Medical doctors spend 3-7 years in residency before they are trusted with being an independent doctor. They shadow other doctors; they are mentored, and evaluated. Now I’m no doctor, but it seems like a pretty thorough process. What if we stole this model and treated the four to five years students spend in college like leadership residency for the future leaders of the world? In college you are surrounded by peers who are also (hopefully) exploring, developing, or fine-tuning their leadership style – so you are all in it together!
In undergrad, I was a Resident Assistant for over three years. If during that time any of my supervisors were hoping for perfection from me, I can look back and know with certainty I gave them everything but that. Sure, there were aspects of being an RA that I was good at, but oh there were some parts where I was straight garbage – I was even on probation for at least one semester! Fortunately I had patient supervisors and advisors who saw that my strengths outweighed my struggles and were therefore willing to stick with me and help me grow. I looked up to all of them for that reason. So much so that I followed in their footsteps and went into Student Affairs! (Corey, Michelle, and Larry, thank you!)
During your time in college, it is important to find and lean on those who can see your potential – and see that potential maybe even before you do. Ask them to have routine one-on-one meetings with you, take them out for milkshakes, and keep them in your corner.
It’s also important to do this when you start any new job. Those first 6 months to a year you are allowed to ask all of the questions you want. Take advantage of that time and don’t put pressure on yourself to be perfect. You weren’t hired because you were the most perfect, you were hired because you were the most trusted.
During your leadership residency you will work to achieve many great things. But inevitably as a new leader, you will also stumble. The great thing about college and being new on the job is that as you hone your leadership style, you never fall that far because there is a built in safety net for you – your administrators, faculty, and peers. So don’t post Sally-sad-face Facebook comments while listening to Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” or 5 Seconds of Summer’s “Amnesia.” Instead, ask for feedback, listen to it, reflect, then take another step. College is a place where the community wants you to succeed. All you have to do is opt in, get your feet wet, and remember that at no point is anyone demanding perfection out of you – this is your residency, remember?