Leadership Session Review: with Sarah Jones, Dr Tamara O’Connor and provost-elect Professor Linda Doyle

Article by Julie Dory (English Literature and German, 2021 Laidlaw Scholars)

The 28th of May 2021 marked the official beginning of the series of leadership workshops with the Laidlaw programme at Trinity. Bleary post-Zoom eyes have become the norm since the transition to online events, and it’s rare to find yourself walking away from a virtual meeting without feeling totally zapped of any energy or little motivation that might have been there before. This time, however, something was different. 

Most of us have in some capacity drifted through second level education surrounded by buzzwords about careers, personality types and leadership or teamwork in a peripheral sense. Over time these words and concepts lost their meaning to me and became things that I should slot into interviews or applications for the purpose of making myself look like a more suitable and aware candidate. In preparation for our leadership session, we were provided with several articles on career guidance theory to read and relate back to our own experiences. This was invaluable in terms of equipping us with the background information to articulate and understand our preferences and styles when it comes to how we feel most comfortable working, leading, and approaching the process of career or pathway decision-making.  

We met up to discuss the articles in small groups before the session and in talking about our approaches to trying new things and exploring different pathways, we found that a lot of us were surprisingly similar – we had spontaneously taken opportunities as they appeared, but a lot of us believed that in the process of applying to the Laidlaw Programme, we didn’t think we were “that kind of person” or that we were what the programme was looking for.  We brought our findings back to the wider group at the beginning of our session when Sarah Jones of the Trinity Careers Service came to speak to us. In our conversation, Sarah helped us to acknowledge how we felt about Imposter Syndrome and being there by mistake (conclusion – we’re not!). We really learned that we should trust the judgement of the Laidlaw Team and the application process as a whole to know that we earned our places here. Articulating these concerns with Sarah and relating with each other was a reminder that we are worthy of things that we put work into, and even in perceived failure, something is to be taken away from the experience. Nothing is a waste of time.   

Dr Tamara O’Connor from Student Learning Development built on that foundation of confidence that Sarah Jones had built up with us. We went through time management practices to help prevent feeling overwhelmed and how to communicate with our supervisors effectively and healthily throughout the research project. By reminding us that our supervisors are interested, enthusiastic and willing to help with our research projects, Tamara strengthened our confidence in contacting our supervisors, allowing us to take further steps in taking ownership of our research and building professional relationships.

The final part of our session was a Q&A with provost-elect, Professor Linda Doyle, where she answered a range of questions we posed to her, all whilst instilling us with the idea that predefined career boundaries are there to be remoulded and that when working together in a team full of initiative, anything is possible.

My understanding of the value of professional relationships, research, and even my own self-worth has begun to shift and completely rearrange itself. This change is challenging, exciting, and pretty scary since the future is so uncertain and there are new opportunities we don’t even know about yet that will present themselves. But the new sense of self-awareness and team spirit after just our first Laidlaw leadership session signifies the beginning of an exciting and rewarding experience that is sure to be full of growth. I cannot wait to see what’s in store for everyone in the programme. I know that we’re sure to learn a lot from each other and as I said in the intro, this online meeting was different – instead of leaving drained and depleted, I believe that we all left inspired.

Image attribution: https://dribbble.com/shots/11117058-Free-Remote-Work-Illustrations

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