My struggles with self-advocacy
It’s time to reflect on my NODA internship as a whole and I’m hesitant to do so. I’m afraid because reflecting on this experience is going to mean admitting certain personal failures on my part; certain inabilities to stand up for myself and my needs. The fact that I’m even writing this brings tears to my eyes, but it needs to be out there; it needs to be digested. My intent in writing about this is not to put blame on others for my failures or inabilities, it is only to reflect upon them and how I will seek to better my experiences in the future.
I came into this experience with a learning contract that I shared with my supervisor before I arrived. It outlined the experiences I was hoping to have and focused on the competencies I was looking to gain, as outlined by my graduate school program. For those who are interested the learning contract is posted under my NODA Internship section. I think the first place where I went wrong was not sitting down with my supervisor(s) at the very beginning of the summer and having an honest conversation with them about which experience/competencies I could logically meet and which ones were less likely to happen. Perhaps a happy medium could have been reached early on instead of me continuing to think that it was all possible. I’m quite sure that my supervisors would not have wanted to tell me that certain items were off the table, but had I known this early on it would have been easier to accept. Plus I would have understood that it had nothing to do with my competence and more to do with their policies and procedures.
As I look back at my learning contract the thing that strikes me the most is that a great deal of the experiences I was looking for did not focus around the day-to-day elements of orientation and advising, but more on the theories, trends and issues that influence orientation and first-year programs. Based on this fact, what I really needed and didn’t advocate for enough was one-on-one time to just reflect and discuss the ins and outs of orientation/advising programming with my supervisors. The natural question that arises from this realization is “Why didn’t I advocate for these meetings?”. Well, I can think of a number of reasons, for one thing I got wrapped up in the chaos of the season. It was hard enough to keep up with the grueling orientation day schedules and constant busy work that was asked of me on non-session days. I guess the thought of trying to schedule yet another meeting seemed impossible at times, let alone logically improbable. In addition, both of my bosses used the majority of their non-session day to attend multiple staff meetings, face time on these days was at a premium and I didn’t feel comfortable asking for much of their time. As I write this I am once again faced with the fact that I could have asked, I could have demanded more time. Perhaps I wouldn’t have gotten any of it, but at least I wouldn’t be sitting here wondering.
I wonder if I would have reacted differently if I had been staying in the same position for more than two and a half months. If I didn’t know that I was headed back to an assistantship and an university where I am given large amounts of responsibility would I have been more adamant about my needs? What if I didn’t feel like I still had some time to gain the competencies I couldn’t get here? I’m sure that part of my hesitation to ask for more face time is due to my stubborn independence. I don’t want to come across as someone who needs to have their hand held through everything, who needs to analyze everything down to the smallest detail. At the same time I need to recognize that I cannot learn all I need to learn on my own and that part of being a professional is recognizing the things that you can’t do on your own and asking for help. I hope to take this lesson to heart in the future.
At this point in the summer I am certain that I can’t achieve all the goals I had for my internship, but I can try and make it the best situation it can be. I have already started to set up meetings with various other professionals on campus to get a more thorough understanding of the programs and services available at SJSU. Tomorrow I will schedule some final reflection time with my various supervisors and at that time I will be presenting them with an overview of my job responsibilities this year, along with my learning contract and suggestions for improvements. I may have not been able to have the ideal experience, but I can work to ensure that the next NODA intern will have a better experience due to my suggestions.