Authenticity. It’s a student affairs buzzword. We talk a lot about being our authentic selves on social media. True, it’s important for us to accurately reflect ourselves through our professional profiles, interacting with colleagues and in job interviews. However, I spend a lot more time concerned with being my authentic self in my own office, sharing my personal stories and experiences with students. My advising style revolves around sharing my vulnerabilities and challenges with students as much as I share my successes. Myself and three colleagues led a weekend-long training with a group of Rutgers students and each presented a talk on “What’s Your Space Jam?” (inspired by this Kid President pep talk). They were five minute snippets about something that we were passionate about, and it ranged from DIY projects to violence against women, service, and a favorite among our students, “letting things go”. Sharing our personal stories inspired tweets like these which helped us connect to our students on a different level.
It got me thinking about other ways that I represent my authentic self in the workplace, namely: my office.
Does my office accurately represent all aspects of my life (and should it)? This is where my students see me in my element, where I spend the majority of my waking hours, and where my best connections are made. If my office walls could talk, what would they say?
“We’re pretty happy she decorated us with awesome green polka dots.”
I put effort into my personal spaces. Obviously I’m a little DIY crazy, but it means a lot to me to actually invest effort into the place where I spend most of my time. I love being hands on and getting creative, and I want my students to see that.
“There’s a lot of complaining that happens in here.”
I know that I spend way too much time expressing my frustrations to colleagues in my office, which in turn spreads negativity. In fact, any amount of negativity is too much, in my opinion. I needed to admit it here so that I can move past it. My office walls should be focused more on the positive.
“She’s neglecting us, always running out of the office in a rush.”
Ah, this could be the problem for the complaining in the office. Does anyone else feel like they live in their car, driving from meeting to meeting? We have five campuses to travel to on a given day. I once got a superlative from my students that said “Most likely to be in a meeting or in the bathroom”. Funny, but what message are you sending to your students if you’re always out of the office?
“It’s weirdly awesome that she has so many bobbleheads and action figures.”
Let’s face it: my office walls love me and my quirky weirdness. Putting myself (and my love for Game of Thrones) out there for my students to see is helpful in making connections and shows my authentic self as relatable. Any geek that comes into my office is going to feel right at home, and that’s just the way I like it.
If your office walls could talk, what would they say? And what does that say about you as a person? Or as a professional?