Finals week feels: it’s time for a year-in-review again. So let me reflect…
This week marks the end of my second year working at WSP. I’ve come a long way from when I first started back in Fall Quarter of my sophomore year, when I could barely talk to someone new without my heart beating too fast or my face flushing too red. I don’t know what fool notion drove me to apply and interview for a position where I would have to talk to at least six new people every week. For an hour each. Face to face. As a counselor. Yikes.
I’m glad I did, though, because I would not be who I am now without WSP. While my first couple sessions went something like ohmygodohmygod-whatifIcan’thelpthem-whatifIsaysomethingweird-whatifwhatif-waitImissedit-whatdidhesay, by the time the end of sophomore year rolled around, sessions were more comfortable and fun — stress-relieving rather than stress-inducing. Before I knew it, I started looking forward to having sessions with students, talking with them about their writing, classes, backgrounds, experiences, goals, and dreams.
Still, I was far from my image of the ideal counselor. I was awkward and had a hard time opening up to my fellow staff members and my regular students. I envied how my senior staff members seemed to convey sympathetic guidance so naturally and easily, and I aspired to be like them. I also admired how creative and charismatic each of them were, comparing myself to them. This probably wasn’t the best mindset to have, but nevertheless I entered my junior year as WSP’s Communications Coordinator feeling slightly panicky about how I could follow up the brilliance of the previous admin members.
I went into Fall 2016 with the memory of the admin team from last year emblazoned in my mind. They had worked together so smoothly and efficiently, and I wondered how I would ever fill the shoes of Gaby, who was Communications Coordinator last year. She knew so much about technology and got along with so many people. She had amazing presentation and communication skills, whereas I blanked out during presentations and stuttered from time to time. I had ideas for outreach, but I felt so lacking. Would I actually be able to accomplish anything?
But over the course of 2016-2017, I came to realize I should give myself more credit. Gaby was a great Communications Coordinator, but I am not Gaby, and it’s okay to be a Communications Coordinator who does things differently from her. I found that I had my own style of leadership that suited this year’s staff just fine.
I’ve learned a lot from being the Communications Coordinator. It was the first time I had to be in a position of facilitating team building as a leader, and not just a participant. I pushed myself to talk more during staff meetings and to exude more confidence, even when I didn’t feel it. I became more aware of reading the atmosphere and learned new tactics to create a healthy team dynamic.
Even though I had created marketing materials for different student organizations before, outreaching for WSP was a very different experience. Outreaching for other spaces had been very individualistic, and I usually had to do everything by myself. But WSP is very team-oriented, and I learned how to delegate tasks to the rest of staff, keeping their professional development in mind. It took a lot of time and energy, but I didn’t burn out. It felt like we were creating our own WSP brand together.
Project management was another key component of my role that I learned and am still learning how to do effectively. I oversaw many new projects this year, some of which were successful and others that I never completed. These projects will serve as markers of my growth and a reminder for me to follow up regularly and to assess my time and abilities more realistically.
Lastly, I did much more critiquing than writing blogs this year. Exposed to the same six writing styles consistently and watching how they changed over the course of the year, I quickly improved at providing feedback. Surprisingly, this helped develop my own writing quite a bit, and I could write more quickly and felt less stressed writing blog posts than I did last year.
Last year, in my end-of-year reflection, I said that I would tell a future counselor to invest their full selves into the community called WSP. I think that after this second year at WSP, as an admin member, I would want to add: have confidence. And don’t be afraid to open up. This is your space. The best way to lead, to counsel, is to be yourself.