Introduction

As a mature student, I must admit that I was slightly
closed minded when enrolling in a module about personal development.  After all, I have seen and/or experienced
situations in my life that most of my fellow students never will.  As a U.S. Marine, I had the misfortune of
seeing other servicemen killed.  As a
firefighter, I was witness to enough death and tragedy for a lifetime of
nightmares.  To say that a mental
toughness and resilience was needed to function is an understatement. 

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In this essay, I will attempt to enlighten the reader
on how I feel that this module has helped me develop into a better job
candidate and as a better student. 

How
the Hell Did I End Up Here?

I must admit that I never had the intention of going
to university; I made that decision in high school and had every notion to
stick to it.  However, that plan went a
bit awry in the summer of 2011. 
Immediately after arriving in Ireland in 2006, I found work as a
customer service representative for a food distribution company in Dublin.  I was later recruited, by a family friend, to
work at Bank of America in Carrick-on-Shannon and was living in a beautiful
little village in County Mayo when our second daughter was born.  Unfortunately, she was born with a condition
where she would stop spontaneous breathing, or so we thought.  The doctors in Mayo were quick to recommend
that we needed to move closer to Dublin in order be close to immediate
emergency care if she were to become worse. 
So, that’s what we did.  In the autumn
of 2008, we left Ballyhaunis for the hustle and bustle of Dublin, again.  It was around this time that the “recession”
moved into another gear and began to really take a negative effect on the
economy.  Needless to say, I couldn’t
find work of any sort, so I went on the dole with the other one third of the
country.  It signing on was humiliating
to me because from the day I left my family home in 1988, I have provided for
myself and have never taken/or needed any government assistance.  That was unchartered waters for me. 

I was caught in the welfare line for three years when
the government decided that it was tired of me sitting around contributing
nothing to society.  I started receiving
letters demanding that I either find work or continuing education.  As work was still very difficult to find, I
decided that continuing my education could be a fruitful endeavour.  Being that I had not been in a classroom in
over twenty years, I applied for as spot in the Mature Student Access Programme
at the Dublin Institute of Technology. 
It was unlike most other access to higher education for mature students
because it was a full-time course compared to a two or three-day course.  The course included modules in maths, writing,
computer technology, personal development, and a few electives that I chose,
such as economics and computer science. 
Successful completion of the programme led to an offer in DIT’s Level 8
Economics and degree but I knew that I needed an extra edge that DIT couldn’t
offer and I pursued entry to Trinity College Dublin.  BESS was my first choice on the CAO form and,
initially, I was denied entry with no explanation.  Not being one to give up easily, I appealed
the rejection and won entry to the most prestigious university that Ireland has
to offer.  And so, my academic journey
began.

The first two years at TCD have been a struggle, to
say the least!  The academic requirements
of the university are enormous, especially for someone who has not been in a
full-time learning environment in over two decades.  Nonetheless, I have plodded on and have made
it to third-year, where, the academic challenges have increased further and a
personal life has become non-existent. 
However, I cannot think of anything else I would rather be doing than
bettering myself on a level that few are able to experience. 

In the first lecture of this module, Personal and
Professional Development, the question was asked “Why did you come to
university?”.  I didn’t put too much
effort in thinking of an answer and thought that it college was a better
option for me than sitting around watching Dr. Phil and Jeremy Kyle with my
partner.  If I were to think about it
now, my most genuine answer is that attending university will allow me access to
a career path that is just beyond entry-level but still closed to those without
a degree.  I will now be able to open doors
that were previously closed to me so that I can pursue a profession, instead of
a meaningless job. I guess it could be said that I would be classified by
Spencer (2008) not as a surfer, or a seeker, but as a gekko, someone motivated
by money, status, and recognition by their peers.  Vanity has always been my downfall.  My occupational motive is purely and simply
positional. 

A point that I must make, however, is that some of the
content of these modules have been lost on me. 
For example, some of the content and reading of the first lecture
included topics such as values and beliefs. 
Though the content may indeed be relevant for a majority of the
students, as a mature student I found it insightful, but not very useful
because my beliefs and values are established and not very pliable. 

Have
I Lost My Mindfulness?

I didn’t grow up under much stress.  In fact, I can’t remember having to worry
about very much growing up.  I was an OK
student that just got by and didn’t participate in very many outside
activities.  I never felt abnormal or
out-of-place, I just felt that I was built differently than the other
kids.  As life progressed, I did begin to
feel that I was “different” than others. 
When I enrolled in paramedic training as a firefighter, I realized that
my mind wandered most of the time and learning was quite difficult.  After consulting with my family physician, it
was discovered that I suffered from ADD and Asperger’s Disease and, with the
help of medication, I was able to complete the training.

That was not such an easy task here in Ireland.  When I started at DIT, I knew that academia
would be a challenge beyond what others would experience.  I went to my GP for medicinal help but they
were not as accommodating as the doctors are in the U.S.  Being that medication for ADD is only
“scripted” for individuals 18 years old and under, I had to seek psychiatric
consultation.  I eventually did receive
help, after a wait of over a year, and was able to be put on much needed
medication just before starting at TCD. 

I must mention that when I was a student of the martial
arts, I did learn about the art of meditation. 
For quite a long time, until family life started, I would meditate
almost daily to clear my mind and I found it very beneficial.  Unfortunately, I have become lost in the
everyday rat-race and can rarely find the time to meditate properly.  However, before my feet hit the floor every
morning, I do make sure to take about one minute for deep breathing exercises
to get the blood flowing to the brain before the chaos begins. 

The importance of knowing yourself is increasingly
becoming common practice in the workplace and, according to Cotrus et al
(2012), researchers have shown that our success at work or in life depends on
Emotional Intelligence 80% and only20% of intellect. We must be sensitive to
what motivates others if we want to influence the behaviour of others.
Understanding motivation goes to social abilities development, including the
capacity of having a positive effect on others behavior, of being able to
resolve conflicts, to live and work with one another.

