Learning curves (or, the value of a good mentor)

I have been in my current role at Boston College for about six months. The position had just been created when I started, so I found myself with the exciting and somewhat tricky task of determining how to fulfill the stated job responsibilities. Though I had been working at BC while pursuing my Master’s degree and had developed many great relationships, I’m not sure that I could have been fully prepared for the jump to full-time, project-based work.

The learning curve was steep. I had a lot to learn about the ongoing operations of our department and the wider university. I had a lot to learn about working with faculty, about communication, and about managing multiple simultaneous projects. At one point, after surveying my tasks for the upcoming week, I remember thinking, “Uh oh. I’m not sure what I got myself into.” My hunch is that this happens to everyone at some point, but that is little consolation in the face of rapidly approaching deadlines. I think that one the greatest challenges for any aspiring project manager is learning to manage the impending sense of panic when looking at a project as a whole, and instead focusing on concrete, solvable tasks. If I’m being totally transparent, I still have a ways to go with this.

I have made several mistakes along the way, and I’m sure I will continue to do so. I still have a lot to learn. I guess “learning curves” is doubly appropriate because life and work are inherently unpredictable. There’s a real sense in which I don’t know what I don’t know.

All of this would be totally overwhelming were it not for the support of my coworkers and, especially, my boss. The word “mentor” springs immediately to mind in reference to her role in my professional development. She has created the space in which I can continue to learn and develop, all the while offering myriad insights and constructive criticism. To use an extended (double, and probably overworked) metaphor, she has both flattened the learning curve significantly and regularly tipped off the hitter about which pitch is headed his way.

And for that I am (doubly) grateful.

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