Tuesday, December 13, 2011

"Feedback: its the breakfast of champions"

I’m a virgo; therefore by nature I am bit of a perfectionist and a tad critical. I know this about myself and I am aware of the positives and negatives associated with those two character traits. Another thing to note about me as you continue reading this post is that I am a very self-aware. I have taken a number of typology tests including True Colors, Myers Brigs, and Strengthsquest with the intent of developing a better understanding of who I am. Through these assessments I have learned about my strengths, my areas of improvement, and I have developed a better understanding of how to work to become a better me.
You have heard many of times that no one is perfect and by now it just seems like a cliché; however we all have flaws and as I have matured I have learned how to accept the notion that I am not perfect and there are areas that I still need to work on.

Being in a profession that requires a lot of collaboration, teamwork, group dialogue, and self- disclosure can be challenging for an individual that is very focused on being as close to perfect as possible. I hold my cards fairly close and it takes me awhile to self-disclose and be open to others. I must admit I am a tad bit selective with my trust, but rightfully so.

Professional evaluations, feedback processes, and assessments are essential for the success of our departments but also our growth as professionals. I value constructive feedback because I know that it is an opportunity for me to grow; however what happens when you receive a nugget of feedback or criticism that you feel is not an accurate representation of you or your work? How do you move forward from that feedback?

1: Move past your personal feelings toward the feedback. No one wants their flaws to be exposed; however you must not allow the feedback to impact you personally. It is important that you allow the personal feelings towards the feedback to be separated from the professional feedback in order to move forward. If you neglect to follow this step, you will restrict your ability to grow through this process.

2: Seek Guidance from someone you trust who can relate to you personally and professionally but that does not have a direct link to the source of the feedback. When I had to personally deal with a situation similar to this I picked up the telephone and contacted my GLACUHO mentor, Ann Marie Klotz. I shared with her my concerns and listened to her wisdom and guidance. She shared two things with me that continue to have an impact on me months later.

The first thing she shared was the notion that “Perception is Reality” It is very important that you analyze the feedback from all angles. Is there any way that what is being said is true or can be perceived as true? Remember that oftentimes individuals you work with do not know you in the same context as friends and family; therefore your personality traits can be misread and misinterpreted by others. I challenge you during this process to re-evaluate your actions and relationships and become more conscious of how others perceive you. Try to develop better relationships with all your colleagues so that they gain a deeper understanding of who you are and you can gain that same understanding of them.

The second thing she shared with me was that sometimes you have to set some feedback you receive to the side. Does that mean you completely ignore it? No. It just means that you do not allow yourself to become overly worked up on something you cannot meaningfully process, reflect upon, and change. If you have the opportunity to talk to the source of the feedback that would be a great step in gaining more perspective, but if not, it may be best to file that feedback away for a while and come back to it at a later date.

As we enter into the formal Mid-Year Feedback process, I hope that these tidbits of wisdom are beneficial for you. Remember that feedback is an essential part of our profession; no one is perfect and we all have flaws. Not all feedback that you receive will be easy to hear. You may need to swallow your pride and accept it, and you might need to reach out for support and guidance in order to move forward. You may even need to seek out the source of the feedback to gain better understanding and at times you might just need to file the feedback away and come back to it at a later date. Growth and development is a process that we will never be able to get away from. Embrace feedback and allow it to be your motivation to grow.

Here is a fun quote to get you excited about the Feedback process:

“Feedback is the breakfast of champions.”

Follow me on twitter @BdeniseCole

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Importance Of Sharing Your Story

"One of the major obstacles for women who want to break through the glass ceiling is the lack of opportunity to gain wisdom and understanding from those who have already done it"
Share your story.

I tweeted this the other day and the source from where I received the inspiration for this quote has escaped me; however it still rings true. Many times we as women fail to share our story to prevent feeling embarrassed or appearing vulnerable. What we fail to realize is that our story may be just what someone needs to hear in order to be encouraged.

This topic area has been one that I have struggled with for many years. Many people are unaware of the challenges that I have faced throughout my life, and that I continue to go through because I have kept those stories locked away. As I have matured, I have begun to unlock the hidden stories of my life and share them with those around me and what I have found is that it is my life stories that have given strength to others in my life.

Another reason why this topic area has been a large reflection piece for me is because I have constantly been thinking about my personal and professional brand. My stories and the sum of my experiences have a major impact on my brand. I cannot have a clear image of my brand and present that to the world, if I do not have a clear idea of who I am and what my life story is.

