IntroductionAs a mature student, I must admit that I was slightlyclosed minded when enrolling in a module about personal development. After all, I have seen and/or experiencedsituations in my life that most of my fellow students never will. As a U.S. Marine, I had the misfortune ofseeing other servicemen killed. As afirefighter, I was witness to enough death and tragedy for a lifetime ofnightmares. To say that a mentaltoughness and resilience was needed to function is an understatement. In this essay, I will attempt to enlighten the readeron how I feel that this module has helped me develop into a better jobcandidate and as a better student.
Howthe Hell Did I End Up Here?I must admit that I never had the intention of goingto university; I made that decision in high school and had every notion tostick to it. However, that plan went abit awry in the summer of 2011. Immediately after arriving in Ireland in 2006, I found work as acustomer service representative for a food distribution company in Dublin.
I was later recruited, by a family friend, towork at Bank of America in Carrick-on-Shannon and was living in a beautifullittle village in County Mayo when our second daughter was born. Unfortunately, she was born with a conditionwhere she would stop spontaneous breathing, or so we thought. The doctors in Mayo were quick to recommendthat we needed to move closer to Dublin in order be close to immediateemergency care if she were to become worse. So, that’s what we did.
In the autumnof 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 theeconomy. Needless to say, I couldn’tfind work of any sort, so I went on the dole with the other one third of thecountry.
It signing on was humiliatingto me because from the day I left my family home in 1988, I have provided formyself 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 whenthe government decided that it was tired of me sitting around contributingnothing to society. I started receivingletters demanding that I either find work or continuing education. As work was still very difficult to find, Idecided that continuing my education could be a fruitful endeavour. Being that I had not been in a classroom inover twenty years, I applied for as spot in the Mature Student Access Programmeat the Dublin Institute of Technology. It was unlike most other access to higher education for mature studentsbecause 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 8Economics and degree but I knew that I needed an extra edge that DIT couldn’toffer 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 appealedthe rejection and won entry to the most prestigious university that Ireland hasto offer. And so, my academic journeybegan. The first two years at TCD have been a struggle, tosay the least! The academic requirementsof the university are enormous, especially for someone who has not been in afull-time learning environment in over two decades. Nonetheless, I have plodded on and have madeit to third-year, where, the academic challenges have increased further and apersonal life has become non-existent. However, I cannot think of anything else I would rather be doing thanbettering myself on a level that few are able to experience.
In the first lecture of this module, Personal andProfessional Development, the question was asked “Why did you come touniversity?”. I didn’t put too mucheffort in thinking of an answer and thought that it college was a betteroption for me than sitting around watching Dr. Phil and Jeremy Kyle with mypartner. If I were to think about itnow, my most genuine answer is that attending university will allow me access toa career path that is just beyond entry-level but still closed to those withouta degree.
I will now be able to open doorsthat were previously closed to me so that I can pursue a profession, instead ofa meaningless job. I guess it could be said that I would be classified bySpencer (2008) not as a surfer, or a seeker, but as a gekko, someone motivatedby money, status, and recognition by their peers. Vanity has always been my downfall.
My occupational motive is purely and simplypositional. A point that I must make, however, is that some of thecontent of these modules have been lost on me. For example, some of the content and reading of the first lectureincluded topics such as values and beliefs. Though the content may indeed be relevant for a majority of thestudents, as a mature student I found it insightful, but not very usefulbecause my beliefs and values are established and not very pliable. HaveI Lost My Mindfulness?I didn’t grow up under much stress. In fact, I can’t remember having to worryabout very much growing up.
I was an OKstudent that just got by and didn’t participate in very many outsideactivities. I never felt abnormal orout-of-place, I just felt that I was built differently than the otherkids. As life progressed, I did begin tofeel that I was “different” than others.
When I enrolled in paramedic training as a firefighter, I realized thatmy mind wandered most of the time and learning was quite difficult. After consulting with my family physician, itwas discovered that I suffered from ADD and Asperger’s Disease and, with thehelp 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 academiawould be a challenge beyond what others would experience. I went to my GP for medicinal help but theywere 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 psychiatricconsultation. I eventually did receivehelp, after a wait of over a year, and was able to be put on much neededmedication just before starting at TCD.
I must mention that when I was a student of the martialarts, I did learn about the art of meditation. For quite a long time, until family life started, I would meditatealmost daily to clear my mind and I found it very beneficial. Unfortunately, I have become lost in theeveryday rat-race and can rarely find the time to meditate properly. However, before my feet hit the floor everymorning, I do make sure to take about one minute for deep breathing exercisesto get the blood flowing to the brain before the chaos begins.
