What I've Learned in Master Track
I've spent the last eight months in a program at Westminster called Master Track. While not entirely defined by the Communications Department, Master Track is a professional development seminar where participants discuss career goals, professional challenges, and personal, self-defeatist behaviors. We also network and receive evaluation by industry professionals (in this case mentors in the SLC marketing, agency, and writing industry). Meetings are held one Saturday a month with our seminar directors (directors sounds lofty, but I must distinguish who is who somehow), and we are each assigned another personal mentor to meet with outside of this time. Attending the seminar regularly has taken dedication and a willingness to be open and honest about both ourselves and others. What we have learned, however, bears mention, so here are a few things I have learned in the last eight months from this program that have most personally affected me.
Define your expectations. Starting out, I had no idea what to expect of this program. I had the barest outline of an idea that it offered some form of networking or career counseling. While our seminar directors asked us to establish objectives for the time we spent in the seminar and recommended we prepare questions and goals in order to get the most out of our sessions, I sincerely did not know where exactly to start. I had no expectations, which was not a bad thing, but also not the best method for taking advantage of the resources available. So I set a few limited goals and learned so much more over the course of the seminar:
- Expectations can take the form of what you expect people to know, feel, do, or not do.
- Communicating these expectations, however, is what sets you apart as a manager, employee, business, and the like.
- Learning someone else's expectations, goals, and/or priorities will help you better work with them.
This practice, defining your expectations, is also something I learned a ways back when I was a wardrobe manager for Tuacahn Amphitheater. I thought the work that had to be done by my dressers should be obvious. Apparently, not all things that seem obvious to me are obvious to someone else (example: why can't you just make sure the actors assigned to you have their socks before go-time?); as I observed the peeps that worked for me, I discovered that some were better at seeing what needed to be done than others (in my opinion). However, not everything can be done in just one particular method or manner.
Conclusion: my team should not have had to read my mind. I needed to better set expectations of what work needed to be done and what I expected.
Conclusion 2: By better defining or examining my expectations of the world around me, I can learn a lot about communication and how I am communicating with others every day.Do the +1.
Give your work the extra push here and there: add the extra idea to a presentation; volunteer to get extra experience in something (as one mentor said, "be willing to work for cokes"); make yourself the person that everybody knows in the industry you want to be part of.
Conclusion 3: Making this effort puts you outside the box (or the war-room or the boy's club or the clique), and that ain't all bad.
Focus on the problem, not the person. Once I had gotten the hang of this Master Track thingey, I discovered the unmined elephant-in-the-room that everyone-is-affected-by-but-few-confront that I really wanted to know about: conflict. Why is confrontation such a bad word in our culture? In my cultural context I think confrontation sounds aggressive, controlling, and, quite frankly, intimidating. That said, I have had very few positive work experiences in an environment where an effort has not been made to deal with conflict and confronting problems, meaning, in the words of our seminar director, "things just get weird."
Since conflict is an everyday part of our working life, confrontation should be too, and we should not have to think about it in a negative way. Some of this negativity can be shifted by focusing on the problem, not the person.
Conclusion 4: Good confrontation and conflict management techniques focus on solving the problem, not the what, how, or why people did what they did.
I could be a doctor. Yah, I know. Sounds strange, but I never, ever, considered the possibility of being really successful or ambitious career-wise. Working with mentors who are 10 to 20 years down the line has opened up my eyes to the possibilities. I can be ambitious. I could work as a strategist, an administrator, a director (I really don't want to be president though <insert political joke here>).
Conclusion, Final: These few ideas don't remotely cover what our group (should I say team?) has gone through over the past few months. But it certainly presents some ideas, the kind I like to think of as the evergreen or always applicable ones, that we can constantly be thinking about in our professional, and personal, lives.