By Guest Author Tiffany Brown
You’re finally halfway through that international service fellowship that you worked so hard to get! The initial excitement and wonder at your new surroundings and work have slowly worn off, and now you’re reflecting on your experience thus far. You’ve had ample time to explore your new home, make some new friends, and acclimate to your work environment. Now that you’ve been working on the ground for a while now, you’ve been toying with the idea of making some adjustments to some aspects of your current projects in order to further your professional growth. Are you due for a meeting with your supervisor soon? Bring in some new ideas during your next check-in by using these tips on how to pinpoint the skills and experiences you want to gain in order to get the most out of your international service fellowship.
1. Visualize and plan your resume backward.
Start by reviewing your original goals for the fellowship and consider how you might be able to accomplish them in a new way. Whenever you start a new project, visualizing the desired outcome helps you to plan the steps and actions needed to achieve the end result. As a fellow, your approach should be no different. Visualize all of the accomplishments that you would like to see associated with this experience on your resume. Now, think of the skills that you will need to develop or strengthen to get there. Just as you would on any resume, be specific. Want to get some experience with grant writing? Write a corresponding bullet point in line with this goal:
Example: Wrote grant applications, securing $15,000 in staff support for FY 2020-2021.
Continue this exercise until you have identified and detailed at least 5 items that you want to add to your resume. Completing this exercise will give you the clarity you need to evaluate your current workflow and determine how best to align your priorities and tasks with your desired outcome.
2. Establish detailed goals and milestones.
Depending on your supervisor’s management style and the nature of your fellowship position, it can prove difficult to know exactly what deliverables are expected of you in your role. Referring back to your visualized resume, you can establish goals and milestones that will help you to create more structure around your work, clearly define your expected deliverables, and determine your priorities.
Make sure that your goal is a S.M.A.R.T goal (one that is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely) that you can reasonably work towards. Milestones (using the same S.M.A.R.T formula) are all the steps that need to be taken along the way to make sure your goal becomes a reality.
Goal: Write grant applications and receive $15,000 to support staff salaries for FY 2020-2021.
Milestone 1: By February 2020, I will have identified 10 potential funding sources and submitted a timeline of completion to my supervisor.
Milestone 2: By April 2020, I will have submitted 6 grant applications for review.
Be sure to be as explicit as possible in this step. Remember, that this will be an accountability tool that you and your supervisor can review together to ensure that you are making progress towards your goals. Once this step is completed, you should be able to clearly articulate the goals that you have for your fellowship and how this will bring value to your host organization.
3. Prepare a work plan proposal.
Now that you’ve visualized the work that is most aligned with your goals, it’s time to reassess your current workload and how you will be able to shift your responsibilities to accommodate these new priorities. While it is unlikely that your organization will remove all responsibilities not directly in line with your newly determined goals, if you can present a reasonable work plan proposal that highlights how these experiences will ultimately benefit your host organization, you are likely to receive the support that you need to accomplish them.
In visualizing your ideal workflow, consider some of the following questions: What are the tasks that I have to complete that don’t require that much time or effort to complete? What are the tasks that I don’t particularly enjoy and take me longer to complete? What tasks, if any, could be potentially reassigned to a colleague? How much time each day can I realistically devote to completing my goals? How much supervision do I need to get started? Which resources do I currently lack?
Based on your answers to these questions, you will be able to pitch a well-thought-out work plan proposal.
4. Meet with your supervisor.
You’ve spent a considerable amount of time thinking about how to best serve both your professional needs and your host organization’s best interests. Now it’s time to present your ideas to your supervisor. Prior to the meeting, be sure to send them a copy of your work plan proposal as well as the goals and milestones you drafted. Be able to confidently state why you feel these changes will be the best course of action and what type of support you will need from them. Also, be sure to establish a timeline for communication around your responsibilities and scheduled follow-ups on how your new work plan is going.
5. Get to work!
You did it! Now that you’ve gotten your new work plan approved, it’s time to get to work! Using your goals and milestones as a guide, you will be able to dive in with a renewed sense of purpose and ownership in your work. Be sure to refer to your work plan at the end of each month and reassess in which areas you are progressing the most and which areas need to be revisited. It’s perfectly fine if you don’t accomplish everything exactly as you planned or if your priorities shift. Remember that these documents are not inflexible, and as you learn and grow during your fellowship, your goals will surely follow suit.
It can be challenging to make major adjustments to your role in the middle of your fellowship. However, taking this time to visualize and revisit your goals during the fellowship year will give you the clarity and focus that you need to finish your year strong and maximize your fellowship experience.
Tiffany Brown is an advocate for diversity and inclusion in global education and believes that equitable access in international exchange is the ultimate medium for an educated and inclusive global citizenry. Shortly after graduating with a BA in Spanish (2014) degree from the University of Georgia, Tiffany moved to Medellin, Colombia and worked as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant at la Universidad de Antioquia. Later she spent two years working as a Princeton in Latin America fellow at an education nonprofit in the Dominican Republic, where she pursued her interests in social justice, community education, and experiential learning. Tiffany has continued her commitment to inclusive global education through her work with various organizations supporting equitable access to experiential learning opportunities. When not working, Tiffany enjoys traveling, dancing, and eating mangos.
© Victoria Johnson 2020, all rights reserved