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Finding my groove in my first leadership role

By first year coach Andy Johnson

I have grown a lot over the past months serving as a coach with College Possible Minnesota, and I had a lot of support in learning how to be effective in my position. Although my job as an AmeriCorps coach came with quite a learning curve, College Possible did not give up on me and I am grateful for that.

I came into the position not knowing exactly what the job entailed and what was expected of me. I had trouble getting the students I serve to come see, repeatedly falling short of my daily quotas that I set for myself because I wasn’t aggressive enough in my outreach. I had to become more assertive to get some students to come in. A few students did not see the importance of making time for college preparation when they could put it off for later or were aloof to the college process.

The students I serve wanted to be successful but weren’t yet grasping the steps to achieve their goals – like attending our one-on-one meetings, going to group meetings, or updating their Overgrad account. This was hard for me at first because I wanted to see them succeed and I wasn’t sure what to do to make them prioritize their college prepatory process. I learned to never give up, and to keep trying until you reach them. I contacted students many times in different ways and even approached them during school if they were unresponsive. This process worked – I received the updates I needed, and gave them information that they needed in order to progress.

This position taught me a lot about how to be effective at work because this is my first role as a leader. I was used to taking on a more administrative or background role at organizations, not being the one in charge who reaches out to people. But at College Possible, I was the one who reached out to the students, not anyone else. I was responsible for setting up meetings with students and making sure they were not falling behind on their college prep milestones. At first I expected students to regularly and willingly update me on their progress and that I wouldn’t have to push them for answers. But I quickly learned that I needed to take more initiative in building our connection. I first needed to fail in order to succeed; to figure out how to interact with my students, and ask them questions to get a clearer view of their progress.

I learned a lot of useful skills during this position, but most importantly, how to be assertive and get what you need to help other succeed. Serving with College Possible requires you to be assertive with students and seek out information, because you need to ensure they’re progressing in their college journey. A lot of students are first-generation college students so they do not know anything about the college process and are not sure what they should be doing. I had to try again and again to find out about my students’ progress on their college applications, financial aid, and other important steps. I learned to keep reaching out in different ways, even if they do not respond to me on the first try.

Another important skill I learned is how to be time efficient and organized by using my Google calendar and Calendy, scheduling appointments with students and school staff, making to-do lists, and having weekly one-on-one meetings with my supervisor. I also learned how to interact with students in ways that will get them to trust me and build relationships, which was very helpful because I think that I might like to go into education in the future. This position helped me realize that I enjoy working with kids and teaching, and that this is a path that I would like to explore for my next position.

Are you or someone you know looking for ways to support students? Learn about serving with College Possible.

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