The following article is part two of a three-part series focused on how to take advantage of different aspects of your graduate school experience. Upon graduation from The University of Akron (Ohio), the author sought out to put into words his learning experiences in the classroom, in his assistantship, and professionally. These may or may not apply to you. Take what you need. See the first here.
Learn how to connect ideas and articulate it to others.
You have to be able to prove to those around you — students, campus partners, families, community members, and administrators — what your “why” is. Storytelling is an important characteristic that strong leaders possess. Learn how to articulate in different ways: data, a narrative, historical context, emotional context, and so on. It takes practice.
Some things you’re just going to have to learn on your own.
Not having someone tell you what to do or how to do something can make you feel a little hopeless, but it can also be the best thing to ever happen to you. Be brave enough to let it happen.
Give yourself the space to be a human being.
You’re not perfect; you don’t have to have all of the answers. If someone expects that of you, don’t be afraid to tell them otherwise. “I don’t know” can be so liberating. The weight of the world is far too heavy for only your own shoulders.
What you believe about the way the world works may not always be right.
This will never be truer than when you’re in a room full of people who are smarter, older, and more polished than you are, and what you believe is put to the test. Maybe everything you believe isn’t really what you thought it was. It’s completely human to feel that transformation happen inside of you as it’s happening. Don’t be so upset with yourself for being wrong. This is what learning looks like.
Find ways to add value to yourself.
Adding value to yourself means having the flexibility to add value to others later on. Read, write, listen, think, feel, do—be as human as you can be and don’t look at it as a selfish act. It is not greedy to want to be a better person than you were yesterday.
Figure out early on what you don’t like/don’t want to do in this field.
Commit to making yourself better in those areas. Find a colleague who is willing to challenge you in your development journey. Most of your experience will be trial and error. You may learn best when you’ve experienced something that you truly don’t enjoy, or something that has hurt you or has made you feel uncomfortable, but don’t let that stop you from trying new things.
Use your social media accounts to engage in conversations about the work that you’re doing.
There are hundreds of professionals in higher education who are sharing the most up-to-date news, tips and tricks, strategies, and other hot topics for student affairs professionals. This is one of the easiest ways to learn from those who you can’t meet in person.
Commit yourself to excellence.
Anything worth doing is worth doing well. This is a daily practice; a decision made every morning as you wake to be better than the person you were yesterday. It means you’re dedicated to learning, failing, and getting back up when you’ve been knocked down. It means going above and beyond in all things, no matter how big or small.
Turn off your notifications.
Aside from texting, calling, and alarms, nothing else needs to be given your immediate attention 24 hours of the day. Getting a notification for the multiple emails you’ll get every thirty minutes will cause you to lose focus. Interruptions can lead to a lack of productivity. Instead, open those apps when you want an update and have the time to receive them.
At the end of each day, ask yourself the most important question about what you’re working on/what field you’re working in.
Wake up and answer that question before you do anything else. Take note of how your answer may change over time as you’re learning. Take note of how much closer you’re getting to finding your purpose in this field and how much of an impact you’re making on the lives of students each day when find an answer.
Write your experiences down.
Give yourself an opportunity to learn from the person you were last week. There’s never enough time to reflect on mistakes or triumphs. In my honest opinion, this is what can truly set you apart from those around you because very few people actually spend the time writing things down. Some things you can focus on: frustrations, conversations you’ve had, questions you don’t know the answer to, the things you’re working on, short and long-term goals, or characteristics that you want to embody as a professional. Whatever it is, write it down.
Be emotionally intelligent.
Know yourself. Know the things that you are willing to do and the things that are non-negotiable. Challenge yourself to know others on a deeper level. Higher education has everything to do with people who are looking for ways to live happy lives. Therefore, understanding this gives you an opportunity to help people in their journey.
Got more tips and strategies for growth and development? Let us know in the comments!
> BONUS <
Podcast With Stacy Oliver-Sikorski on Professional Development