I challenge you all to begin writing your story. Remember that it is your story that makes you unique; it is your story that makes you who you are. Your story is fluid and will constantly change. Your story will resonate with individuals because it is genuine and authentic to you. Oftentimes we fear sharing our story because we do not feel it will be accepted. “Why would someone want to hear about little ol’ me?”, but what you must understand is that your story is authentic to you…and authenticity resonates with people.

The Beginning Stages:

So how do you begin to write your story?

Start by writing down the most important lessons that you have learned throughout your life and the experiences that taught you those life lessons.

How do you begin to develop the courage to share your story?

Start with the people around you. Allow someone close to you to read your most important life lessons and ask them to tell you what they learned from them. This will help you to continue to develop your story. Eventually you will begin sharing with more and more people and you will see the reward that comes from being an inspiration.

Feel free to follow me on twitter @BDeniseCole

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What would we do without those special people in our lives?

Guest post written by Cathy Passananti

What would we do without those special people in our life that believe in us when we don’t know how to believe in ourselves anymore? Thank goodness for my working friends, they continue sending me words of encouragement during these interesting weeks, going on months, of my unemployed life.

I arrived at that pivotal moment I imagine all live in housing professionals reach eventually – was it time to move out? I determined that 2 years of RA life, 2 years of graduate life, and 4 years of full time live in life was all I could handle. Yes – it was time to move out! There had been break -ins, floods, fires, countless alarms, early morning wake up calls, public urination outside the office, puke, and blood. It was time to join the “real world”. You know – the glorious world with rent payments, electric bills, and shoveling your own snow (not calling work control out to do it). So I made up my mind, I signed my intent to not return and began the job search. At first I carefully selected amazing jobs in my perfect locations and poured over the details of each cover letter. Then the rejections started flowing in and my last day was fast approaching.

Now, as I write this blog, it is 27 days and 105 job applications after my last day of employment – still no job and very few prospects! Now folks, I am intelligent and I did expect the recession to make this job search difficult. I expected my time off to be an opportunity (yes I’m saying unemployment can be an opportunity) to soul search, to step away from working and take time to think about me and what I wanted with my next step in life. I did not expect that day after day lost in thought would cause me to become victim to self-sabotaging thoughts about my obvious lack of experience that must be causing me to land zero interviews for jobs I am qualified to work. I did not expect my soul searching to lead to heightened confusion about my future. I did not expect to have to search for confidence. I have always been a confident woman. I am skilled and qualified for nearly every job I applied for. It’s a recession…I had to keep reminding myself.

Don’t worry…I did not sleep my days away and cry over my laptop every waking moment. I did some great thinking, I spent time with family and friends, and I had moments of clarity. Those moments often came after conversations with my strong female friends, family, and colleagues. Those women (and a couple notable male folk) reminded me that good things come to those who wait. My most recent supervisor told me that it is possible to have it all; I just might not be able to have it all at one time. A friend and colleague told me that since my whole life (quite literally) was up in the air, I might as well take this as an opportunity to feel free and empowered to take a risky step I might not have taken months prior. Late night facebook chats remind me that colleagues and friends have confidence in me and are always thinking of how to bring me back in to the job world. And a fortuitous meeting of an old colleague reminded me that there are people and places outside the bubble in which I’ve been living the past 4 years. Those people and places are exciting and it’s never too late to take a risk and step out of your comfort zone and keep striving for opportunities that will challenge you.

I anticipate more days ahead in which I will find myself in a slump – in need of a pick me up. I know that I have strong colleagues in my life going through the same struggles. I know that those people are in my life for a reason. We are not here by accident. Each of us has a purpose on the planet, in the field, in the lives of one another. I find peace in knowing that when I can’t find the strength to believe in myself, I have someone right next to me who will believe in me and remind me that we only get stronger by surviving times like these. We can’t do it alone nor should we want to do it alone. Thank you to all the special people I am blessed to have in my life every day!

Feel free to contact Cathy on twitter @CPassananti

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Lessons Learned from NCORE: "If not me, then who?"

I was sitting in my hotel room putting on my earrings as I begin to get a tad nervous. It finally sunk into me that NCORE (National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education) was going to be my first ever national conference experience. Yes, I had been to conferences in the past and even presented at the regional level, but I was officially in the big leagues now. Did I know how to engage? How would I connect with my peers? Would I still have the confidence to approach a presenter or ask questions during a session? In the words of my colleague, Rex Jackson, I was a “vortex of emotions”. I was filled with excitement, anxiety, and anticipation. It had been a long time coming, many nights crying about the proposal that got me here and I was not going to allow my fear to get in the way of my learning.

My first session choice was pretty predictable if you know my areas of passion. I attended a panel focused on women’s leadership and women’s access to change. I can imagine that I looked like a small inquisitive child if someone had taken a photo of me during this session. I sat with my eyes wide and ears open, soaking in all the knowledge that was being said by the women on the panel. I probably broke twitter with all the tidbits and nuggets of wisdom I was tweeting from this session, but I knew that all of my #wlsalt and #wihsng peers would appreciate the information and who was I to deny them!

As I left the session and begin to reflect on all that I had heard one comment continued to replay in my mind. As they women were discussing the obstacles that they had to face on the path to leadership, one woman reminded us that we are all going to be discouraged as we fight for change, growth and access. She encouraged us that no matter how hard the road gets we must not give up, but instead remember that our voices are needed around the table.

Although it sounds so simple, this nugget of wisdom will stick with me probably forever. Sometimes it is hard to be the only voice around the table advocating for a certain group of people, a certain initiative, a change…but instead of giving up we must keep our focus on the need.

Whenever you become discouraged remember my first lesson learned from NCORE and say to yourself “if not me, then who?” There is a reason that you are around the table; your voice is important. If you stay focused on the “need” during the adverse times, you will persevere.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Practicing being Imperfect Part 3

Before you read this post make sure that you have checked out Part 1 and Part 2. If you have not you can always click the links below....

Part 1: http://lifeaccordingtobdenise.blogspot.com/2011/05/practicing-being-imperfect.html

Part 2: http://lifeaccordingtobdenise.blogspot.com/2011/05/practicing-being-imperfect-part-2.html

For those of you that are ready to move forward, in this post I will share with you Tips #4 and #5 for how to overcome perfectionism found in the book “The Pursuit of Perfect: How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Start Living a Richer, Happier Life” by Tal Ben-Shahar, PhD.

4. Express Emotions: Experiencing failure elicits emotions. This notion is human nature. What we must be willing and able to do is express those emotions and learn how to overcome them. Learn the best ways for you to deal with and express the pain or disappointment associated with your failures. The more prepared you are for the emotions the better you will be at overcoming them.

5. Take action toward your goals: Determine your passions and go for them. Stop living in fear of failure. Remember the best part of failing is that you have the opportunity to try it again!

Beyonce says it best in her song Flaws and All, “I'm a host of imperfection…
you see potential in my flaws and that’s exactly what I need”.

I challenge you to get rid of your perfectionist way of thinking and accept the beauty that is inside your imperfect self. Remember that no one is asking you to be perfect, all you are asked is to be is yourself; I promise you that being you is more than enough.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Practicing being Imperfect Part 2

Before you read this post make sure that you check out the
first installment of my Practicing being Imperfect series:

For those of you that have already read Part 1, let's take some time today to discuss Tips #2 and #3 for how to overcome perfectionism found in the book “The Pursuit of Perfect: How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Start Living a Richer, Happier Life” by Tal Ben-Shahar, PhD.

Tip #2  Practice being imperfect: That is pretty self-explanatory. Take risks and allow yourself to make mistakes. Yes, it may be difficult in the beginning but practice makes perfect, right? J

Tip #3 Savor satisfaction for what you’ve achieved: It is very important that you learn how to rejoice in your triumphs. Many times we focus solely on our failures and/or areas of challenge. My GLACUHO Connections Mentor, Ann Marie Klotz from DePaul University, is always great about making sure that I recognize my triumphs. She encourages me to make sure I take the time reflect on the following two questions: What have been your recent victories? Have you taken time to celebrate those?

Now is my time to extend that challenge to you. Make sure that you take the time at least weekly to reflect on those two questions. Maybe you put it on a weekly agenda at a staff meeting, or you ask your supervisor to incorporate it into your 1:1 time. However you do it, be sure that you take some time to focus on your achievements.

Stay tuned for 2 more tips for how to overcome a perfectionist way of thinking later this week.

Beyonce says it best in her song Flaws and All,
“I'm a host of imperfection…you see potential in my flaws and that’s exactly what I need”.

Follow me on Twitter @BDeniseCole

Friday, May 20, 2011

Practicing being Imperfect

How many of you SA professionals really remember the months of April and May? I know that for me these two months fly by so fast. With the hustle and bustle of closing, end of the year evaluations, annual reports, and recruitment, I barely have time to breath during April and May. This year somewhere in the midst of all of this craziness I was faced with the task of creating a professional presentation that challenged me to reflect on my experiences as a Community Director.

