by Joely Ross
We all find ourselves looking back wondering where the time went. It seems as if we started on our professional development track just the other day and upon reflection, may notice how fascinating that journey has been. A journey usually supported by a mentor, sprinkled throughout with various training opportunities, and so many twists and turns that some days you don’t know which way is up! I’ve found myself pushing so hard for the past few years that I’ve forgotten to look up and see where I’m at. As part of my latest endeavor, I applied to the Institute for Civic Leadership’s Young Emerging Leaders Program, which guides individuals through a leadership development program while equipping them with the tools and knowledge that will enable them to join a nonprofit board upon the conclusion of the 4 month program. Intrigued by the experience of joining a cadre of 30 young leaders and the opportunity to be matched with a local nonprofit board, I was excited to be accepted into the program.
On a 1 hour solo as part of our weekend session on Cow Island, I pondered over a handout that was given to us about our support network. It asked us to map out who from our professional, personal, and organizational networks provided us with praise, guidance, constructive criticism, and knowledge expertise. I quickly became frustrated with this piece of paper as I pondered the people that I currently have filling these roles in my life. I felt so alone, and not because I was in physical silence on my solo looking out across the Casco Bay to Diamond Cove. For the first time in a long time, I had taken a moment first off to stop, and second to reflect, and happened to stumble upon a critical look at my network of support. I wasn’t seeing a healthy network of support, fit to provide continuous learning!
At a point in my career when I am eagerly looking ahead at the next step, I realized that I had reached a point in my career where I had exhausted many of my support networks. In the process of reflection, I found that they were great supports for where I’m at right now, but I don’t want to sit back and relax where I’m at. My focus has been clearly on the next mountain I am about to climb, but I forgot to secure the networks that will help me take my next steps!
All in all, the idea of a network of support that is both celebrating your accomplishments and challenging you throughout your journey is simple. It gets complicated when we add in the complexities of life that surround us and don’t remember to take a step back once in awhile to look at the big picture, which includes both where we have been and where we are headed. Whatever your professional goals entail, take a moment to reflect on who is supporting you to get there, and then, adjust as necessary.
Joely Ross is an AmeriCorps Program Manager with Goodwill Industries of Northern New England. She is an AmeriCorps*VISTA Alum who lives in the greater Portland area with her husband and two daughters.