Coming to the end of my second year, the Arkansas Fellowship has afforded me the chance to reflect on the highlights and hard lessons of beginning my professional career. Here are the wisdoms from both the Arkansas Fellowship and my position at Collective Bias that have left the biggest impressions on me.
It’s all about the people.
While you can do amazing things on your own, working with and learning from other people will allow you to go so much farther. From my bosses, to my peers, to my Fellowship mentees, the professional lessons that have stuck with me are ones I have learned by observing the example of people I respect.
How should I approach this stressful situation? How can I communicate more efficiently? How can I identify opportunities for me to help others, and when should I give people space to figure it out on their own? The answers to these questions are the intangible lessons that have shaped how I navigate my day-to-day, and I learned them all from people I met through my Fellowship experience.
It’s okay to be new to something.
It can be very intimidating to take on a task without knowing how successful you will or won’t be, but learning new skills can be rewarding and help your team explore new horizons. Accepting the fear, having the patience to be confused and frustrated, then continuing to explore a new skill set has allowed me to do the work of which I am most proud. I’m looking at you, countless R scripts.
If it’s 3pm on a workday, and you’re brain dead.
Put on some headphones and listen to “I’m Every Woman” by Chaka Khan. I truly believe it is impossible to feel sad or uninspired listening to this song.
Craft professional goals for yourself, short-term first.
Personally, I’ve found extremely long-term goals to be the perfect opportunity for procrastination. I’m fairly confident that I am not alone in this. As a remedy, I try to craft goals by the month or quarter. This allows me to actually envision what the finish line looks like, and forces me to work towards that goal as much as possible in a short amount of time.
After that month or quarter, I can reflect and reassess. Was that worth my time? How much did I get out of it? Did I enjoy it? Am I interested in more projects like that in the future? If you aren’t checking in with yourself regularly, you can spend months in a pattern of behavior that may not make sense for you.
My time with the Arkansas Fellowship and my first two years at Collective Bias have given me a new perspective on people, challenges, and goals. I hope some of these recommendations can help you as you decide how to spend your time and energy in your first few workforce years!