A little over six months ago I attended a workshop by Rachel Strella, a social media professional. The topic was how to use social media effectively to expand your professional network. I was so intrigued by her presentation that, before the presentation was over, I had already opened up a Twitter account and was tweeting thoughts on that night’s presentation.
As a business professional with over five years of experience in higher education, I realized that I actually had a voice. I had something to say. A few weeks later, I started my blog, Community College Voice, re-activated my Facebook account and began sharing religiously on Google+ about my passion for higher education.
It was like a spark ignited in me. Although my background is in recruitment and communications, I discovered a new love for communicating in a way that, until then, I did not fully appreciate. I fell in love with social media and I developed a thirst to find ways to use it to share content and engage like-minded professionals with mutual interests.
Once I grasped how I wanted to integrate social media into my personal life, I began to push the boundaries and expand into my professional world. My curiosity and drive to learn more about social media led me to speak up more in team meetings – in fact, I spoke up about ways we could enhance our recruitment strategies with social media. I shared every tidbit of knowledge learned from webinars and blogs. I even invited Rachel to speak at a few of our division and departmental meetings to better educate my colleagues on how to integrate social media into their offices. I daresay some of them are now believers.
I began to watch my colleagues’ levels of enthusiasm rise as they, too, became excited about ways that we could be more productive in our communication and how we could engage prospective students through our social media channels.
This is only one example of how curiosity has lead to a better outcome. There have been multiple projects that I have found myself involved in over the years simply because I voiced questions in my mind and explored potential avenues that would enable me to find the answers. I’ve had the pleasure of serving on college-wide task forces, co-creating a student leadership program, and serving on the boards of several non-profit organizations. Even as I write this blog post, I smile because this also is an example of an unfamiliar path that I dared to venture.
I truly believe that my willingness to step out on a limb and try something new has made me a well-rounded professional. I’ve never felt “bored” with my work because I have found ways to re-invigorate myself and put a new spin on what could very easily become mundane. Not only has my knowledge-base increased, but my personal and professional networks have expanded exponentially. When you have the courage to embrace your curiosity, it just continues to open doors to new opportunities. And I’m humbly excited to embrace the challenge of a new adventure as I have recently accepted the position of associate director of recruitment at my institution.
My advice to any professional, young or seasoned, would be to never stop dreaming. I know it sounds cliché, but it’s true. Actively pursue your interests. Make time and seek out mentors that will nurture your curiosity. While, depending on your work load, some interests may be more challenging to pursue than others, try to engage yourself in at least one non-directly related project each quarter. Assess your skills and strengths as an individual, see where you may want to further develop them, and find appropriate initiatives that will enable you to put more tools in your arsenal.
The best part? As you continue to grow personally and professionally, you position yourself to be a mentor and nurture someone else’s curiosity.
Christina Wood is the associate director of recruitment at Harrisburg Area Community College (‘02) in Harrisburg, PA. She holds degrees in English and journalism from Millersville University and a master’s degree in higher education management from the University of Pennsylvania. Christina is very passionate about education and has worked in higher education for over five years. She blogs about various issues in higher education and shares advice for new professionals on her blog Community College Voice. She also has written for other college, career, and education blogs such as TheLI$T, BrazenLife, and Evolllution. Follow her on Twitter at @ChristinaW82 or connect with her on LinkedIn.