A few days ago, I tweeted this mini Lisa Life Update:
In part because there’s no way I can explain what’s been going on for me professionally in 140 characters (those that know me know I’m rather … verbose) and because it’s about time I got back to blogging, I wanted to share what’s been going on in the (professional) life of Lisa.
Most of you know that when I started my role at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) back in September 2011, I was put into a role and assigned responsibilities that I was initially hesitant to take on. My academic background and professional experience are rooted in leadership development and transition (e.g. Orientation), and it was with a deep breath and a frantic (but fruitless) search for water wings that I jumped into the career services deep end. For the past year and a half I have been working with a phenomenal group of students supporting them as they navigate the stormy seas (anyone else noticing a nautical theme yet?) of the job search and their own career/professional development. I learnt on the fly how to deliver 1:1 resume and cover letter appointments (I’ve now logged almost 200), gave my very first career services presentation to the Faculty of Education (I’ve now done the full cycle of these presentations twice to two different cohorts) and worked within the career services team to build programs and initiatives to help students define their own success and then go after it.
While an immensely challenging and ultimately rewarding experience, I will be the first to admit that I was terrified. My first hint coming into this role should have been the somewhat vague job description (the Student Experience Advisor will create programs to support student development, with people, doing stuff – I exaggerate but this is a pretty good paraphrasing) but spending the first year and a half in a new job in a role I wasn’t trained in and didn’t even know I were going to do has opened doors and given me new knowledge and perspectives I now see as invaluable. These lessons are coming with me as I start a new role working on developing student leadership programming, supporting the student transition through orientation and mentorship and, of course, leading the charge for more effective and more awesome assessment planning in our department.
So what have I learnt you ask? (You did ask right?) See below for my top three lessons from jumping into the deep end and learning how to swim (do all my ‘channelling my inner Nemo’ tweets make sense now?):
- It’s okay to be afraid of change, but it’s not okay to avoid it. Whether you like it or not, change will find you. In the past year and a half hardly anything has stayed the same, but I’ve also experienced more growth and development condensed into these 18 or so months than I have in the past few years. Fighting against the current will just exhaust you – you’ll need to learn a new stroke, maybe float for a while and get your bearings, or even ask for a lifeguard to come in and help. Whatever you do, do not stop swimming. You’ll be amazed at who’s willing to help keep you afloat and what’s waiting for you once you reach the shore.
- Stand up for yourself. You are more powerful than you realize. At times during this transition phase I’ve felt more like a position than a person. Feeling lost as an individual in the midst of emails, documentation and office move logistics can scatter your thoughts and throw you off balance. This experience is teaching me (I’m not quite there yet) to be a stronger (and louder) self advocate. Take care of yourself during any change, big or small. I’m rooting for you.
- Where you think you fit isn’t always where you’ll end up. Fit will fluctuate. I came into this role about 3-4 months before another colleague of mine, our Student Development Coordinator, was hired. Seeing his job description, I rued the day I had applied for my current role without waiting, now seeing that his role (primarily around orientation and transition) seemed like a much better fit for my skills and experience. Here’s what I know now: what you’re trained to do isn’t what you end up doing … ever. This isn’t meant as a (somewhat) witty commentary on my current professional life, but rather as a reality in our field. ‘Other duties as assigned’ is not an afterthought at the end of a job description – it’s a promise that you will be pushed and stretched outside of your comfort zone to a place where you will learn and grow more than you ever thought possible. If we expect our students to challenge themselves while at our institutions, shouldn’t we expect ourselves to do the same?
So there you have it. I’m coming back from NASPA 2012 to more changes, more opportunities, and a lot more swimming. In the words of one David Bowie:
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