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Blog from the Job Hakr: Student Affairs Job Search

Blog from the Job Hakr: Student Affairs Job Search


Network like a Student Affairs Pro

Network like a Student Affairs Pro

Network like a Student Affairs Pro

Network like a Student Affairs Pro

Networking in student affairs can be really difficult, particularly if you’re a new professional and haven’t done any professional networking before.

When I first entered the field, I viewed networking as merely “professional schmoozing.”

It was something that I didn’t really care for.

I felt this way for several years, until it took me some time to get a hang for it at college events, conferences, and presentations.

Then after a few more years, it clicked.  I really understood the value of good networking and what it can do to open doors and opportunities for you.

Every job I’ve had in student affairs has been due to networking. Every reference I give and receive is based on my network.

In a field as social as student affairs, networking isn’t everything. Sometimes it’s the ONLY thing that separates you between the job that you have and the job you want.

Based on the value that I’ve gotten out of networking, I’ve come to certain conclusions that I’ve developed over my years in the field. I hope that you can use these to your best advantage throughout your career.

Eye contact: the secret way in

Making eye contact can be really difficult. Particularly if you don’t like public speaking, networking, or are naturally introverted. Though eye contact is a great way of maintaining a personal connection with those you are connecting with.  Eye contact can also give you some subtle context clues about the people you are networking with.

Eye contact is particularly important if you ever get to the stage in your group where someone (hopefully yourself) has told some awesomely funny joke or anecdote. At that point when you (and hopefully the rest of the group) are laughing; take a look around and see who everyone else is looking at.

When we laugh we tend to make eye contact with the person that we’re closest with.  In a professional setting that can mean the director of an office makes eye contact with their favorite direct report. In a panel interview that can demonstrate who on the search committee has the strongest ties.

You can use this information to determine where the real power relationships lie.  Pro tip: it doesn’t always reflect what’s on the org chart.

Favors as currency

Some people view favors as unseemly. But they are actually a great way to network and rely on the expertise of others when you need them most. But they don’t often work the way that people think they work. Favors work best when YOU request it.

I know, that’s wild. But the psychology behind this is that when you ask someone to do a favor for you they have to mentally justify WHY they are doing that favor.  Oftentimes this is because it requires effort on their part. But they will go through the mental gymnastics of why they are doing this. And in that process they more come to the conclusion that it’s “because they like you.”

Capitalize on that and use it to your advantage.

Silence is golden

Silence can be used to great effect in conversations. Sometimes that comes up when discussing something critical with a supervisor. Perhaps you need to have a difficult meeting with a student. Oftentimes new professionals will try to fill the air with as many words as possible in order to stymie the negative feelings of the conversation.

Try moving in the opposite direction. Try silence.

Moments of purposeful silence can be used to get the other person to speak if there is nothing happening in the conversation. You can use this to your advantage in salary negotiations when the first offer is made.

Most of the time, student affairs professionals jump at the first offer. But responding with a few moments of silence after the number is spoken could put you in a better bargaining position.

Nodding like a pro

Sometimes you’ll need to build consensus during a meeting or a conversation. Sometimes you’ll need to win someone over to your side. This can often be accomplished with great dialogue and debate. But sometimes, you’ll need a little extra to push you over the edge.

Try nodding when making your point during a conversation. This often helps other people agree with your point if they are resistant or disagree. But, by nodding your head, you are making a physical action.  And people like to physically mirror the people that they are speaking with.

When they see you nodding, they’ll also be compelled to nod. That is something that you can use to your advantage in order to bring them over to your side.

Nodding your head during a conversation or when asking a question makes the other person more likely to agree with what you're saying.

Toward the toes

One of my favorite tricks to observe during conferences is to pay attention to people’s feet. Especially when they are in small groups with one another. People’s feet tell you more about their intention and disposition than anything else.

Next time you’re at a conference, event, or symposium: look at peoples’ feet. Where are they pointed? If they are pointed at you then they are engaged in the conversation and want to continue.

Is their head and shoulders still pointed at your but their feet are pointed somewhere else? Means that they are disengaged and are trying to leave. Knowing this helps you determine who is the most engaged in your group and where you can bring the conversation further.

Closing thoughts

Networking can be tough for many student affairs professionals. But with these tips and tricks, you can develop the confidence necessary to expand your network and develop ways to engage with your new contacts.

Click here to download a free PDF guide of this post.

Happy networking,

Dave Eng, EdD

Provost, The Job Hakr



Bradberry, T. (2019, February 26). Ten Harmless Mind Tricks That Make People Like You. Retrieved May 21, 2019, from