What Do I Need Next?

With 11 days left until graduation, I’m still finding it hard to answer the most frequently asked question around this time – “What are you doing after City Year?”

What am I doing next?

While cleaning my room, finding my planner from last year, I didn’t think that I was going to discover something that felt humorously coincidental. I found a list titled: 5 Things I need Next. When I wrote this in January of 2016, I had no idea what I wanted to do and didn’t know where to start in figuring it out. I had ideas floating around, but didn’t know what my heart or mind was really telling me. It makes me chuckle a bit that that’s where I am again. Right now. Less than two weeks away from graduation.

It was my Program Manager at the time who told me to make this list to help me narrow down and hopefully get a better idea of what I wanted next. She told me to think about how I want to grow and what I would need to have in what ever I did next to feel like I was growing. In all honesty, I don’t recall how I came to write down the items on the list, but when I recently reviewed the list, I asked myself, “did I get this from my year as a Team Leader?” Here’s the list and how I think I did:

Five Things I Need Next:

  1. Development of Communication Skills – in person and other media
    • Yes, I certainly got this. Every single day, I’ve had to adapt my communication to the wide range of people that I’m interacting with. From sweet Kindergartners who don’t know how to form a line to fifth graders who are just misunderstood. To near-peers who had to be gradually released into the work and to professionals who have years of experience under their belts. I’ve also developed my communication skills through this blog! I wanted a way to remember my experience and also be able to put into words what I’m going through in this second year of service.
  2. Mission involves empowering others through knowledge and self-awareness
    • Yes, most definitely. I love that everyone really wins in City Year. The people in City Year are always seeking ways to grow through knowledge and self-awareness. I’ve learned more about myself this year in so many ways – both the good and the bad. I’ve embraced it all and my confidence has grown tremendously. Now, I try to incorporate ways others can learn more about themselves through casual conversation or through deep reflection. Or both!
  3. Value teamwork, creativity, and communication
    • Yes, to the max! Any time I’ve worked with others in planning an event, facilitating a meeting, or even coming up with a warm-up – teamwork, creativity, and communication have always been the key to success. Through it all, I’ve learned who I work best with and also how to adjust my approach in working with others who I don’t work so well with. Always learning!
  4. Opportunity to receive/provide mentorship
    • Ohhhh yes. I’ve had an official mentor and also informal mentors who offer just as good of insight and advice on anything related to work, relationships, and overall life. I’ve been so fortunate to be surrounded by so many great individuals who come from all walks of life. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be surrounded by such quality people in a work community ever again, to be honest. I’ve also been able to provide mentorship to the team that I lead. Each month, I had one-on-ones where I would take advantage of the time I had with them to get to know them and have them talk to me about in and out of service topics. The amount of trust, productivity, and joy that resulted from each one-on-one is something I’m definitely proud of.
  5. Utilize my skill in relationship-building and prior experiences
    • Yup yup! This sort of goes off of the previous one. My first-year experience in City Year definitely prepared me in working with students once again and I was even able to share some of my strategies and previous work with the team and even the entire Corps at times.  My experience as a Peer Mentor in college prepared me in building relationships with near peers and allowing them to trust me enough to be led by me. I think leveraging my strengths has allowed me to stay true to myself and lead authentically in a way that’s unique to me and who I am.

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All in all, I thought it was pretty bizarre that the answers were so easy to answer. It was as if I wrote down exactly what I knew I would get from a year as a Team Leader. With that being said, excuse me, I’m going to write down the next five things I need next…

Retracing my Life Map

At a recent Learning and Development day at the Starbucks Headquarters in Seattle, I was pleasantly surprised by the insight I gathered on my own life.

What I’ve recently learned about myself is that I’ve always been the person who never really knew what was next in life for me. In talking about what was next, most times it’s always been: “I’m working on figuring it out.” I’ve never had specific long-term goals. Every thing has sort of fit the expression: we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. In high school, I didn’t have a dream college. I didn’t have a dream career and I still don’t. I went into my Freshman year as “undecided” or as “undeclared” as I preferred to call it.

Retracing my life map, I zoomed in on different pieces of what has made me who I am – who I was as a grade school student, who I was as a college student, who I am because of my family, and who I am right now.

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I used these notes to talk about life story to strangers to professionals at Starbucks and it was nice to be able to write it down, see, and hear how my story is unique and different from others.
  • Grade School Student: I found the theme of knowledge. I was always curious about things that I didn’t know about or had never tried. Joining clubs and sports that challenged my intellect, leadership, and various skills.
  • College Student: I found the theme of service and leadership. I joined communities and took on roles that were focused on empowering others through relationship-building, leadership, and meeting others where they are at.
  • Family: I found the theme of creating a path of my own. As the oldest of seven siblings, a first generation American and college student, and daughter of parents who didn’t complete High School, I internally told myself that I had the power to determine where my path can go.
  • Present: I’ve been focusing on values that I have been letting guide me, professionally and personally: self-awareness, growth, and goal-setting.

So the million dollar question is: what’s next after City Year?”

What I can say is that in thinking about the path that I’ve created and what’s next, I’m finding that I want to take my love and values for these themes in my life to help empower others to be their best selves and to use their path to strengthen their values and lead them to where they feel purpose and joy. I want to use my skills in creative storytelling and communication to share the work and experiences of communities and individuals.

Where this will lead me, I’m not sure, but as usual, we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

Lately, I’ve been thinking…

What does it mean to be a good leader?

Looking at the value of Level Five Leadership in the Idealist Handbook,

Level Five Leaders practice great humility: they are modest, they learn from and listen to others, they give credit to others for success and take personal responsibility when things do not go as planned.

At the same time, they operate with intense professional will: they take bold action, set ambitious goals, make courageous decisions, and persevere through the long, challenging process of achieving great things. Humility, will, boldness, courage, perseverance: these are the qualities of Level Five Leadership.

Thinking about what it means to be a good leader is important to me because as a Team Leader, I want to make sure that I am coaching my team in the most efficient and genuine way. As I reflect on my leadership, I can say that I’ve been learning from and listening to to others. With this, I’ve adapted several things to fit my team and how they function. I appreciate them and praise them for the many successes they experience. One area where I feel I can grow is the boldness and courage. How can I use what I’ve learned to have the courage to be bold and become a better Team Leader? If I ultimately want to coach my team with good intentions then why should I fear being bold and courageous in my decision-making and mentoring? In the end, it is the humility, will, boldness, courage, and perseverance that will nurture the growth within my team and also within myself.