Competency B: Taking Initiative and Leading in Meetings and on Projects

I feel fortunate to have been a part of the Career Services team at OSU for many reasons. One of them is the frequency with which I’ve been expected or allowed to take a lead in meetings or on projects. We rotate facilitators in our weekly counselor meeting, and when I’m the facilitator, it’s my responsibility to keep the counselors on time and on task, inform everyone of our agenda, and encourage productive conversation. At our weekly staff meetings, anyone can add an item to the agenda, and I often add something for our conversation regarding the Career Assistant team or one of the many projects I’ve been working on. In addition to our weekly recurring meetings, we have a retreat at least twice each year, and I’ve been able to participate in three of these. These retreats afford the team more concentrated time to examine the mission, policies, programs, and desires for our department. They encourage professional development and team building, and they often give the staff a much needed moment to reflect. During the Winter Break of 2011, I led an activity at one of these retreats for the staff on StrengthsQuest, which examined the strengths of the various team members in our department and how those strengths compliment one another. This activity was quite successful, especially as there were new staff members at that retreat who could more easily understand the various roles that each person played in the department after my presentation.

In addition to the opportunity I’ve had to lead in professional staff meetings, one of the primary responsibilities of my assistantship is to lead the student staff in weekly meetings. The purpose of these meetings is threefold. First, student workers are developing professionally, and these meetings give them the opportunity to learn about the workings of an office that they might encounter in their future careers. Second, since the student workers’ schedules are so varied, this weekly meeting may be the only time when they interact with some of their team members, so it is an opportunity for team building. Finally, the weekly meeting is a vital aspect of keeping communication lines open and transparent. Student workers need to understand that they are a part of the larger team and “in the know” about the inner workings of the office. The weekly meeting is an opportunity to do this communication work. It is important that the meetings are productive, as students can get frustrated if the information shared could have been delivered in an email. In light of all this, I attempt to run these meetings like the counselor meetings, in that the focus is on information sharing, but also on professional development and team building. We begin our meetings with a fun check-in question that allows us to get to know each other better each week. Several CAs are responsible for different tasks and information sharing. There is an opportunity for CAs to share any difficulties they encountered during the drop-in resume and cover letter sessions. We attempt to infuse professional development into each week, in addition to assigning and checking in on tasks.

Finally, the incredible experiences I’ve had in Career Services in taking the lead on projects have allowed me to grow as a Student Services professional. Developing my own targeted outreach presentations for various classrooms and student organizations; creating my own bi-monthly blog series on the Career Services blog; organizing and running a Beaver JobNet focus group; revising and implementing training for new Career Assistants; researching and developing our new program, the Career Trail; designing and delegating a monthly newsletter for staff, faculty, and students; all of these were my personal projects. I’ve applied these experiences into my coursework as well, in group projects and in classroom discussions. As a team member, I tend to listen until I believe my voice will be truly adding to the discussion. When I have something productive to add, I’m not hesitant to speak up and contribute. I’ve learned these skills over the last two years in Career Services, but also in my previous lives: in a writing workshop, in a rehearsal, in a classroom.

I know that I can still grow immensely in the ways in which I lead and take initiative. Each term, as I learn more about the department, I’m able to expand how I contribute. It takes time to get a full sense of an institution, an alignment, a department, and my style is to understand before I jump in. I doubt myself sometimes; maybe I don’t really have anything useful to contribute. But I’m always rewarded in wonder and amazement when I take on a project and that project ends up contributing immensely to the mission and goals of our department.

5 Responses to “Competency B: Taking Initiative and Leading in Meetings and on Projects”

  1. [...] Competency B: Taking Initiative and Leading in Meetings and on Projects (cssaportfoliojessicabaron.wordpress.com) [...]

  2. Melissa Yamamoto says:

    You’ve explained a lot about what you have done. Can you give us more about your intentionality in the way that you have led these meetings and projects? What have you learned about leadership and facilitation through these experiences? What, if anything, do you feel you still need to learn?

    • I take on projects that I’m passionate about, but also projects that I see need to be done. When these qualities intersect, that is the best scenario. If I’m passionate about a project that needs to be done, such as creating targeted outreach presentations for different groups across campus for Career Services, I will enjoy tweaking and adjusting the presentations and the time spent doing it will fly by.
      Of course, sometimes I know that I will need to take on projects that aren’t my favorite, or that may challenge me. When this happens, I need to find the aspects of the project that will allow me to learn and grow in order to find passion for the project as a whole.
      I tend to lead others or facilitate in a quiet way, because I find that vocal, aggressive leadership strategies can often rub others the wrong way. So, my strategy is to assess those I’m working with and decide how best I can work with each person. However, it is also important that I voice my personal perspective, so that folks know where I stand.
      Of course, this will be one of the areas in which I will continue to learn and grow. Sometimes I hesitate to take on a project that I have no familiarity with, feeling as though someone else would be better suited to the work. I do need to push myself to take those things on, even if someone else is suited to it, and maybe ask if I can work with someone who I perceive would be more skilled or experienced. I also know that every environment I work in will have a different culture around taking initiative, starting new projects, and developing these skills, so I need to assess the departmental culture before jumping in feet first. However, I know that it is important to me to have ownership of some projects in my work, so that I always feel like I’m moving forward, making progress, and improving the work we do for and with students.

  3. Melissa Yamamoto says:

    That’s a nice approach, to find something in a project that will help you to learn and grow, even if you’re not particularly passionate about the project. I do not really love doing assessment (shh…don’t tell anyone!), but I see the value in doing the work, and I appreciate that I am challenging myself to learn and develop as I’m doing it.

  4. Anne Lapour says:

    So nice to hear about all you’ve been able to contribute to Career Services. Ditto to what Melissa said–there will always be tasks you don’t love, but finding a challenge within them is a great approach.

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