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Blog from the Job Hakr: Student Affairs Job Search

Blog from the Job Hakr: Student Affairs Job Search


4 People to list as a Student Affairs Reference

4 People to list as a Student Affairs Reference

4 People to list as a Student Affairs Reference

4 People to list as a Student Affairs Reference

It’s important to show your best self in the student affairs job search. That “self” comes across in various stages.  It starts with your cover letter, continues with your resume, and eventually leads to your first round on campus interview.

But how about when it comes to making a final decision about a candidate? Much of that decision depends on your references.

Your references should be professionals who can speak highly of you. They are the ones who can provide an unbiased (but positive) reference about your work ethic, background, character, and personality.

It’s important that a student affairs job seeker, like any job seeker, must cultivate a short list of STRONG and POSITIVE references to refer to.

Here’s a list of those who should be on your short list to push you over the edge to landing your next job.

Previous Supervisor

Your previous supervisor is a go-to person on your list. This is someone who will be able to speak about your work ethic, style, and professional demeanor. This is the person who can provide the most information on what it is like to work with you.

In student affairs this is usually the person you reported to in your functional area. This could have been a coordinator, assistant director, area director, director, dean, or vice president.

If you an entry level professional in student affairs, then you may not have a direct supervisor in the field. In that case, you can rely on a supervisor from a previous position in a former career or a supervisor from a part time job that you had in the past. In either case, your former supervisor can speak to what it was like to work with you in a professional setting.

Teachers / Professors

Teachers and professors can be great references to talk about your formative years. These were the years that you spent in school or college. They can be great reference for how you have grown and developed.  They can even speak to how you’ve applied what you’ve learned outside of the classroom, if they advised an organization you were a part of.

Teachers and professors are great references for most instances. However, it is important that you keep in contact with them on at least an annual basis. This means that you should have reached out, and have given them an update on your life, BEFORE asking for a reference.

This is necessary if you want them to provide a relevant reference about you. If they haven’t seen or spoken to you in many years, then it would be difficult for them to remember teaching you, let alone giving you a glowing reference.

Lateral Professional

I call them “lateral professionals” but these should be people who can say they supervised you but they were not your direct “boss.” This means that they had a supervisory position but they were not directly in charge of you.

If you currently work on campus, this could be the chairperson of a committee that you were on. If you are involved in a professional organization like NASPA or ACPA this could be the head of a knowledge community or a committee that you worked on.

If you did volunteer work for an organization, this could be the volunteer coordinator, director, or president of the organization.

In any case, this is a person who had a leadership position and who lead you through some sort of activity, planning, or responsibility.

This person is important because they can speak to your ability to work in circumstances outside the direct line of professional responsibility. In a professional organization, this can shed some light on what it is like to work with you a para-professional capacity.


This is the person who is senior in the field and can provide you with ongoing support, encouragement, and direction. A mentor is a valuable person to have in any profession.  My mentor was a cornerstone of my success in my student affairs career, graduate school, and beyond.

Your mentor can provide information that none of your other references can provide. This is a person who can speak about your formative development while also having the seniority to speak about things like supervision and career progression.

Your mentor is like a lateral professional: they didn’t supervise you personally. However, they have been closely involved in what it was like for you to grow and develop in the field.

Closing thoughts

Your references can be a critical step in your student affairs job search. Make sure that you cultivate the right people in order to see success in your career!

Click here for a template on how to format your reference list for maximum impact.

Happy hunting,

Dave Eng, EdD

Provost, The Job Hakr



Huhman, H. (2019, May 28). 5 References That Should Be on Your List to Land the Job. Retrieved May 30, 2019, from