kelleymccarthybiopictureI really dislike when people ask: “What do you want to do?” Working with college freshmen, I have learned this question could be a touchy subject. Most answer, “Well my parents want me to do ‘x’ , but I really want to do ‘y’….and… I’m not really sure.” I decided to rephrase this question, and ask “What do you enjoy doing?” I focus on how they want to feel rather than focus on them knowing at the age of 17 or 18 what they want to do for the rest of their lives. Heck, I’m 28 and I still don’t know what I want to do!  I DO know that my calling is working with young women. I enjoy being a mentor and  inspiration. My ideal job would be to continue working at women’s institutions, but as far as a specific job, I am unsure. I would be happy as long as my strengths were being utilized and that I ended each day loving my job more than the last.

A few weeks ago I implemented a “teach Kelley” activity with my RA staff. Each person gets 15-20 minutes to teach us something they love doing. During this particular meeting, we were learning how to make friendship bracelets (#tbt high school!) As I sat in my usual spot  looking around the table, I couldn’t help to think about how much I had learned from each person. After taking a few minutes to reflect after our meeting, it hit me. Working with college women is TRULY what I was meant to do.

I believe the following three things played a huge role in my realization.

My own college experience

I am a proud graduate of the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford, Connecticut, one of the remaining 46 women’s colleges left in the United States. Through my experiences as an undergraduate  learned three important lessons.

1. Self confidence: Being in a single sex environment taught me about self-confidence and what it feels like to believe in yourself.

2. Critical thinking skills: My time as a student leader and RA taught me to think quickly on my feet and how to work through tough situations.

3. MY voice matters: I was very shy my freshman year, but I learned that my thoughts and opinions mattered. All I had to do was speak up. My newfound confidence came in handy when I was taught this lesson.

As a Hall Director I pull upon these skills and experiences on a daily bases. I help students walk through tough conversations or situations ( such as roommate conflicts, or figuring out what they want to major in) I use my critical thinking skills to guide me through crisis while I’m on call , and I teach my students the importance of being heard. In my own way, I have been able to teach others what I found helpful in college.

My ability to engage in regular reflection

A two lane road runs through the heart of the FloridaMy boss told me a few months ago that I am the most self-aware person she has ever worked with. While my need to self reflect can be helpful and beautiful at times, it also can be exhausting and hold me back. I believe that no matter your career that sitting down to self reflect is cleansing for the soul. Over the past two years I’ve focused on how my job makes me feel. When I’m in a slump, I evaluate what’s causing the disconnection and I make a change.  One of my favorite authors, Danielle LaPorte, has helped me work through this process. I recommend her books – they have truly changed my life!

The Fire Starter Sessions

The Desire Map

Having a great support system

group of young women on coffee breakDanielle LaPorte likes to call’s this: your dream team. In my opinion this team should be made up of a few people who you trust, who can offer different types of support, and who will help you be successful while staying grounded.

For example, On my team, I have someone who is….

– blunt and isn’t scared to call me out

– supportive, by playing multiple roles, such as my cheerleader, motivator, and reflection sounding board

– able to offer me career advice

– so clued into my brain she can help me work through any type of situation that I may be in.

All of them are always there to lift me up and help celebrate my accomplishments . 

If you are trying to figure out what your calling is start out by taking time to reflect upon what brings you joy. What are you good at? What  do people come to you most often for? What do you want to try? You may not find the answer right away, but when you do, you will feel it in your soul.

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