When a New President Comes to Campus: Finding Opportunity in Career Transition

When a new college or university president is hired, it is a time of hope and excitement on campus. It can be a time of uncertainty for campus administrators, who must gauge how they will fit in and fare with the new leader. For a variety of reasons, some administrators will find themselves left out of the new administration’s plans – in other words, “off the team” and unemployed.

Witt/Kieffer senior partner Lucy Leske spoke recently with several high-level administrators who found themselves off the team after a presidential hire and facing major career transitions. She shares some of their insights and her own advice in a recent Chronicle of Higher Education article, “Off the Team and Out of a Job.”

Lucy Leske

“The issue was never about my performance or abilities,” says “Diane,” one of the administrators Leske spoke with, who realized that she just “was genuinely not a good fit anymore.”

Tips for Transitioning

What should leaders in higher education do when they suspect they may soon find themselves off the new president’s team? Be proactive, suggests “Ted,” another administrator. “Play offense, not defense.” Don’t assume that your qualifications speak for themselves and will be acknowledged by the new campus CEO.

If you’ve done everything you could and the job does come to an end, “Take the high road,” writes Leske. “Be gracious in public, work to effect a smooth transition, and never bash your institution. These people will be your references for your next job.”

Next, “Take stock.” Assess yourself in terms of your career, and ask people you know to provide honest opinions. “Think big,” Leske says. “A job transition can be transformative.”

Finally, craft honest, thoughtful messages for institutions with whom you’ll interview about why your job transition happened. Don’t disparage your most recent employer or its new president.

Being left off the team is never easy, Leske concludes: “Know that off the team doesn’t mean you’ll never play again. There is another team just around the bend where you and your background will be the perfect fit.”

Read the full article: “Off the Team and Out of a Job”

Follow Witt/Kieffer on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedInSubscribe to our blog to receive every post on key issues in leadership and recruiting.

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *