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