Negotiate
or Die Trying

I, unfortunately, missed the lecture presented by Dr.
Torres.  However, I have been involved in
numerous negotiations where my livelihood depended on a positive outcome.  Before becoming a respected public safety
official, I was a low-life car salesman. 
That term is not one that I decided to own, it is one that is given to
most auto sales professionals.  Admittedly,
some individuals do deserve the title because they would sell their mother for
a fiver.  I was a more conscientious
professional.  What made me
different?  I preferred to listen to what
the customer wanted and found it for them compared to telling them what I
thought they should buy, as some of my colleagues did.

Negotiating is not a one-way street.  Telling the customer what they need and
trying to steer them in that direction is often the wrong business tactic to
pursue.  In a negotiation, the actor with
the upper-hand is quite often the party that has the financing to buy your
product.  Selling yourself is a major
part in a negotiation.  There are often
times when the customer has a choice to get their product from numerous
locations but he/she will, typically, chose to receive the product from the
individual or team that they are most comfortable with and trust (Carmody,
2014).

I hate negotiating, but I’m reasonably good at
it.  When I sold cars, I made a lot of
money because I differentiated myself from the typical car salesman. 

Fail
to Plan Your Career and Your Career Could Fail

Growing up, I remember my father telling me, and I’m
sure that his father told him, to “Go to school, get good grades, and then get
a good job.”.  The problem was that I
didn’t just want a “job”.  My father
worked in two places his entire life; his father had only one.  This is not an issue on its own.  The issue is that I remember my father coming
home and complaining about his day on a daily basis.  When I asked why he didn’t get another job,
he told me that “You don’t just change jobs because you don’t like the one you
have.”  This was the mentality of
generations past.  That mentality has
changed; the jury is still out on if that is for the better or the worse. 

As technology has changed over the past few decades,
so has the skill required to adequately perform tasks at work.  Having these required skills, at one time,
made you a valuable commodity to the company. 
For example, being highly proficient in Microsoft Office (especially
Excel and PowerPoint) once put your CV at the top of the pile.  Today, being proficient with the entire
Microsoft Office Suite is an expected skill, not a recommended one.  In relation to technology in the banking
sector, which I am very interested in pursuing, Clarke (2014) suggest that tech
proficiency in software programming such C++, Python, and SQL will be required
to reach the top of the CV stack.  As
such, I have enrolled in online modules that teach these skills at a
self-regulated pace.  I also have the
intention of a summer internship to further enhance my chances for employment
and realize any further skills that would make me stand out from the
“competition”.  The internship will also
allow me to decide if I will thrive in the banking environment.  As I am entering the second half of my life,
it is important that I find a proper fit in a timely manner.  I do not see myself pursuing post-graduate
full-time education; I simply don’t have the dedication, or home support, to
pursue it.  However, I do plan on
studying for and sitting the CFA exams to further enhance my employability, and
remuneration. 

Me?  A Brand?

Who you are, what you are, and what you stand for is a
very powerful source of information to society. 
Personal Branding has become a buzz word in the career field for quite a
few years.  Formerly, it was simply
referred to as your professional reputation. 
Commaille (2018) explains in his book The Journey to a Personal Brand that all branding is about
developing a relationship with your market and that the reason people return to
a brand again and again is simply “because they be sure that they will get
certain that they have had, enjoyed and want more of.” (p. 28).  He also makes the astonishing claim “that
being seen is not the same as being remembered” (p. 129).

 In an excerpt
of his book The Brand Called You, Montoya
(2014) gives three basic perceptions that you should try to create for your
target market, in this case future employer.

1. You are
different. Differentiation, or the ability to be seen as new and original,
is the most important aspect of Personal Branding.

 2. You are superior. Your brand must
encourage the belief that you are among the best at what you do in some way –
faster, providing better service, having the latest technology, and so on.
Being a leader in your field is critical to gaining the confidence of people
who don’t know you personally.

3. You are
authentic. Great Personal Brands are “spin-free zones.” Your brand must be
built on the truth of who you are, what your strength is, and what you love
about your work – and it must communicate this to your market.

Today, the personal brand is part of the job seeker’s
professional life, and recruiters and companies alike are turning to technology
to help discover their recruits’ personal brand.  Tools such as LinkedIn and GitHub are first
line choices that employers use to get their first glimpse of a person they are
interested in.  In order to get a more in
depth view, they are also turning to social media pages such as Facebook, Twitter,
and Instagram.  The legalities and,
indeed, legitimacy of this type of research is still under question but every
employee needs to realize that the reality is there and that privacy is not
what it should be. 

Lipschitz (2016, p. 36) explains it best when he says that
the “Personal Brand is a part of job seeker’s professional life whether they
want one or not. Recruiters develop one for the job seeker before, during, and
after meeting them. A successful candidate who tries to control their destiny
will have a carefully crafted Personal Brand; they will consistently weave this
Personal Brand into all aspects of their public-facing persona, re-evaluate it
often, and check for external factors skewing the Personal Brand from desired
messaging

Conclusion

The Personal and Professional Development module has
been one of the most interesting modules that I participated in this year.  When I first started the module, I didn’t
think that much could be learned from an “old” person such as myself.  However, this did not prove to be the
case.  There were a few topics and
demonstrations (such as the fruit tasting exercise) that I didn’t buy in
to.  That is not to say that it was not
beneficial to other, just that I may have been too set in my ways to understand
the necessity of it. 

Overall, I thank the
lecturer and guests for their time and commitment to the module, and that their
expertise is appreciated and valued by many others in the future.

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Hi!
I'm Erica!

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