Sharee L. Myricks
February 20, 2017
Student Affairs in Higher Education writers typically provide new professionals and graduate students advice regarding career transitions focused on positive life events. Authors focus on professionals getting married (i.e. dual search), planning to extend their families by welcoming a child or exploring a new state/city via job relocation. However, it is seldom I read articles and blogs which discuss the rough transitions new professional and graduate students encounter. During the joint 2016 NASPA Regional 4WE Conference, featured speaker Elizabeth Acevedo shared that we must tell our stories, allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. In doing so, people relate, cope, and connect.
I am challenging myself to do more of this work for my own growth. My truth is during my time as a student affairs new professional, I have experienced two difficult transitions - the death of a family member and my recent divorce. My hope is to share insight on how I have (and currently) face difficult transitions but remain reflective of how these experiences can #AddValue to my career. Maybe there is a colleague who can relate and be encouraged.
Regularly in #NPGSTalkTuesday blogs, we discuss the importance professional networking, as well as how cultivating the mentor and colleague relationships. But sometimes we bring our whole, broken selves into the workplace and we just need colleagues to be ‘human’ with us. I appreciate those colleagues and mentors who were willing to assist me in navigating through my difficult transition, when I have been at my weakest point. Many of these relationships I developed through NASPA, colleagues willing to be only a phone call or text away. They were not just concerned if I was dropping the ball at work but inquired often if I was taking care of myself. They were more than willing to offer themselves as a resource by showing up, checking up, and looking out. For instance, my NASPA colleague Jaymee Lewis-Flenaugh has experienced both difficult transitions with me. I appreciate her genuine concern, need to love on me, and have felt her support from afar.
During times of difficult transition, your mentors are ever the more important. They have both life and career experiences to assist you in completing touchy tasks. Mentors can help you navigate breaking the news of a difficult transition to your staff. They can assist you to have the conversation with your supervisor that the workload is a bit too much to handle at the moment. Mentors can help you build the confidence to talk with HR about obtaining employee counseling. We need more colleagues in who are just not seeking network opportunities to advance their careers. Having real social capital involves being involved in relationships to help you and others function effectively. Translated, I may be broken, but I have my supportive colleagues and mentors who assist me to be whole. Please be the new professional or graduate student who walks alongside your fellow colleagues in the same way we walk beside our students. Everyone needs a considerate comrade on this journey.
Through my divorce, I reflected on how much I depended on my mother and father to ‘parent me’. Being in my early thirties, I found it very surprising they both were willing to support me. Similar to mentors, my parents have life experiences I could learn from. Thus, do not be too proud to allow your parent figures to ‘parent’ you. I have learned they consider it a life-long position they are grateful for. Being around my family makes me whole, especially when I’m feeling broken.
The life-long cycle of ‘parenting’ was a humbling lesson for me because my mind then traveled to the many times a parent and student walked into my office. Of course, I realized the parent being there as an extension of the student’s support system. Yet, I rarely stopped to consider what that parent is ‘parenting’ their student through. Maybe the student is going through a stage of depression. Maybe the student is coming out of a very difficult situation. Maybe the student woke up, mustered up all the strength they could and said to their parent, “I just need someone who knows me best to sit in the appointment with me to just be there”. So take it easy on our parents because we never know what is going on someone’s personal lives.
Lastly, the biggest lesson I've learned - and admit I am still trying to master – is being willing to let go. It is the need to allow myself to grieve and heal. In doing, I am enabled to be the best professional for my students and institution. During the death of a loved one or my divorce, I could not give my 100 percent to my professional role each day, even when trying my best to give my all. However, we must apply self-care when our inner voice or others suggest it. When I am overwhelmed or emotionally drained, I take PTO days to reconnect back in Gary Indiana, recognize times when I need to leave work a little early (upon approval!) to get rest. Other times or I turn my phone off to write in my journal, enjoy my wine, or listen to jazz at a nearby club. No matter the method, the objective is to do what is needed to mentally prepare for the next day/week so I can be whole for my students.
It is a hard lesson - to walk away from it all to take the time to heal. We are the overachievers, the doers, and the folks that make it happen on our campus. Yet, self-care is vital, as the last thing any professional wants to do is bring harm to a student because we personally experiencing a difficult transition, causing us to be in a deep, difficult place. Again, working with your mentors and supervisor to stop, take an honest evaluation of our emotional state, and determine if you should be interacting with students during this time. Sometimes, we just need space and time to reset, even if it’s just for a day. Tomorrow provides a brand-new opportunity to do better work.
I am definitively not an expert, just a new professional who has lived through some difficult transitions. Overall, I believe as new professionals and graduate students, we can bring our whole selves when we are broken, especially when we are passionate about what we do. However, we must take care of ourselves and allow those you trust in your professional network to help you in difficult times. Please know that no matter what you are facing, things will get better. Stay encouraged.
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Sharee L. Myricks is currently Assistant Director of the Passport Office: IUPUI & Ivy Tech Coordinated Programs. Sharee presently serves as Co-Chair for the NPGS KC. She loves jazz, being a Yelp Elite member, life as active AKA Sorority, Inc. member, and exploring Indy. Sharee can be reached on Facebook at sharee.myricks.9.
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