Round #2: Together, We Can Make It Better!

Another pattern I observed is that living in competition with others is not a sustainable practice. Competition results in a victor while others are defeated, and as participants in a competitive world at some point I assume we will all be defeated. It seems so enervating when instead, we can engage with others to find ways to work together so we effectively identify and achieve our shared goals!

It matters not where you are and what you do, at some point you will need the help of others to advance – a peer group on the professional ladder, a circle of friends who provide emotional growth, or a classroom of students who inspire structural change. However we exist, at the core of humanity are social beings who like to be liked and love to have purpose. Above all, we need positive people in our lives us to keep our brains active and our bodies alive!

Keeping Up Appearances
I felt the sting of jealousy the other day when I compared the professional success of former classmates to my own. During my reflective morning routines, I was reminded of a mentor’s observation; based on their experience, students who do not find employment after graduation are generally the ones who do not try very hard or are not driven to succeed. Fortunately, I found a job but it was not what I expected it to be so I felt like I missed the mark.

On a day when I was particularly dissatisfied by my position on the career path, I embraced a wave of self-righteousness. My dark, self-absorbed heart scoffed at the idea that I needed to try harder because I was awesome and tried hard enough, thank you. It had to be something else! I had just graduated with a Masters degree but my only job offer was an entry-level position. While it was a good foot in the door, it was clearly going to take many years to get the work experience I needed to qualify for the Human Resources positions I really wanted to pursue.

Fueled by an acute sensitivity to the old adage, it’s not what you know but who you know that determines your success, I was remiss thinking that I was somehow let down by academia because I thought it would be easier to navigate professional realms with capital letters after my name. In fact, I knew about the job because of my network of contacts, and since I was overqualified for the position my supervisors admitted to me that they didn’t think I would stay for very long. I was beginning to think my degree was not as useful I anticipated.

As someone who lauds herself as generally not competitive, it was interesting that this good news resulted in me drafting the world’s least engaging blog post. It was actually cathartic and I ended a poorly-written self-endorsement filled with broken thoughts and a short-sighted perspective by laughing in embarrassment. Honestly, my first job as an MPA was a disappointing experience but it reinforced the significance of vast social networks when actively seeking employment. Plus, it’s a good idea to refresh your contact lists every now and again in case someone you know changes trajectory on their career path.

In the process of rationalizing my behavior, I realized how I failed to communicate that my goals had changed over the course of my graduate studies. Initially, I just wanted a stable public service position. However, as a brainiac social scientist, I saw great potential for a career in academia. Thinking all day long, researching new ideas, trying different approaches, then sharing these observations and predictions with others became very appealing to me! But I never communicated this change of heart to anyone who would encourage me to stop and recalibrate.

In drafting my daytime rage-blog, I realized that I sought to blame others for my indecisiveness, which makes little sense. The situation reflected a failure to adjust and speak up on my part, but we make our decisions and I have no regrets. In hindsight, developing a practical strategic plan of action before I graduated – perhaps with some specificity – would’ve been a good idea. Now I know, right? It’s a good learning experience, anyway!

Back To The Point …
By changing our perspective, what seem like failures or obstacles can become opportunities for growth.

For instance, instead of thinking how I lost an opportunity to pursue a doctorate degree I focus on how well I adapted to the world of higher education: I received an academic achievement award from the Department of Political Science! When I conclude that no one recognized what a deft leader I was, I remember all the exchanges and new ideas shared by diverse peer groups: interacting with new people gave me fresh perspectives! Thinking of how I failed my personal goals of career advancement, I remind myself how I met my goals because I received my MPA and got a job in public service: #Success!

Speak Up!
The most important observation here is that no one – not even a mentor – is a mind reader. If you want advice, you have to ask direct questions because people are incredibly preoccupied and may not notice that you now want to do something completely different than before. Do not take it personally that no one knows what you’re thinking – just use your words!

Furthermore, if you consider rage-blogging in your spare time, make sure you take a step away from the digital landscape before you put it all out there for the world to see. Take a moment to think about the situation objectively and your contribution to the global conversation. How do you communicate with others?

Let us empower one another and build each other up!

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