Like many others, my summer was spent at a wonderful summer internship, where I was able to learn, relax, and reflect. At this point in my life, I am very aware of the upcoming job search and have been thinking quite a bit about the mark I would like to leave in my second and final year here at Indiana University. I am a huge advocate of continual self-improvement, both personally and professionally, and I oftentimes find myself setting very high goals. Although these goals are not easily obtained, I do believe it helps me to continually strive for excellent work. However, it complicates how I think about my accomplishments, especially in regard to my grad work. I am constantly going back to the drawing board for new ideas. “When I graduate, I want to be able to say that I did…” Nope, not good enough. Next idea. “Oh, I know! I would love to…” That’s too easy, Erin.
Until today, I was still struggling with how I wanted to leave my mark.
Earlier at lunch, my supervisor and I were chatting about her personal philosophy when it comes to her work in higher education. At first, she jokingly responded, “Don’t get fired,” which made me laugh. After a moment of reflection, she told me, “Mine is to leave your work better than you found it.”
Although the phrase did not immediately invoke reflection, I found myself returning to that concept multiple times. It was simple enough. When I leave Indiana University, if I have left my work better than I found it, I have succeeded.
During my time here, I have been blessed with wonderful opportunities. I had a practicum with Fraternity and Sorority Life last semester and will be working with the Office of Admissions in the fall. In my assistantship, I made beneficial changes to the program I supervise, streamlined communication, and worked diligently to increase visibility on campus. I developed an Academic Peer Mentor position, which will be piloted this year as a new student staff position in housing. I made memorable and long-lasting connections not only with my colleagues, but also with faculty and friends. I made a difference in the lives of my students.
I have made my mark.
This little phrase helped me to reframe my perspective on making my mark . Instead of focusing on what the department can do for me, I have now shifted my focus to what I am doing for my department.
Whether you are a graduate student, a new professional, or a seasoned practitioner, I challenge you to consider the following question. Are you making your mark? Are you proud of the work you have done so far? How can you continue to improve the services you provide? As you ponder those questions, I will leave you with this quote.
“Making your mark on the world is hard. If it were easy, everybody would do it. But it’s not. It takes patience, it takes commitment, and it comes with plenty of failure along the way. The real test is not whether you avoid this failure, because you won’t. It’s whether you let it harden or shame you into inaction, or whether you learn from it; whether you choose to persevere.” –Barack Obama