What if I’m not good enough? A reflection on presenting at the AUA Autumn Conference

Development Monthly | #16 February 2022 | What if I’m not good enough? A reflection on presenting at the AUA Autumn Conference

Laura Dhesi (she/her)
School Manager
University of Worcester

Vicki Lancey (she/her)
School Manager
University of Worcester

What if I’m not good enough? A reflection on presenting at the AUA Autumn Conference.

We’ve all been there. That apprehension building while you wait for the right time to click on the meeting link. As the processing icon spins in front of you, the message pops up telling you that your host will let you in soon, the tension builds, your stomach may knot, your chest gets a little tighter, breathing a little shallower as you start to wonder…’what if I’m not good enough?’

This was exactly how we felt as we waited to join our online workshop room at the AUA Autumn Conference in 2022.  We knew that our content was valid, and that people had actively selected our workshop based on our abstract, but regardless we still felt like imposters that would soon be uncovered. Our session was a success, with attendees engaging and providing positive feedback, but as we sit back now and reflect on those moments prior to the session, we can’t help but notice that our fear of not being good enough can hinder our professional growth if we allow it to.

Our Workshop

Our workshop explored the challenges that we faced when implementing and sustaining new digital processes within our team, following a new post-covid landscape, and using a change management model, the session allowed attendees to explore how they could embrace a new digital era within their organisations.  We felt it was important to reflect upon the progress made in the workplace in such a short space of time and this principle was at the heart of our workshop delivered at the conference: Embracing a New Digital Era in Higher Education. However, digital change was not the only transformation taking place.

Evolution of Professional Services

Whilst preparing for our workshop we were able to reflect and evaluate how far we had come, engaging in analysis of where we were, what were the reasons and catalysts for change, considering and appraising where we are now to decide what our next steps would be. During this process we recognised the nature of our roles as professional services staff and managers had changed significantly over recent years. This signified a change in identity for us and many professional services staff within higher education, allowing us to become creative leaders, capable of change and growth.

We recognised that our team had moved away from being reactive administrators who assisted academic staff with ‘their’ tasks. We were now working as worthy collaborators who contributed, worked alongside and often led academic staff through tasks and projects. In short, we now had a seat at the table.

Our roles had changed significantly, but we realised the way in which we viewed ourselves had not. The worth that we attributed to ourselves was still lacking and when we talked to other professional services staff, we found that we were not alone.

When talking to colleagues, we found that many of them felt hindered by self-doubt; interestingly we noticed women appeared to be impacted more by lack of confidence and feelings of low worth. There is a significant amount of research that suggests that women are disproportionately impacted by imposter syndrome, and this tallied with our own experience and that of many of our colleagues. Our collective experiences found our self-doubt was often exacerbated by other factors such as time away from work or career breaks due to family commitments, the negative gender stereotyping of assertive and confident women, and the low self-esteem and anxiety often experienced during the menopause, to name a few.

Despite these hindering factors we made a conscious decision to step outside of our comfort zone and take charge of our own professional identities. We had the support of our Head of Department and our Institution, who thankfully understand these issues and provide a focus upon supporting equality in workplace. Now was the time to embrace ourselves and our worth.

The Opportunity to Develop

Now that we had our seat at the table, we had to take it. Delivering our workshop at the Autumn Conference was the first step in that. The first step in recognising our new changed selves. If preparing for the workshop was us getting dressed, delivering the workshop was us looking in the mirror and seeing our new outfit for the first time.

We found the AUA to be encouraging and supportive of our contribution, our session facilitator helped with any last minute nerves, and gave us the confidence to deliver the session to the best of our abilities.  We came away feeling a huge sense of achievement; growth and change is all well and good but recognising the change in yourself is fundamental in sustaining that change. Delivering the workshop allowed us to consolidate our transformation, allowed us to recognise our journey and allowed us to finally see our worth. We are professional services. We are worthy collaborators.

What do you have to contribute?

It may be difficult to see what you could bring to a conference, but believe us, you really do have something valuable to offer. Here are our thoughts to get you started:

  • – Your ideas and experiences are relevant – remember you are part of a large network of Professional Services staff in HE.
  • – Keep a record – reflect on your progress this year with your colleagues / team or manager. This will help you recognise your value when opportunities arise.

  • – Think about things that have energised you lately – those are the things that could energise others.  Focus on your successes, the things you do make a difference.

  • – Keep it real – it doesn’t have to be ground-breaking! In fact, simple ideas often resonate with others more easily.

  • – Keep perspective – you don’t have to be a Vice Chancellor to deliver at a conference.
  • – Utilise the expertise of those around you – do you work with academic colleagues? Talk to them and get their advice on delivering presentations.
  • – And finally…. believe in yourself! You really can do it!

Join the discussion @The_AUA #Develop or scroll to the bottom for comments

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