As I tried to prepare myself for my presentation, I begin to reflect on my 1st year as a Community Director. I can remember coming into this position in July 2009 ready to be the best that I could be at every aspect of the job. The notion of making mistakes was not in my vocabulary as I am a perfectionist by nature. I was determined to master my supervisory style, be efficient in my administrative tasks, and plan some of the best programs SIUE University Housing had ever seen.

Now as I end out my second year in this position, I am proud to say that I never achieved perfection. I’ve heard one of my colleagues say “If you’re looking for perfect, you’re never gonna find it, cause it ain’t out there”. For some of you this quote may be discouraging but for others it might just be the lifeline that you need as you embark on a new challenge in your life; your first full-time position.

A perfectionist way of thinking can cause a lot of undue stress and anxiety which can affect you personally but also professionally. Who wants to be around the person that is always on edge and stressed out? A perfectionist way of thinking can also cause you to have fear. When you strive to be perfect, you fear being judged. Many perfectionists tend to never complete a project, initiative, or assignment because they fear being judged or receiving criticism for it. Do you want to be that person? Do you want to be fearful of fulfilling your passions?

I knew that I did not want to be that person so I begin to change my mindset and my approach to my work. I began to accept that imperfection was a way of life. I no longer saw imperfection as a personal flaw but an essential tool for my growth as a professional. When I did this I found that I became a better colleague, supervisor, supervisee, and mentor. When you allow yourself to make mistakes and grow from them you become a stronger and better professional and person. When you strive to be perfect not only do you limit yourself but you also limit your ability to connect and engage with others.

I challenge all of you that are on the brink of starting your first full-time position to get rid of any perfectionist thinking that you have and be prepared to make mistakes, receive constructive feedback, make your supervisees angry, and have a student’s parent yell at you.

Throughout the next week I will share with you tips for how to overcome perfectionism found in the book The Pursuit of Perfect: How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Start Living a Richer, Happier Life by Tal Ben-Shahar, PhD.

Tip # 1. Balance high hopes with harsh realities: It is completely healthy to have expectations, but ensure that your expectations are unattainable. Remember that everyone has their limits. Ask your supervisor if for some reason you are unsure of whether or not you’re not your expectations are unattainable. Utilize your 1:1 time with your supervisor as an opportunity to keep your perfectionism in check.

Stay tuned for more tips on how to overcome a perfectionist way of thinking...

Beyonce says it best in her song Flaws and All,
 “I'm a host of imperfection…you see potential in my flaws and that’s exactly what I need”.

Follow me on Twitter @BDeniseCole


Monday, April 25, 2011

Make Happy A Habit

Everywhere I turn I am bombarded with this idea of being happy.

During a Professional Staff Meeting last week, one of my colleagues presented on Positive Psychology and the importance of happiness and how being happy affects our work. Although I was intrigued by the presentation, I will admit that I have not thought much about it after that day. Well, that is until today while perusing Facebook.

A friend of mines posted a Facebook status where he challenged his friends and associates to join him on a movement: The Make Happy a Habit Movement.

I am a sucker for a catchy theme and/or phrase and I immediately jumped on the bandwagon. The first thing I did was tweet to all my followers about the new movement encouraging them to hop on the bandwagon as well.

Now as I sit here and think about this movement and this phrase, the following question continues to come across my mind: What does being happy really mean?

I am sure that I could easily Google the definitions of the words happy and happiness but I am looking for something deeper than what Webster says. I want to know the true meaning behind the word happy.

As I sit and think about all the times that I have heard people talk about being happy I can safely say that some people associate happiness with a sense of enjoyment and/or contentment. Other people may associate happiness with things. As we think about this notion of making happy a habit we must first define what being happy truly means for us. Once you have defined your own definition of happiness then you can go on to work to make a happy a habit in your life.

What does happiness mean to me? Happiness is an inward emotion. I must be able to look in the mirror and smile at the person I see staring at me. If I can do that, then I am happy. Happiness in my opinion is not something that I can find outside of myself. Yes, things in the world can impact my happiness but they cannot give me happiness.

When I am happy that does not mean that everything in my life is perfect and peachy keen. It simply means that I have decided to look beyond the imperfections in my life and see all the good.

As we begin to embark on one of the biggest times of the year for us in Student Affairs I want you to embrace this notion of Making Happy a Habit. Determine what true happiness really means to you, what you need to do to get there, and start making it happen.