The importance of knowing yourself is increasinglybecoming common practice in the workplace and, according to Cotrus et al(2012), researchers have shown that our success at work or in life depends onEmotional Intelligence 80% and only20% of intellect. We must be sensitive towhat motivates others if we want to influence the behaviour of others.Understanding motivation goes to social abilities development, including thecapacity of having a positive effect on others behavior, of being able toresolve conflicts, to live and work with one another.Negotiateor Die TryingI, unfortunately, missed the lecture presented by Dr.Torres. However, I have been involved innumerous negotiations where my livelihood depended on a positive outcome. Before becoming a respected public safetyofficial, I was a low-life car salesman.
That term is not one that I decided to own, it is one that is given tomost auto sales professionals. Admittedly,some individuals do deserve the title because they would sell their mother fora fiver. I was a more conscientiousprofessional. What made medifferent? I preferred to listen to whatthe customer wanted and found it for them compared to telling them what Ithought they should buy, as some of my colleagues did. Negotiating is not a one-way street. Telling the customer what they need andtrying to steer them in that direction is often the wrong business tactic topursue. In a negotiation, the actor withthe upper-hand is quite often the party that has the financing to buy yourproduct. Selling yourself is a majorpart in a negotiation.
There are oftentimes when the customer has a choice to get their product from numerouslocations but he/she will, typically, chose to receive the product from theindividual or team that they are most comfortable with and trust (Carmody,2014). I hate negotiating, but I’m reasonably good atit. When I sold cars, I made a lot ofmoney because I differentiated myself from the typical car salesman.
Failto Plan Your Career and Your Career Could FailGrowing up, I remember my father telling me, and I’msure that his father told him, to “Go to school, get good grades, and then geta good job.”. The problem was that Ididn’t just want a “job”. My fatherworked 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 cominghome 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 youhave.” This was the mentality ofgenerations past. That mentality haschanged; 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 (especiallyExcel and PowerPoint) once put your CV at the top of the pile. Today, being proficient with the entireMicrosoft Office Suite is an expected skill, not a recommended one. In relation to technology in the bankingsector, which I am very interested in pursuing, Clarke (2014) suggest that techproficiency in software programming such C++, Python, and SQL will be requiredto reach the top of the CV stack.
Assuch, I have enrolled in online modules that teach these skills at aself-regulated pace. I also have theintention of a summer internship to further enhance my chances for employmentand realize any further skills that would make me stand out from the”competition”. The internship will alsoallow 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-graduatefull-time education; I simply don’t have the dedication, or home support, topursue it.
However, I do plan onstudying for and sitting the CFA exams to further enhance my employability, andremuneration. Me? A Brand?Who you are, what you are, and what you stand for is avery powerful source of information to society. Personal Branding has become a buzz word in the career field for quite afew years. Formerly, it was simplyreferred to as your professional reputation. Commaille (2018) explains in his book The Journey to a Personal Brand that all branding is aboutdeveloping a relationship with your market and that the reason people return toa brand again and again is simply “because they be sure that they will getcertain that they have had, enjoyed and want more of.” (p. 28). He also makes the astonishing claim “thatbeing seen is not the same as being remembered” (p.
129). In an excerptof his book The Brand Called You, Montoya(2014) gives three basic perceptions that you should try to create for yourtarget market, in this case future employer. 1. You aredifferent. 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 mustencourage 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 peoplewho don’t know you personally. 3. You areauthentic. Great Personal Brands are “spin-free zones.” Your brand must bebuilt on the truth of who you are, what your strength is, and what you loveabout your work – and it must communicate this to your market.Today, the personal brand is part of the job seeker’sprofessional life, and recruiters and companies alike are turning to technologyto help discover their recruits’ personal brand. Tools such as LinkedIn and GitHub are firstline choices that employers use to get their first glimpse of a person they areinterested in.
In order to get a more indepth 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 everyemployee needs to realize that the reality is there and that privacy is notwhat it should be. Lipschitz (2016, p. 36) explains it best when he says thatthe “Personal Brand is a part of job seeker’s professional life whether theywant one or not. Recruiters develop one for the job seeker before, during, andafter meeting them. A successful candidate who tries to control their destinywill have a carefully crafted Personal Brand; they will consistently weave thisPersonal Brand into all aspects of their public-facing persona, re-evaluate itoften, and check for external factors skewing the Personal Brand from desiredmessagingConclusionThe Personal and Professional Development module hasbeen one of the most interesting modules that I participated in this year. When I first started the module, I didn’tthink that much could be learned from an “old” person such as myself.
However, this did not prove to be thecase. There were a few topics anddemonstrations (such as the fruit tasting exercise) that I didn’t buy into. That is not to say that it was notbeneficial to other, just that I may have been too set in my ways to understandthe necessity of it. Overall, I thank thelecturer and guests for their time and commitment to the module, and that theirexpertise is appreciated and valued by many others in the future.