July 22, 2013

WSPA P1 Final

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WSPA P1 Final

Workshop Tutor: Samena Rashid

Date: 22/07/2013

I feel as though I have progressed as an individual to be a more active dare-devil who is willing to go with the flow. As mentioned previously though, my limits remain at climbing rocks and swinging from tree tops and I cannot see myself throwing my body out of a plane and plummeting toward the ground. However, I am much more open to engaging with activities and this has supported my development into a work-hard-play-hard style. In having much more organised and more enjoyable activities outside of going to the pub, I have much more to look forward to and this means that I am focused when working.

With regards to planning and prioritising, I could not survive without my diary. Simple organisational changes like this have made me realise the spare time procrastinating I had that I could have been allocating much more effectively. I now appreciate the value of time and I am finding much better ways to spend it.

While I am filling in the gaps of my skill portfolio through the WSPA, my degree, Microsoft Office Specialist certifications and the like, I am now hoping to secure a training contract which has left me questioning my commercial awareness. With this in mind I have signed up to The Economist have several newsletters concerning legal and business matters sent to my mail box. Furthermore, I am looking to learn a language (either Spanish for S.America or Mandarin/Cantonese), provided it is affordable, during the summer holidays as I realise that we are in a global market place and I need to adapt to this.

July 15, 2013

Final entry for Warwick Skills Portfolio Award

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 -

July 14, 2013

A3 – Academic Writing – Final

Follow-up to A3 – Academic Writing – Follow–up 2 from Sean's blog

A3 – Academic Writing – Final

Workshop Tutor: Dr Laura Davies

Date: 14th July 2013

For me the key change and ongoing challenge remains at being able to produce a structured plan. In referring to the checklist provided by the workshop and following the methodology provided, I feel that I am a much more confident writer. The terms in bold are of particular importance in the way I plan and execute my assignments now. Prior to the workshop I would have produced a plan, but only because I had been told that this was a good thing to do. The results were very sketchy and lacked the substance needed to provide me with a time saving framework to produce an organised and well articulated piece of writing.

My new approach to planning alongside my awareness of the audience I am writing for has translated into a style which is much more engaging; fluent; structured; purposeful and relevant as well as providing a higher level of critical analysis and comparative understanding. My essays no longer follow the crime novel outline that leaves the reader guessing until the end but provides an outline of the position I will take on the subject and the issues that are in question. This direction from the outset keeps me interested in the assignment, never mind the marker.

Despite the vast improvements I have made, academic writing definitely remains a work in progress. I still need a lot of practice on maintaining the focus of my assignments during paragraphs halfway through my essay. Not only this but I am a relatively slow reader which makes the research stage particularly time consuming so I am using Spreeder in order to address this problem. Finally, I cannot remember if it was mentioned during the workshop but I think that EndNote should be plugged into the starter packs for every course involving writing. Unfortunately, I have only discovered this software after finishing my degree at Warwick but it will hopefully be an invaluable tool when I begin my Masters in Law and Business by providing a translation tool for referencing to provide citations as well as automatically forming your bibliography alongside it. This saves many boring hours of referencing which is much welcomed.

While the workshop will directly impact on my future Masters assignments, it has a much more general impact beyond academics which I will carry through to my upcoming applications for training contracts and paralegal work as well as for my eventual legal career.

When writing, always keep in mind Plan and Purpose.

P3 – Working in a Team – Final

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P3 – Working in a Team – Final

Workshop Tutor: Trudy Hillier

Date: 14th July 2013

I have learnt that the best role to have in a team is the one it needs most. This comes with some conditionals though reliant on my characteristics being strong enough to take on that role as well as whether I can do it for a particular task/in a certain context. Thus far I have not had issues adapting my role from coordinator and ME to plant and team worker.

The workshop has helped me answer that all-too-common interview question “what value can you add to the firm?” I can answer this question professionally with various previous examples ranging from fundraising Pro Bono work to my treasury role within the Breakdance society. Over and above this I feel much more confident at the idea of assessment centres and my Masters in business and law.

A key point in being a good team member has several layers of thought process. The first is to establish what you bring to the team; the second is what others bring to the team; the third is then adjusting to this so that your team is in the best possible position to succeed in the given objective.

The single most important thing I have gained in this workshop is the realisation that I do not want to work in a career that does not involve teamwork. I thrive off the team dynamic and greatly look forward to this type of work after I finish my LPC.