“Being happy doesn't mean that everything is perfect. It means that you've
decided to look beyond the imperfections.” ~Author Unknown

Follow me on twitter @BDeniseCole

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

How will you Change the World?

It’s student staff appreciation week and with that comes all the warm fuzzy feelings, thoughts, gifts, and expressions of love and appreciation that all of us supervisors can muster up for our staffs. If you have taken the True Colors assessment, you can accurately deem this week a “Blue” Week.

Yesterday during our Student Staff Appreciation Bonfire I handed out bookmarks to my Resident Assistants with inspirational quotes on them uniquely chosen to reflect their experiences and encourage their future journey. One of my staff members received a quote that he himself came up with a few alterations made by me.

“Everyday you wake up, make sure you change the world”

I remember the first time I heard him utter the phrase. He was on his way out of my office after a very humorous impromptu 1:1 meeting and the last leg of our conversation went something like this:

Me: Go out and change the world
Him: Bobbie, every day I wake up I change the world.

Although I know he meant that as a joke, I can’t help but see it as motivation for everyone and a theme for life. Could you imagine how different your days would look if you woke up with that mentality? I am sure that you would feel like you had an invisible cape on as you flew out of bed and floated to work every single day. I can imagine the passion and enthusiasm that you would put into your conduct meetings, your weekly reports, your programming initiatives, and your 1:1 time with your staff. Everything you do would be done with intention, enthusiasm, and purpose.

So I ask you, why not start now? Why not wake up every day with the notion that you are going to change the world? Do you think your actions are too small to change the world? Think of yourself as an Ant. Ants thrive on community to spark change. In order to build their homes each little Ant has to bring over soil, crumb by crumb, until the finished product is complete. The same goes for us as people, each person has to contribute to the greater cause in order to spark change. Not one person will be the change, it will take all people working together.

So what is your contribution? What will be your crumb of soil that you bring to help build the home?

Tomorrow when you wake up in the morning remind yourself that you are
changing the world with every step, word, and action.

"I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do." ~Edward Everett Hale

"Nobody can do everything, but everyone can do something." ~Author Unknown

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” ~Ghandi

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Diddy, High Heels, and Fast Flats

My favorite pair of high heels are practical yet stylish. Trendy yet classic. They exemplify my personal style having a little touch of femininity bundled with some sass and sophistication. They have a red sole and are leopard print with a platform and 4.5 inch heel, but if you ask me tomorrow this might change. I love shoes! I love high heels shoes; the higher the heel, the better. I love slipping on a pair of 4.5 inch heels and adding those additional inches to my barely 5’1 frame. It’s something about a pair of sleek heels that just gives a girl a ridiculous amount of confidence.
Of course the great deal of responsibility associated with the hotness radiated from wearing a pair of heels comes with great sacrifice. Heels are not practical to wear on a daily basis, although I will try my hardest to accomplish that task. The new heights that I gain from wearing my heels come with pain, discomfort, and the occasional blister or two.
Let's think about that: Discomfort comes with new heights; platform comes with pain.
Diddy has a song titled “Mo Money, Mo Problems” and although I am not making “mo money” right now, I can completely understand what that means. As I have began to try and elevate myself, building myself professionally, stepping through new doors and windows that have been opened for me, I have begun to experience a new level of discomfort, burnout, and pain. Whether it is associated with professional relationships, not having time for family, feeling strained, feeling stressed, etc…I have begin to realize that the higher I take myself, the more discomfort I have.
As we continue to strive to achieve new heights in our careers we will experience some level of pain, some level of discomfort, and maybe even a few blisters on the way. Nothing worth having comes easy. We must keep our minds focused on the goal. When you are deep in the midst of your discomfort, remember that you are on a journey of elevation. Keep your eyes on your goal and keep your mind set on the new level you are trying to achieve.
I will admit my high heels become a little bit too much to bear. I remember being at the GLACUHO 2010 Conference, it was late into the evening and we were about to begin practice for the infamous flash mob performance. I had been in my gorgeous navy blue peep toe 4.5 inch heeled Nine West booties all day and my feet were on fire. I knew that I would not make it one more minute in those shoes. I begged and pleaded with my friend/colleague to go pick me up a pair of Dr. Scholl’s Fast Flats from the local drugstore. When he came back with those rolled up flat shoes, I was in heaven. I never took my heels off that fast in my life. As I slid my feet into my new “Fast Flats” I was at ease. The pressure was taken off my feet and I could walk, jump, and dance around without pain. If you were to look in my handbag any day of the week, you will see my “Fast flats”. I keep them in my handbag just in case I need that immediate rescue from my heels.
Sometimes when we are in the midst of our discomfort we have to find a temporary way of escape. On your way to the top you need to find your “Fast Flats”. That one thing that will alleviate your discomfort while helping you to stay on track. Maybe it is a person, maybe a place, or maybe even a hobby. Take some time to reflect on the “Fast Flats” in your life. Who or What are they?
Share your Favorite Pair of High Heels with me or tell what your “Fast Flats” in life are on twitter:

