I have not posted as frequently as I should over the last 6 months, for several reasons. a) I started two new jobs within a month of each other and needed the time and headspace to adjust. b) I am currently defending my academic and professional reputation. c) Adjusting once again to being a mother of an independent black man. d) Fulfilling my role as a dutiful wife. e) And undertaking all my other responsibilities and commitments.
In all honesty, I have not felt comfortable taking this infrequent break from posting because in 2017 I made a commitment to use my blog to encourage and support others, specifically black women and girls in higher education and the workplace. So I apologise for slipping.
I was reminded of my purpose recently when I was asked to mentor three new clients. All young black women, one is in her first year at university, the other has started studying her a-levels, and the third is working in a graduate role. They are experiencing different issues from racial isolation to managing priorities, time management, and working independently.
They all have one thing in common, they were struggling to transition into a new chapter (metaphorically speaking) in their life journey. Entering a new domain, whether its college, university or a job can cause anxiety and discomfort. We can easily forget what it feels like to enter the unfamiliar when we are comfortable in our current position. So my advice to those who are transitioning into something new and may not have a mentor is as follows.
Seek out information that will help you to adjust to your new learning environment and balance your personal life. Do you need to adjust your working hours, if you are in employment to fit with your study timetable? If you are not living on campus, plan your route to ensure you do not miss lectures. Join the different societies and make connections with other students on your course.
Take control of your learning
We have spent a large proportion of our education being ‘spoon fed’ information. Where you are spoken to by the teacher, tutor or lecturer. You now have the opportunity in further and higher education to steer your learning. Make the most of the different ways to learn. It doesn’t have to be restricted to the classroom. And do not be afraid to ask questions during the session. It’s pointless leaving a lesson not understanding what you have been taught.
Managing your time is one of the most important skills you will need to develop while studying if you want to avoid missing deadlines. Time management is not only about giving yourself enough time to start and finish your assignments. It is also about using time effectively. For example, taking public transport can be used to read, or use your smartphone to do your own research while commuting. Google scholar is accessible anywhere.
You are not alone when you start a new course or a new job. We all feel anxious and out of place. Speaking to people, just by saying hello breaks down barriers and builds your confidence. This will ultimately help you to form effective working relationships.
It is important to set short and long term goals as this will motivate you during the difficult times when you feel bombarded with work. Your goals act as the finishing line, using the marathon analogy. I have run the Brighton marathon three times. The last 6 miles were always the hardest. It’s at this point the spectators cheer “you’re nearly there” but the end seems unreachable, but you keep going anyway because your goal is to complete the marathon. Your immediate goal when you start a course is to be awarded your qualification, you’ll do it if you keep going.
You are not alone.
Many women and men have gone through similar situations before us. From a personal perspective, I found taking the time to meet people, talk to people, especially women of my own reflection, who were few and far between during my academic journey, made me feel less isolated. I literally sought out black women academics and black women in different sectors just so I could learn about how they overcame racial isolation and racial micro-aggressions. By talking to these women I was able to draw on their energy and quickly learned I was not alone.