OK, I was wrong. I’ve thought more about my biggest weakness, my last post, and I’m not sure I entirely agree with it. After I wrote the post, I discussed it with one of my colleagues who also is an introvert. And then, just yesterday, I saw this blog post in my inbox. It must have been fate! Here are a few of the things I’ve been thinking about the past week.
- Leadership comes in many styles. Just because I’m not a dominant extrovert doesn’t mean I’m not a leader. In my current office all the managers look like just that: they have dominant personalities. Even at lunch they will jump to share stories about their weekend. I have never been that type of person and never will be. I think there’s a lot of value to a leader who doesn’t have that type of personality, and that’s who I hope to be.
- Why fix what isn’t broken? In my short twenty-something years on this earth I have had many leadership roles – I have led student organizations, formed programs, and managed people. Why would I have had these opportunities if my working style didn’t represent that of a leader? I must be doing something right!!
- I need to chill. I’m being too hard on myself! I’m always obsessing over my areas of improvement and I need to spend more time celebrating my strengths. That’s what will get me in a leadership role, anyway!
I appreciate my supervisor’s perspective of my biggest weakness, but I also appreciate the point of view of my colleague, who has the opposite opinion. Everyone has her own. And, of course my supervisor got to where she is by accruing experience and insight, but I’m going to respectfully disagree. I am an introvert who listens intently, and I love it!
I had my annual review on Thursday, and while it’s not exactly conventional to announce your biggest area of improvement to the whole world, I want to be held accountable to improving on this and I’m hoping that posting about it will do that! Basically, what my biggest area of improvement comes down to is this:
I need to talk more.
I need to share my opinions more in groups of colleagues – especially at the management level, so that they can see that I aspire to become a leader and have the insight and drive to go there. I have this mentality that since I’m not the expert in the room, I should listen and learn from those who are. What I need to realize and embrace is that even though I don’t have the same number of years as others, I still have valid opinions that could help in some way. Even if they don’t help in any way, at least they will demonstrate to others part of my potential. Because not sharing anything means not sharing any of my potential. And that doesn’t do anyone any good!
It’s funny, because I have no problem injecting my thoughts and opinions into one-on-one conversations with managers… but when it comes to a group, like at a committee meeting, I have no drive to speak. And I don’t know that it’s any sort of complex about talking in front of groups… because I do that all the time… it’s more that I want to learn as much as I can before I go being presumptuous and speaking when I shouldn’t. I need to get over this and start sharing my thoughts on a consistent basis. This blog helps because it helps me shape my opinions about things without having to come up with things on the fly, which will make me more confident to share. I sincerely hope that with my move to another city and nonprofit I can truly spread my wings and talk more in groups!!
I’d appreciate ideas any of you have to help me work on this issue!
It’s been ten days since Rosetta posted this option for a blog post, but as soon as I saw it I knew I had to do it: write about a mentor or someone who has made an impact on your life or career. The only difficult thing was choosing who to write about… ultimately, I have decided to write about both women who have impacted my life and career goals in a big way :). I saved the prompt in my email and finally have time to sit down and write it. (Life was a bit of a whirlwind these past two weeks, you know, getting into grad school and everything!) Sorry for the long post – I promise it’s worth it!!
Emily was my supervisor at my first job out of college, and boy, am I happy she was. Emily truly shaped the woman I am today in regards to my working style and career goals. I am so grateful for all she’s done for me. Here is just a short list of some of the things I learned from her.
- I was born to lead. I was shocked to learn that not everyone is like me! Not everyone loves managing projects and thinking strategically about the big picture. Even in the nonprofit sector, many people are there simply to do a job. Emily encouraged me to manage projects in ways that aren’t common for an entry level worker, and that experience showed me that’s when I’m happiest – with lots of responsibility and accountability. That shaped my goal to always lead.
- Want to get things done? Try on someone else’s shoes. Emily taught me the formula to getting a project approved, and it has worked every time I’ve tried it. The crux of the formula is to think like the person you need approval from. Maybe that person was once embarrassed by forgetting a donor’s name – plan to have nametags at your event. Outlining these things is the key to getting any project approved, and Emily showed me that.
- I can only control one person: myself. I’m not going to lie – I had a tough time adjusting to the working world. Before, my whole life had revolved around making everyone happy, whether it be my family, friends, teachers, anyone but myself… so, I ventured into my first job with the same goal. I quickly learned that I was attempting the impossible. People at work would be moody or dissatisfied… and I took it personally. I learned to focus on myself and my own work and do the best I could, not constantly worry about everyone else.
Emily is a strong, driven woman herself: outside of her day job, she has started up the sustainable food focused organization Community Tap & Table, which puts on gourmet cooking classes that pair food with beer. Any surplus funds from each class are donated to a nonprofit focused on connecting the community through food. Not bad for after 5:00 each day.
Emily was the Community Service Coordinator in what is now the Center for Student Involvement (CSI) at UCSD when I was a student there (she’s now the center’s director). She was the driving force behind creating Alternative Breaks, the student organization I helped found and that has been a huge part of my life. But she did so much more than help with copies and club politics – she helped me form my own definition of leadership, which I will carry with me for the rest of my life and while I grow into my own leader. Here’s a short list of what she helped me learn.
- Leadership starts with listening. A common misconception is that the leader is the loudest person in the room. In fact, true leadership is the ability to hold your opinions and preconceived notions to yourself while you gather everyone else’s view. The core of leadership is being able to take all these opinions, combine them with your own, and make the decision that takes into account all of this. Emily taught me that a good leader is a person of supreme balance and poise.
- It’s good to get out of your comfort zone once in a while. The reason Emily and I have both done so many Alternative Break trips is because we both subscribe to this theory. It’s not easy to travel to another country where you may or may not know the language with people you met a few months ago and be completely vulnerable with your feelings. No matter how hard it is, it’s good for you. You always finish the experience with a renewed faith in yourself and the choices you make. And that’s always a good thing.
- Humility is the key to happiness. Emily taught me the importance of diversity in every sense of the word – diversity in perspectives, backgrounds, interests, experiences, and so on. It is key to not only surround myself with different viewpoints, but to listen to them with a genuine interest and consider carefully what they are saying. Everyone in this world has an opinion and every single one is valid. It’s important to remember that mine is not any better than anyone else’s.
Emily effects so many students on a daily basis; she really is helping to form the next generation of leaders, politicians, teachers, activists, and citizens. She does an amazing job as the Director of CSI, helping all other advisors to do what she did with me – it’s something I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
Sorry for the long post this time, but I just couldn’t choose between them (you can clearly see why)! I hope that you also have experienced an amazing mentor relationship… and if you haven’t, seek one out! They will teach you things about yourself that you never would have known.