Self-leadership is defined as ‘the practice of intentionally influencing your thinking, feeling and behaviours to achieve your objectives’ (Bryant & Kazan 2012). Some describe it as ‘being aware of who you are, your strengths and weaknesses as well as where you want to go in life’. A description that I prefer as it gives some concrete guidance.
In this article I want to share with you four steps that I chose to help lead myself through this limbo. Hopefully, these steps will help me get to the exciting place where I really want to be.
- Becoming aware of my skills (again): Maybe you have experienced something similar during your candidature: Over a long period (it was four years for me) I was constantly thinking that I needed to improve my skills (e.g. academic writing, statistics) to make it to the finishing line. However, the risk of learning new skills is that there is also a risk of forgetting what skills you already have. Thus, I sat down and tried to capture all the skills that I gathered over the years, the networks that I established, courses I took, languages I learned, etc. And seeing everything in front of me on paper made me very excited! I found myself suddenly in a position of realising “I actually have quite a few things to offer” compared to the more desperate position of “please employ me”.
- What are my values?: In the leadership course, I particularly enjoyed when we spoke about becoming aware of our own values in life. Specifically, that this is an essential step to become authentic leaders as well finding jobs where we can ‘be at our best’. For instance, three of my values are social justice, personal growth and teamwork. Thus, I would probably be ‘at my best’ in a place that works towards a good cause, with possibilities to learn new skills, and where great colleagues are present. Compare this to a position where I would have to work in isolation, without any possibilities of growth and focused on the exploitation of others (ok this is a bit exaggerated, but I think you get the idea).
- Where are the positions where I can potentially ‘be at my best’?: This is the place where I am at the moment. I am gathering information. Where are the research labs and organisations where I could potentially ‘be at my best’? Do they have currently open positions and if not, is there another way to approach them? Although not all the information in relation to ‘values’ (e.g. teamwork) might be visible on a website, it provides a good starting point. There might even be someone in my network who could help provide more information about the position and the working environment.
- Changing my mindset when I write an application: I came across this very interesting article from Clare Mann. She wrote that when we start to look for jobs, it is important to shift our mindset from seeing ourselves as employees towards a mindset of self-employment. We have to be the CEOs of our own personal companies. For me, this means reminding myself of my skills and what is really important to me when I start to write my cover letters and upgrade my CV.
These steps not only helped me to become more aware of my strengths and weaknesses and where I want to go, but they also helped me to stay motivated and proactive during the ‘examination limbo’. I know that they might be not the right steps for everyone and that each takes time. However, if you are also currently in this limbo, I hope that you can find something to help lead yourself through this time and ‘Do something today that your future self will thank you for’ (Anonymous).