Recently I was given the opportunity to speak on a panel with experts and students pertaining to how students can stay positive for the future. Through this discussion, we touched upon various topics, such as: how COVID-19 is currently affecting our mental health and careers, methods and techniques that students are implementing to manage their anxiety and general futures, and also the concept of reframing! Towards the end of the chat, we discussed the topic of failures and success and how stairs can be used as an analogy -where each step can differ in size and duration, but ultimately, you’re moving up. Although it can be perceived as a cliché topic, I find that it is extremely relevant, especially in these tired times when one may be in what I call “career limbo”. An expansion to the ideas set forth by Dannie and Brandon (listen to webinar for context), I wanted to add in the concept of micro-steps. There will be times when we are dissuaded from pursuing certain passions or new hobbies, but I want to emphasize that the steps that you take forward don’t necessarily have to be a huge or “normal” step. In fact, you can take a tiny, little baby step that starts up the momentum for you to continue pushing on. This may take minutes, hours, weeks, years, but eventually -after many mini-steps -you build up enough potential to really push for success!
In addition to this, I also wanted to add in two items regarding success and failure that I have personally gone through and have seen other students of color struggle with -especially first- generation students.
The first is regarding limitations. Dr. Rivera did a beautiful job encompassing the ideas of societal and cultural expectations, and how they correspond with limitations. To add on to this concept, I wanted to point out that aside from external expectations that lead to us imposing limits on ourselves, we also impose internal expectations. What I mean by this is that we all have this tiny voice in our heads that tells us we can’t, or that it’s too much. And unfortunately, that leads to us potentially missing out on an amazing opportunity or possibility for mentorship! Now, when I was freaking out earlier this year regarding my CV, my Aunt Agnes had dropped a little nugget in my lap and I want to share that with y’all. She told me that saying “no” to projects before even trying them, is a shame because it was a possibility down a road that may have sparked a passion (aside from the many that I already have~). She went on to say that with my youth, this is prime time to take advantage of everything that I can and to “load up my plate”. She told me to stack my plate with as much stuff as I can, and if, for whatever reason, I couldn’t handle it to ease back. With all that said, I wanted to say that recognizing our own limitations is an amazing tool and quite introspective, but there’s also a possibility to push past those limits!
The second item I wanted to share, particularly involving careers and minorities is the sense of entitlement. For many of us that are first-generation, there’s an awkwardness and wariness towards reaching out to professionals or prospective mentors. This can be due to intimidation, perceived limitations, guilt, or even the idea of overstepping. However, I want to share that it’s okay to want more. It’s okay for you to serve as your own advocate and ask if it’s okay to shadow, research, or be mentored by someone that you feel you can learn a lot from. The most that can happen is that they say “no”, and that’s alright. Please don’t take it as a hard rejection. They may be too busy with their own work or already have a decent amount of mentees to juggle. Instead, ask if they have colleagues that may be able to help you or reach out to someone new. Similar to the concept of limitations, you don’t know until you try!
Now, with ALL that said (I know I’m a very soap boxy person), go ahead and send those emails! If you have the emotional and mental bandwidth, this is the perfect time to start planning. With everything virtual at the moment, you have the beauty of some anonymity and not having to speak face-to-face for the moment~
Wishing you all the best,
The Steve Fund recognizes that these are challenging, unprecedented times. We are a resource for students, their families, faculty and administration, and our mental health partners. COVID-19 is no exception. Our new webinar series, Community Conversations, features members of the Steve Fund community sharing how they are navigating this “new normal.” We hope that their challenges, experiences and insights will inform and inspire you. You are not alone, and the Steve Fund is here to provide the support you need.