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Closer 2 My Dreams

A few days ago I was told that "I have the ability to excel professionally because I know how to get what I want." I have never thought of that as being a professional strength, but I guess I should call my Dad and thank him for spoiling me and setting me up for success.

I am a go-getter by nature. I have always been the type of person that sees a need and does whatever I can to make sure that need is met. When I am passionate about something, I work hard to help others to get on board with me in order to move that passion forward. This personality trait has worked well for me as I continue to grow professionally. I have been afforded the opportunity to explore new projects and start new initiatives. I believe that I am setting the foundation for myself to grow to become a great leader in the field of student affairs.

Last year I was very excited about the possibility of sending a delegation from my institution to the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity (NCORE). I noticed that there was a need for improving our resources and services offered to aid in the success of under-represented students and I believed that attendance at this conference could provide great ideas and best practices for how to begin to improve in this area.

I researched ways to gain the funds to send this delegation to NCORE and I discovered an Institutional Grant that I could apply for. With the assistance of some amazing administrators I wrote a grant proposal titled, “Diversifying SIUE: SIUE Representation at the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in American Higher Education”. I later found out that my grant was not accepted. For a few days I was pretty devastated. I had put many hours and tons of hard work into the grant proposal, but I knew that the need for better resources was still there and I did not plan on giving up.

I continued to serve on the University Diversity Committee and continued to have intentional conversations with individuals related to the need of better resources and services for under-represented students on campus. I was later informed that the Vice Chancellor wanted to support my proposal to send a delegation to the conference. Ecstatic is the only word I can use to describe my feelings when I received that news. I begin to revise my proposal to send to him for approval. To make a long story short, my institution will be sending a delegation to NCORE in July and not to beat my own drum but had it not been for my dedication to this area and continued effort to make it happen I am not sure if it would be.

As I processed this accomplishment, and I thought about my professional goals, I begin to realize that every day I am getting one step closer to my dreams. I tweeted the following the other day:

“Every day I read my plan that I set for myself during @JPKirchmeier & @annmarieklotz's GLACUHO negotiation pres. Getting closer 2 my goals...”

This tweet was in reference to a goal that I wrote for myself during a presentation tailored to women on negotiation at the 2010 Annual GLACUHO Conference. We were to write out a statement that began with the following: “In 3 months, by February 9, 2011, I will have effectively negotiated on my own behalf in the following ways…” 3 months passed and I will admit I had completely forgotten about the goals I had set for myself. When I received my statement in the mail, I was a tad bummed that I had not completed the goals I had set; however as I read the paper every day I know that I am inching everyday towards my dream.

I am a dreamer. I have always been from childhood. Without a dream and a goal I feel lost. This may not be everyone’s way to live but I do believe that it  is important to have attainable goals in mind especially as you grow in your profession. No matter who you are, what level you are, what title comes before or after your name; we all have dreams. Take some time today to think about your dreams and goals. Are you taking the necessary steps to achieve them? If not, what is stopping you?

Activity Time:
Take out a piece of paper and write out 3-5 attainable goals over the next six months. These goals can be personal and/or professional. Next, list 5-10 steps that you can take to achieve those goals. Post the list somewhere that allows it to be visible to you daily. As you complete the steps on your list, check them off. In six months I hope that you will have completed at least one of your major goals.

“Goals that are not written down are just wishes.” ~Author Unknown

“Set your goals high, and don't stop till you get there.” ~Bo Jackson

“Aim for the stars and maybe you'll reach the sky” ~Author Unknown

Friday, March 18, 2011

Upside Down Skinny Caramel Macchiato

One morning a few weeks ago I was running late while trying to get dressed for a 9:00 a.m. meeting. I had hit the snooze button on my alarm one too many times, and now I was paying the price as I was frantically trying to flat iron my hair, put on mascara, and iron my clothes all at the same time. I knew that I would not have enough time to grab my Starbucks, but making it through my meeting without my delicious drink would not be an option. I picked up my blackberry and texted one of my colleagues that I knew was probably going to make a Starbucks run before the meeting. I asked her to grab me a drink as I would be running late and she replied “What do you want?” I replied back and told her an “Upside Down Skinny Caramel Macchiato”…a few minutes elapsed before she finally replied with something along the lines as “What is that? You are so complex!”