July 12, 2013

P8 – Leading a Group Project – Final

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WSPA P8 – Leading a Group Project – Final

Workshop Tutor: Han-na Cha

Date: 12th July 2013

Following this workshop I do not only feel that I can be an effective leader but this is actually my preferred role. The reason behind this is not so much to do with the level of authority over people but the level of responsibility for the task and the power to coordinate a team and utilise the strengths of my group.

The best type of leadership style tends to be the one your type of team/project needs. A general theme I have found with careers workshops and associated career preparing classes is the need to remain adaptable. A great leader is someone who can transition their style throughout a project for the benefit of the overall task and between each subtask or to different teams/individuals: It is an ever evaluate and re-evaluating exercise carried out at a very personal level.

Having now analysed previous team failures, I can now implement a structured style to produce the desired result. As with my writing, this tended to be due to what Adair describes as the planning and initiating responsibilities of the leader. Instead of assuming the team is clear on the objectives and reasons behind a task I make sure that I clarify this and set out a time stamped structure of sub-tasks as was the case during my training contract exercise.

I look forward to using what I have learnt for my Masters in Business and Law at BPP as well as in my future legal career.

P4 – Delivering Effective Presentations – Follow–up

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P4 - Delivering Effective Presentations – Final

Workshop Tutor: Bev Walsh

Date: 12th July 2013

I feel that I have yet to fully utilise the skill sets I have acquired from this workshop. To date I have tackled how I present myself to others as oppose to a presentation as commonly understood. However, this will change in the upcoming months with the possibility of interviews and assessment centres in the hopes of securing a training contract as well as with my Masters in Law and Business which is partly assessed by presentations that starts in September.

Thus far I feel not only much more confident my presentation abilities but also much more aware of external factors which should affect my presentation style such as the time of day, stage space available, my audience’s knowledge on the subject and even their age. Currently I am using the KISS model to practice my interview technique by brainstorming the different experiences I have undertaken and the related skill sets that are exemplified by them. Then deciding the strongest relations between the two to give examples as well as which may be outdated or less relevant for different law firms. I am then just practicing interviews in front of the mirror and with my family at the moment which are recorded and gradually my style has become much more engaging; well articulated; direct and relevant.

The main problem area which has required deep thought has been intonation which I am constantly tweaking in different areas of my answer (although I realise that this may not go as to plan in a real interview). I will research this area further to reach the next level on my presenting style.

The workshop did inspire me to gain a Microsoft Office Specialist certification on Microsoft PowerPoint so that I can make full use of visual aid software. I hope to transition the knowledge I have gained through the workshop and the above course into my later career and Pro Bono work in which I will undoubtedly be pitching ideas and clarifying/summarising points to business clients.

A3 – Academic Writing – Follow–up 2

Follow-up to A3 – Academic Writing – Follow–up from Sean's blog

A3 – Academic Writing – Follow-up 2

Workshop Tutor: Dr Laura Davies

Date: 6th July 2013

Since the workshop I have been very mindful of the audience who are marking my papers and assignments. With this in mind, I was sure to study materials written by my lecturers, seminar tutors and any external marker’s works. My examination technique has clearly improved since last year having gone from a mere pass to achieving an overall 2.1 degree classification. Previously, I would barely plan at all under examination conditions as I ignorantly felt that this would take up too much time. I felt much more comfortable with a structured approach to planning before writing which meant that one paragraph could flow into the next.

However, I still felt that my time allocation between questions was poorly set out which let me down overall. A part of this could be because I had a gap between my 2nd and final year alongside a lack of practice on examination technique and timed essay writing meant that I could not apply my knowledge and understanding of the course within the fixed timeframe. In future, I will tackle previous exam questions under timed conditions as oppose to just writing out answer notes so that I feel more prepared and comfortable when sitting the actual exam.

July 08, 2013

WSPA P4 – Delivering Effective Presentations – Follow–up

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P4- Delivering Effective Presentations- Follow-up

Workshop Tutor: Bev Walsh

Date: 6th July 2013

Preparation seems to be the key to success in this field. While not presenting in the formal sense, I ensure that before I engage in a conversation with an agenda or technical inquiry, I quickly take note of the key discussion points. Examples have been during my career meeting with BPP law school where I wanted to ensure I came across professionally and had a structured approach to my queries and concerns which meant that I could get the most out of the 30 minute time slot I had been allocated. I now constantly carry my water bottle with me everywhere, which not only provide me with pauses in conversation to think through what I am about to say, but also keeps the tone of my voice in check and prevent it breaking when nervous.

