Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Different Prescription

I would like to preface the below by making some statements.
1. I started and wrote this reflection quite late so...
2. It's incredibly cheesy and fluffy...but that's ok because
3. It's pretty much all true to what I am feeling right now.
4. Also, I did put a bit of theory in here-- feel free to skip it.

I have always pushed to be viewed as a competent individual. Timeliness, due dates, and follow through have played a significant role in who I am now and who I have worked to become. While I have been running around ruled by my watch I have missed something. That something is passion, drive, and provision. Though I thoroughly enjoyed the conference in its entirety, the last workshop I attended was of particular importance to me as a growing professional. A word not unfamiliar to me was introduced and stressed, and that word was strategy.
When I think of the word strategy competition often comes to mind. The intertwining of these two words gives me a negative image—one of a selfish individual pushing past everyone regardless of the other people’s current state. The way that Serena talked about strategy, though, put a whole new spin on the concept. She showed me that I can do more—and I need to in order to maximally benefit myself as well as others. I cannot be content with competence…I need to step up my game.
The ten tips and subjects the presenters talked about were as follows: know yourself, network and mentor, résumé and interview, technical and management skills, you better work, managing your supervisor, ethics and professional standards, organizational politics, don’t forget what you learned in graduate school, and professional development. The first one most definitely fits with Chickering’s 5th vector: Establishing Identity. Interesting enough, competence is something he posits will be mastered before identity establishment. I think this vector also spoke to me because I have been thinking a lot about identity development—especially after we read Let Your Life Speak.
In reality, all of their tips fit somewhere into Chickering’s vectors. For example,
1. Competence: Technical and Management skills; Organizational Politics; Don’t Forget What You Learned in Grad School
2. Emotions: Know Yourself
3. Autonomy to Interdependence: Managing Your Supervisor
4. Mature Interpersonal Relationships: Network and Mentor
5. Identity: Professional Development
6. Purpose: You Better Work; Résumé and Interview
7. Integrity: Ethics and Professional Standards
Obviously some, or most, or the tips may be put into one or more categories—or completely different ones. For lack of room and efficiency I will not necessarily cover why I placed each tip into the specific vector. Know though, that I was both impressed and surprised to see how well they each fit into Chickering’s theory; that fact alone was impactful and a prime example of theory to practice.
Though the workshop description said, “this interactive workshop will address the issues and challenges facing new professionals as they move in, through and out of the first three to five years of their career in higher education,” I think it went far beyond the now seemingly trivial description. In fact, I am going so far as to say that it has revolutionized how I will think about my future—whether student affairs is or is not a dominant aspect of said life plans. Both the style of the presenters and the content of the presentation reached out to me and gave me the metaphorical thick, heavy, and possibly unattractive, prescription glasses that I so desperately needed.
As previously mentioned, I have placed a high value on competency. Chickering himself points out that competency is only the first vector and there is so much to be gleaned from developing the other facets of his theory. Since I have arrived in August I have been surviving off of my ability, aptitude, and proficiency. However, little flags (such as the book) have popped up and forced me to reexamine why I am in this program and profession. Through those instances I have slowly become aware of the holes in my development—and this realization reached its pinnacle at the conference. I no longer want to just be viewed as capable—I want to be seen as driven. I don’t want to solely settle for adequate but instead strive for excellence. And instead of being an excellent observer I wish to share my passion with those around me.
I truly think the decisions I have made about myself will carry on into the future. I have already noticed that I look at my tasks and my job in a whole new light, one of excitement—one I have not seen before. This new lens I am currently seeing through has almost a sort of fulgent aspect. Even though I love this new perspective, I still have some misgivings.
First, I wonder how long this new love feeling will last. After a couple of months will I be discouraged once again? Or, what if I find out that I lack the ability to examine these parts of my life? I wonder if I hold the drive to stay driven. I also am curious to see the challenges and struggles that are sure to arise as I attempt to push myself farther and harder than I ever have before. Will my wall hit me sooner than I want it to?
When I think about the qualms I have expressed, I am not too worried. Perhaps this is foolish of me, but I think that optimism is a strong force. I am confident that as I continue to navigate this career of student affairs I will always look back at the Session C workshop with a tender heart. After all, I have been forever changed.

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