“Me, Complex? Never!” I thought to myself.

As I processed this thought throughout the day I begin to wonder what my Starbucks drink selection says about me as an individual. After much thought I realized that I’m simply innovative.

How did I determine that I am an innovator from my Starbucks order? Well, one of my StrengthsFinder strengths is Ideation. If you know anything about someone with Ideation as strength you should know that they embrace opportunities to be creative and innovative and they become excited and stimulated by change and new ideas. People who identify with the ideation strength can sometimes become bored with standard procedures and the “old” way of doing things.

I remember the first time I realized that upside down even existed, I became so excited and I could not wait to order it and try it. When I tasted it I was in heaven because it was everything I wanted my caramel macchiato to be; I had found my Holy Grail beverage and I was happy. I had deviated off the beaten path. I had become a Starbuckian; making an order that took at least 10 seconds to say and I was excited.

Never again would I be stuck ordering something off the standard menu. I am the kind of girl that makes her own drinks and has to walk the barista through exactly how it needed to be done. I am all about the new. I am the innovator; whether in work, play, or inside my green and white cup.

Every day I try and take opportunities like this one to learn something new about myself. It is amazing how our simple every day habits, hobbies, likes, and dislikes can show us so much about ourselves if we just take the time to reflect. Growth and self-awareness is all about self-reflection. Finding who you are is an amazing experience no matter where the revelation comes to you…and sometimes it comes to you through a straw.

Are you still asking yourself what an Upside Down Skinny Caramel Macchiato is? It is simply a caramel macchiato prepared the opposite way. Upside down means that the espresso goes into the cup before the milk, usually it's the other way around. I enjoy it this way because the drink is more mixed up and delicious.

So I challenge you to take sometime today to self-reflect on your best qualities and remember that self -reflection can come from anywhere, even inside of a cup.

Lao Tzu
Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is enlightenment.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

4 Ways the SA Job Search is like Falling in Love...

We are in one of the busiest times of the year for Student Affairs professionals; recruitment season. So many of the wonderful Student Affairs professionals on twitter, commonly referred to by me as #sachat #sagrad and/or #wihsng tweeps, are right in the midst of searching for their first entry level position. Having been through this exciting time myself in 2009, I took it upon myself to tweet a few words of wisdom through the #opeadvice hash tag to all those preparing to interview at the Oshkosh Placement Exchange last week. One of the tweets that I shared was:

“Finding a SA position is like falling in love...trust me, you will know where you belong when you find it! Fit is important. #OPEadvice” ~@BDeniseCole

Within moments I received a wonderful message from Teri Bump, a wonderful Student Affairs professional from Texas. Her message stated “SA search like falling in love...this is a blog post... 7 ways SA search is like...”

As I set in the van on the 7 hour drive to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, I pondered this thought…”How many ways is the SA Search like Falling in Love…?”

After much thought, I came up with 4 and here they are: 4 ways the SA Job Search is like Falling in Love….

1. Falling In Love is SCARY!

Falling in any way shape or form is frightening and downright scary. You feel out of control. When falling in love specifically, you can sometimes feel as if something beyond you has taken control of your emotions and your life. Falling in love requires you to be vulnerable and put yourself in a situation where you have to trust another human being to have your best interests at heart and not damage your emotions.

How does this relate to the job search?
Well, the SA job search is SCARY! Not only are you competing with dozens of other people for a position, but you feel as if the rest of your life is being decided by someone else. Every institution can interview well and everyone can make their institution and department seem like the best place in the world, but how do you really know it is the right place for you.

How do you move past the fear?
ASK QUESTIONS! The best way to get over the fear associated with the vulnerability and lack of control within the job search process is to ask questions and get to know the institutions and the people you are interviewing with. Remember that you are interviewing them just like they are interviewing you. You are a prize! You come with experience, ambition, and passion that every institution would love to have. Never forget that you bring just as much to the table as the institution you are interviewing with.