Again, more on the level of presenting myself as oppose to delivering a presentation, I have currently been re-establishing some networks I obtained during previous law fairs. The goal is to gain some insight into different firms which I intend to apply to as well as perhaps find a more informal avenue to forward my applications to based on any sort of recommendation or recognition. As was my approach to the quick phone conversations I have had with some of my contacts, I intend to have an agenda geared toward my career and possibly even a friendship if I can secure an informal meet up for a drink.

Furthermore, I am currently rehearsing replies to possible questions I could be asked at an interview stage so that I am confident and clear in the way I present myself in an interview. I will continue to do this until I have fully updated my CV and covering letter at which stage I will book mock interviews with BPP Law School as well as practice with my family and friends which should leave me as prepared as I can be.

July 04, 2013

P2 – Becoming More Assertive – Follow–up

Follow-up to WSPA– Becoming More Assertive – P2 from Sean's blog

P2 - Becoming More Assertive - Follow-up

Workshop Tutor: Bev Walsh

Date: 03/07/2013

Assertive behaviour is possibly one of the best traits I have now acquired during my time at Warwick. I cannot emphasise enough the improvement in my communication skills following the workshop. I have continuously been surprised by my original attitude of being open-minded but assuming that the information learnt in workshops would be relatively self-explanatory. This has completely changed having witnessed the vast changes in my character at a professional and social level.

Although I did not realise it at the time, becoming more assertive has assisted my organisational skills and my ability to build important relations with staff that can help me further my career as is the case with BPP law school who always say it is an absolute pleasure to speak to me. I feel much more confident in tackling issues as they arise and clarify points I am unsure of as soon as they arise which makes both my life easier and the person answering my inquiry.

Several situations of conflict have arisen where I feel comfortable remaining calm and assertive. I would even go as far to say that I now enjoy being in situations of potential conflict especially where it comes to negotiating and meeting a satisfactory resolution. This has been the case when I renegotiated my mother’s contract with her broadband supplier to make a saving of around £8 per month. Even in the gym today, I found myself in a situation where I had been waiting quite a while for a member of staff to give me an induction and free trial. Whereas before I would have continued to sit there, on this occasion I complained and clarified the situation which seemed to be down to miscommunication and the issue was resolved within a few minutes.

As far my aims to improve my mild lordosis, I am making slow progress. My lower back pain has reduced during walks and standing and the curvature is reduced. I am gradually feeling more comfortable holding a neutral stance and believe that the main issue with my back is tight hamstrings and overly flexible quads which have caused an imbalance resulting in a slight pelvic tilt.

P3– Working in a Team – Follow–up 1

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P3 - Working in a Team - Follow-up 1

Workshop Tutor: Trudy Hillier

Date: 23/06/2013

Having attended the Training Contract workshop, I operated closer to a shaper as oppose to a co-ordinator. The reason for this was that the timescale for the task was a brief 20 minutes which provided little time to identify others strengths and delegate activities. The group challenged involved an ethical conundrum in which our group had to decide who to save in priority order which could be based on personal information provided on each person. I allocated time slots for reading, coming up with a scale to assess priority, applying said scale to each survivor and finally ordering them chronologically and any final discussion for agreement.

During the task itself, I found myself having to keep focus on the task and time within the group to ensure we finished. On two occasions I had to cut off an MO for this reason but was sure to do it assertively and politely to avoid offending them and avoid the weaknesses of some shapers.

More interestingly, I took on the role of a plant which I had previously assumed was my least preferred role. This is partly due to my own ignorance in associating coming up with ideas and being creative with product development and more artistic endeavours. However, I proposed the point-scale system we used based on whether the survivor had dependents, their contributions to society and their general health/age. This was then developed by my team to operate within the time constraints given.

This has made me realise that Belbin’s roles are much more fluid than they appear and while I may have a preferred role that I feel most comfortable with, that is not to say that I cannot work effectively when taking on another role in a different context. Furthermore, having been equipped with the knowledge of team roles and remaining aware of this learning I feel much more confident within a team and I am sure that in the future I will be able to identify and utilise the talents of my team more effectively because of this.

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