Next, see how your current skill sets can intersect with your interests.  Then find out what organizations provide services or products that are in your areas of interest. Continue to learn more and skill up. Become a subject matter expert in your area of interest.

Finally, shamelessly promote your proven skills, knowledge, experience, and accolades you have earned in your area of interest. Eventually, your preparation to get meaningful work will collide with the opportunity. Though this is called “luck” to some, for others it is the formula to figuring out your ideal job.

Based on your own career in higher education, what do you think are the biggest misconceptions about working in higher education?

There are two misconceptions that come to mind. One, that higher education is only for those who want to be a teaching faculty member. And two, if you choose to be a staff member in higher education, your options are limited. Both statements are false.

There are many kinds of jobs in higher ed. Colleges and universities need people with all levels of experience for a wide variety of opportunities, from faculty to accountants to facility managers to student advocates.

Faculty and students are supported by teams of staff members across multiple college departments. Many of these staff jobs have potential paths to other college staff and administrative career opportunities as well as faculty openings. College non-teaching faculty members are critical for success.

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