2. Three Little Words

Do you remember the first time you said “I Love You” to a significant other? It was probably one of the most powerful moments in your life. How many times did you think about saying it before you actually did? How many times did you agonize over the perfect moment that you would allow the words to escape from your lips? Saying “I Love You” for the first time can be a special but scary moment. You want it to be right, you want to say it to the right person, and you never want to regret uttering the words.

How does this relate to the job search?
Think about the Two Little Words that you will eventually have to say at the end of this process. Do you know what words I am referring to?

“I Accept”.

As you are going through this process how many times you have thought about the moment that you are going to tell an institution that you accept their position? Have you agonized over whether or not you are going to say it to the right school? Have you thought about whether or not it is going to be the perfect moment? Saying “I Accept” to your first full time position is going to be one of the most powerful, special, and agonizing moments in your life. You will be super excited that you got a job offer, but then the overwhelming sense of urgency will hit you when you wonder if you are taking the best job for you. Is this a good fit? What if another school offers to me at a later time? What if this is the only place that offers to me? Remember in this moment that you can take some time to think over your decision, just because someone says “I love you” does not mean you have to say it back, and just because a school offers you a job that does not mean you have to accept that position on the spot. Take 24-72 hours to think over your decision and weigh the options. You never want to regret uttering two of the most powerful words at this stage of your life.

3. Unrequited Love

What happens when you love someone that does not love you back? R&B Singer, Brandy, has a song titled “Have you Ever” and the lyrics of the song clearly explain the pain associated with unrequited love.

Have you ever been in love
Been in love so bad
You'd do anything to make them understand
Have you ever had someone steal your heart away
You'd give anything up to make them feel the same
Have you ever searched for words to get you in their heart
But you don't know what to say
And you don't know where to start ~Brandy

This is exactly how we feel when our love is not returned from someone. We search and search for the perfect things to say or do in order to help that person to see that we are the right one for them.

How does this relate to the job search?
Not every institution/department that you love is going to love you back. You may believe that they are the perfect fit for you; however they may not believe that you are the perfect fit for them.

What do you do with that information?
You move on and focus your energies on those institutions that are interested in you. Remember that this is a process and a journey and you will be stronger because of it.

4. Falling in Love is easy…STAYING in Love is hard

We all know that there are stages in every relationship. Falling in love is in the first stage, the honeymoon or courtship stage. That is when everything is peaches and cream. You feel butterflies in your stomach when that person enters a room or says your name. You look forward to seeing that person and spending time with them, and you are genuinely interested in just about everything that comes out of their mouth. Yes, the honeymoon stage is lovely but it only lasts for a while. Eventually couples must move into the Realistic stage of their relationship, also known as the Disillusionment stage. This is where “people stop being polite and start acting real”. In this stage you will begin to see the flaws and shortcomings of your mate. It is in this stage that you have to work in order to keep your relationship going. For some people this stage can be disappointing and discouraging; however if you communicate openly and learn how to effectively manage conflicts that may arise you will see your relationship grow strong and begin to flourish.

How does this relate to the job search?
You may love an institution/department now, but it is going to take some work and effort on your part to maintain that love for the department. Every department and institution has their flaws and shortcomings. After you accept a position you should be prepared to deal with those flaws and shortcomings once they surface. Being open and honest with your communication is very important. Be sure to talk with your supervisor about your concerns when they arise and seek guidance about how to move forward. Take time to learn how to best manage any conflicts that arise within the workplace. Be professional, be transparent, and be constructive. Keep in mind that no one individual is perfect which means that no one department is perfect either.

To fall in love is easy, even to remain in it is not difficult; our human loneliness is cause enough. But it is a hard quest worth making to find a comrade through whose steady presence one becomes steadily the person one desires to be. --Anna Louise Strong

Love is 3/4 dream and 1/4 reality. Problems usually arise when you fall in love with the dream and not the reality. But, yet you find true love when you fall in love with both. --Author Unknown

Friday, February 18, 2011

Why A Blog?

I've always wanted to blog about my experiences as an entry level professional; however I was unsure of whether or not my words would ever be read. Recently I stumbled upon a quote by Betty Castor on the Women In Higher Education website that states "If you don't tell your story, someone else will". This one line quote completely changed my mind about starting a blog. I realized that I have a story to tell, I have insight, I have experiences, and I have stories and lessons that are worth sharing.

With this first blog entry I welcome you all to my wonderful world. I invite you to laugh, gasp, cry, learn, and develop with me as I share my stories and experiences learning, growing, and developing as an entry level woman professional in this wonderful world that we call Student Affairs.

Welcome to my blog...welcome to Life According to BDenise :)