1) Importance of work-life balance
Before I started working at the lab, I thought being passionate and successful in a career meant dedicating all your time and energy to the job. I assumed that successful people must eat, sleep, and breathe their career because that type of approach is often glamorized in academia and beyond. However, in the lab I’ve learned that it’s important to have a work-life balance. The members of the lab taught me that investing in your life outside of work is key to creating successful work. I’ve learned that a life lacking work-life balance, -- even if you’re in a career you consider fun and fulfilling-- is going to lead to burnout.
2) Letting go of perfectionism
When I first started at the lab, I was scared to turn in or show my work to a more experienced lab member until it was perfect. As a post-baccalaureate right out of college, not much work I was producing was going to be perfect. This disconnect created issues because I would spend hours trying to perfect something that I didn’t yet have the skill set to perfect. The expectations I set for myself soon created debilitating stress and missed deadlines. With the help of lab members, I eventually realized that the lab environment was intended to be a place to grow and learn. Instead of expecting perfection, the lab was expecting me to give projects a try. This realization led to more growth and learning because I was able to openly collaborate and ask questions on my projects.
Before working in the lab, I’d never worked on a team in a professional setting. I had worked on teams in college classes and in internships in which one person ended up taking over the work for the whole team. In the lab, we’re working on much bigger projects and have to rely on others to assist with the completion of a project. Using the concept of integrated decision making, I’ve learned how to work with others while being respectful of others’ time and responsibilities.
4) How to get out of my comfort zone
During my time in the lab, I’ve had several experiences that made me go outside of my comfort zone. Chief among these experiences was working on my fear of public speaking. Coming into the lab, I was terrified of public speaking. When I first started in the lab, members encouraged me to present on topics I’m passionate about to other lab members. This practice made me much more comfortable with public speaking. I eventually was comfortable enough to present research at conferences to other academics and evaluators. Although I’m still working on overcoming this fear, the lab has given me the tools and support to address this fear.
Although I don’t plan on continuing a career in community psychology or academia, I believe these lessons learned in the Community-AID Lab will be applicable to any career path I pursue.