Final Entry for Warwick Skills Portfolio Award
Workshop Tutor: Samena Rashid
Date: 15th July 2013
The WSPA - what has it done for me?
I feel slightly ashamed to say that I originally took part in the WSPA in order to improve my CV portfolio of skills as I mostly felt that the workshops would contain obvious material that is pure common sense and knowledge. I was wrong. This process has provided me with much more than a more presentable looking piece of paper to send to employers. The WSPA is about addressing those skills and making them applicable to different contexts whether they are social or professional as well as making you a more balanced and fulfilled individual with a continuous set of goals and sense of achievement on a day-to-day basis.
The ability to self-reflect provides a way to continually improve oneself to become the strongest version of ourselves while remaining self-fulfilled every day. This sounds like an antithesis since how can you feel happy and content with yourself if you are always analysing problems and never satisfied with remaining static and exactly as you are. The explanation for this is based on the sense of achievement and success gained on a daily basis alongside an ever-evolving understanding of oneself and therefore one step closer to answering the question: “who am I?”
Confront your Weaknesses
This road of self-discovery helped me realise the skill sets and characteristics I needed to develop and address in order to become a more valued individual, not just from the perspective of the working environment or among my circle of friends but also within myself. Confronting my weaknesses to become the best that I can be has been a resounding theme for my final year at Warwick University which I am progressively getting better at.
During my second year at Warwick, I was depressed for mitigating reasons and avoided doing anything from work to socialising with friends. I refused to check emails or post because I was afraid of consequences of having not addressed or communicated my difficulties properly with the University. I had lost control of my life and failed to see a way out. My sense of self-value had completely plummeted and the result was that I took a year out and then returned to only achieve an overall pass grade for my second year.
With the support provided by Warwick University through Helen Toner and Sarah Ashworth, I slowly began addressing my issues and by breaking them down into manageable chunk sized bits. Essentially, this culminated in a restored hunger for learning and self-development which sparked my interest in taking courses with IT Services as well as with your careers team.
My progression through the year and in particular the workshops provided have given me a sense of perspective which I did not have before whereby I can now look back and be exceptionally proud of the massive changes I have made and be happy in the knowledge that I will never react to a situation in such a counterproductive way.
Taking on challenges head on is now a key strategy to success in my life at the moment. By this I mean that you succeed by accepting the challenge, following it through and then reflecting back on it whether you consider it a failure by the end or not. A couple of inspirational quotes come to mind which further illustrate this point:
The best way out is always through. – Robert Frost
A failure is a man who has blundered, but is not able to cash in on the experience. – Elbert Hubbard
By taking on challenges and experiences that I would have either avoided or shied away from before I save myself a great deal of time and stress. I am now much happier occasionally going with the non-analytical “Just Do It” approach. Without it I certainly would not have succeeded in half of the tasks I took part in, especially those that involved confronting my fear of heights as with the tree top abseiling and rock climbing.
Skills Development and Reflection
Since this workshop I have realised that sometimes our biggest strengths can be our biggest weaknesses. By nature, I tend to be an analytical ‘over-thinker’. This often left me fearful of risks that others did not share and meant that I did not take part in more adventurous activities socially and meant that I would waste time making a decision by over complicating the matter and going into in-depth research where it was not necessary. I now almost feel freed from my own mind and will just go and do something: that is not to say that I have become reckless in my decision making, but more that I respect and value my general gut feeling and I am comfortable pursuing an activity or task without the fear that I don’t know the absolute ins and outs of it. This saves an incredible amount of time, stress and worry. I will forever remember to reflect and re-evaluate myself in order to broaden my skills portfolio and more generally make me a happier person.
Becoming more Assertive
This workshop surprised me the most. Even while participating in the workshop tasks, I did not realise how much I would change and develop. I began as an avoider who refused to deal with issues and problems, make inquiries, clarify miscommunications and misunderstandings and I would never enter negotiations for more favourable terms, especially where conflict could arise. I now confront each of these daily requirements professionally and effectively and I cannot believe the amount of time it saves me as well as the person at the receiving end. I would go as far to say that I now thrive on the idea of negotiation, conflict resolution and generally being much more direct in life.
Leading a Group Project
While I understood the differences in styles of leadership prior to the workshop and their appropriateness for different tasks, I did not realise that a great leader should also adapt their style depending on the sub-tasks as the team progress toward the main objective: I am now much more comfortable doing this. Furthermore, the importance of the social aspect of teamwork is one that has often been glanced over during my academic development. I cannot emphasise enough the effectiveness of an ‘ice-breaker’ exercise to stimulate team engagement and trust throughout the given task/objective.
Delivering Effective Presentations
Prior to this workshop I felt as though I was not a confident presenter who could not articulate myself well nor keep the relevance and focus of my presentation engaging and on track. Much to my surprise, by the end of the workshop I found that I am actually quite good a delivering a presentation. I have now learnt the importance of gesture, intonation and neutral stance when delivering but most importantly, how to plan properly. The planning process involves brainstorming and picking out the most relevant information for the presentation, using notes for speaking and rehearsing in an environment closest to that which you will be in for the actual presentation and not just in my head by myself.
Working in Team
I use to think that CV writing and interviews would simply require that I reel off examples of teamwork. However, this is no longer the case having been taught Belbin’s team roles, which allow me to not only pinpoint the functions that I fulfil within a team dynamic but also those of my teammates. This higher level of thinking has provided me with a better understanding of the way people operate and provided me with a way to adapt to the needs of the team itself in order to succeed, as well as a much more professional answer to the interview question: what value do you add?
Academic Writing for Arts and Social Sciences
Before this workshop my essay writing, and writing in general, lacked the necessary analytical focus and structure to produce a piece of very high standards. With the use of structured and methodological planning coupled with taking a more definitive introduction where I outline the issues chronologically or take a strong position from the outset my essays are much more fluent and give a better reflection of my writing style. This has not only saved me time while writing but has made the process more enjoyable and keeps me enthusiastic about my chosen topic of discussion.
Who am I now?
I am a student who has achieved a 2.1 in law and is pursuing a Masters in Business and Law; I am a leader who thrives off team dynamic; I am a confident individual who is willing to assert myself professionally to resolve conflicts and negotiate terms; I am an articulate individual who can convey ideas and provide deep analysis in both written and oral form; I am an organised person that strives for new tasks in order to succeed at new objectives; I am a much more balanced human being that not only recognises that I add value professionally and socially but also on personal level...I am on the never-ending and ever-evolving road to becoming the strongest version of myself.
- Carpe Diem -