Schools vs Higher Ed: work, life, and professional choices


I left higher ed to work for independent schools, and it’s been a great choice for me. It wasn’t part of my “plan” in terms of mapping out my career and goals, it was just the right thing for me to do at the right time. People often ask me about my experiences regarding the transition; here are a few of my quick observations.

1) Shallow hierarchy

I have more direct access to the head of school than I ever did to the university president, or even the VP of my department. This has several positive outcomes, not the least of which is feeling involved in higher levels of decision making.

2) Nimble work environment

There are fewer hoops to jump though, less bureaucracy. If we come up with a great idea, we can test and implement it quickly – not wait weeks, or even months.

3) Student matters

We’re working with children under 18, which is different than working with adult university students and alumni. This means more concerns around privacy and protection. It also means working with parents quite a bit. You end up building relationships with both students and parents, which is great! This type of cross-level interaction is much more rare in a university environment.

4) Fewer internal moves…

Moving up within an independent school is more difficult than within a major university: there simply aren’t as many places you can “go.” There aren’t departments and divisions to hop between – you can’t move from a communications position within the business school to one in the med school, for example.

5) …but lots of room to grow

Many independent schools, especially international schools, are growing their advancement and communications efforts. It’s a great time to be working in this field.

Have you made the move from HE to schools? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Photo by Flickr user Carl Wycoff


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