Now that summer is officially over, I think it would be helpful for me to summarize some of my key takeaways from my self directed learning over the past four months. I was able to complete a lot of interviews and job shadows with different people across the university. I tried to take the advice of one of the previous PSEL participants and looked at people who had jobs that I thought I wanted, skills I wanted to develop, or whose ethic and personality I admired.
One of the things I noticed that was similar across all my interviewees was that the people I spoke with and shadowed were dedicated and passionate about the work they were doing. I feel like this is important because doing a job that you feel connected to helps make the rough parts a little easier to forget. It was evident that my interview subjects really enjoyed their jobs and cared about their responsibilities by the way they spoke about their careers, treated their colleagues, and represented their work.
Another commonality was that they all showed a great deal of attention toward making sure their people – whether those were teammates, direct reports, or unit peers – were taken care of. This is a trait that I admire a great deal because it eliminates a huge source of stress for everyone and allows more room for progress to occur. I was allowed to sit in on some one-on-one meetings, and one of the questions that I heard asked routinely was “What can I do to help you do your job? What do you need from me?”
One more quality that I observed about these people was that they appeared to be less like traditional leaders and more like workhorses. Often when one pictures a leader, it’s someone who is clearly at the front of a room, or standing at a podium while others are sitting, or the person who is in the foreground in some major way. These folks that I spoke with were more like behind the scenes type leaders, doing tasks like coordinating efforts, making connections between people and resources, and finding information. They were also great questioners (which I wrote about in another blog post), so they were doing a lot more listening and a lot less talking than your stereotypical movie character leader.
Those were my top three takeaways from my summer of self directed learning. While I did learn a great many more tips and tricks from folks I observed and interviewed, I’ll save those insights for another blog post!