OK so that probably sounds a tad dramatic but at the moment I feel like I’m always doing something to terrify myself. This isn’t a bad thing, and it’s definitely something I’m getting better at. The reason things are terrifying is because the are new/unknown, and personally I find the unknown petrifying (I imagine most people do), I am however learning to embrace it.
I guess it began last year when I jumped into this little thing called a PhD, starting at a new work place and having been out a research labs for a while – well terrifying doesn’t even begin to cover it really, but I dived right in and it couldn’t have gone better. I’ve taken a little bit of time to reflect on some of the different things I’ve done since I began at Leicester (this is definitely not an exhaustive list) and how scary they were at first, but how now they are just a part of my everyday life:
- Demonstrating – I can’t put into words how nervous I was for my first session demonstrating. I remember when I was an undergrad I thought demonstrators knew everything about the practicals we were doing, and now here I was needing to know everything about what they were doing, but having not done any of it since I was an undergrad! I didn’t need to worry, the academics running labs prepare you really well for the activities and provided you put in a little prep beforehand there’s no need to worry. It’s really nice getting to know the students and I would recommend demonstrating to any PhD student – but I guarantee you’ll get more out of it and enjoy it much more if you aren’t purely doing it for the money 🙂 .
- Blogging – man alive this one was petrifying at first. When I applied I had to send off a short sample blog, I’d thought about blogging in the past but have never actually done it. Now I had a purpose for a blog (PhD life at Leicester) and was actually letting someone read what I’d written. Hitting send on the email nearly caused a minor cardiac episode but as you can see nearly a year later I’m still going. It takes a bit of planning and discipline to find the time to write but it’s well worth the effort, I try and use the little bits of time between other tasks. Hitting publish on that first blog led to the same heart related scare as the sample blog – but I tended to pretend people weren’t reading it, weird I know but it’s what gave me the confidence to actually put my words out there for others to read. After a little while I got more comfortable with the idea that people were seeing it, the Graduate School were posting it on their facebook page (thanks guys!) and I finally took the step of actually sharing it myself on facebook and twitter (it took me about 6months to actually do this) – this was the most stressful part I think, it wouldn’t be strangers reading anymore it could be people I know. Deep breath, deep breath. So now my blog is out there and writing a weekly post is normal to me, I earn Society of Biology CPD points for doing it as it’s a task that helps me grow professionally but it’s also a really nice look back at what I’ve been doing and thinking.
- The Brilliant Club – when I first went to the talk given by Tom from the Brilliant Club I heard the words “Assessment Centre” come out of his mouth and thought “right this isn’t for me then”, BUT once he explained the structure and I realised assessment centre didn’t mean being bombarded with numerical reasoning tests I was back on board. The assessment centre was hard, but I passed the test and the feedback I got from them was so useful – really detailed and a tool for improving my teaching and for future interview situations. The training weekend was nerve wracking, but by now I’d learnt to pretend to myself I wasn’t scared of these new, intimidating, experiences just pretend you’re confident and you’ll appear confident. The longer you do this the more you realise you aren’t pretending anymore you’re actually confident. Being accepted to be a tutor by the brilliant club definitely gave me a huge confidence boost, they are pretty selective at the assessment centres so getting through to be a tutor meant my hardwork had paid off. Of course my first tutorial was scary, but the kids are great and I’ve already decided I’d like to go back in Sept and do the next round of placements (teaching a different year group).
These days I come across things that are new, intimidating, terrifying but 100% doable and more importantly worthwhile on a regular basis and the first thing I do is think about putting it off. I used to think “I don’t know how to do that so I’ll leave it for a little bit, deal with it tomorrow” now I still think that but bully myself into doing it anyway – I look at all the scary things I’ve already done and how well they’ve worked out, what I’ve gained from them and tell myself to pull my socks up and get on with it. If I’m interested I’ll regret it if I leave it and miss a deadline. My biggest lesson is that those people who look confident are probably just as nervous on the inside as you are, of course I have busy weeks where I wonder why have I let myself take on so much, but I then I get on with it. I had a tweet from the Brilliant Club last week telling me they don’t know how I fit it all in, hugely satisfying feeling to know other people realise you’re not only pulling your socks up but working them off on a varierty of different projects. I have a few more scary things coming up over the next few months, things I’ve applied for and talks I might give so I will, as always, keep you posted.