by Stephanie Stuckey, City Year Seattle ’17, ’18
Employers hire you because they are investing in the skills you are already bringing to their team, as well as your potential to learn and grow. When I started at City Year, I was fresh out of undergrad and incredibly bright-eyed. But, I made one mistake. I lost sight that City Year hired me for my unique skills, experience and potential. I ended up trying to be this idea of who I thought a "City Year" was supposed to be. It caused me to second guess myself and my abilities as well as silence the very things that made me special.
Authenticity and staying true to yourself is essential to not only your success but everyone else's. For a good portion of my first year, I unintentionally denied my team access to our full stride toward excellence because I was simultaneously suppressing my authentic self. City Year has helped me grow professionally in seeing both the value of who I am as my authentic self and continuing to seek opportunities to grow.
Better listening skills
I remember sitting in some of our Learning and Development spaces thinking that I was an expert at communication because I studied it in college. But while I’d read about a lot of theories on better communication in college, I did not get any real opportunity to practice and learn from my mistakes until City Year. I was incredibly humbled when I realized that I was often a bad listener. I habitually was “listening to respond” instead of “listening to understand.” This lead to conflicts to arise between myself and my peers and there was a lot of misunderstandings that stemmed from my poor listening.
One-on-one sessions with my Team Leader or Program Manager, where they counseled or coached me through conflicts and other situations helped me see these effective listening skills modeled in real-time. Listening tools such as pausing, paraphrasing and setting aside the common and unproductive patterns of listening became essential in my service and has made it possible for me to improve. I have become a much better listener and will be able to transfer these skills outside of City Year.
Organizational skills and how to create systems for success
What's the goal? Where are we going? Why are we doing this project or initiative? Not only has City Year taught me how to ask and answer these questions, but also to organize and create systems for success. Task boards, calendars, to-do lists, delegating work—organizing your projects frees up time and energy so you can use your brain power for the big things instead of trying to remember something or do everything at the last minute. Prioritization, task management and looking ahead helps me carry less and is definitely something I will take with me in future positions.
Better teammate and leader
I grew up playing sports and being a part of many extracurricular activities where I worked on multiple teams at a time. That being said, I never really learned how to be a good teammate. City Year was the first time I had to work directly with a team in such a large capacity. Working long hours together five days a week gives us a lot of room to learn and grow as a team.
Something that I learned is that there is more than one way to do something well. Just because someone does something differently than I would does not mean they are doing it wrong. It opened my eyes to truly value diversity of life experiences and expertise.
Being a better teammate made me a better leader as well. As a professional, I can identify the strengths in others and through collaboration, we can get a lot of great things done. That way, where I am weak, they are strong.
I have always been a big dreamer with a giant positive attitude. This plus my desire to help others and #makebetterhappen really complimented the values and goals of City Year. When I started, I had extremely high levels of enthusiasm and passion. There is nothing wrong with this but, it is also necessary to balance that idealism and energy with practicality. As a professional, I am able to be excited and think creatively to problem solve while also looking at things holistically to make sure it can actually happen.
Do we have enough time, energy and resources to make the idea come to life? Is this the most efficient use of our time? As a professional and as a human, it is important to not overstretch yourself while also pursuing excellence.
Applying to serve with City Year was a big step toward my becoming a professional. It gave me the opportunity to apply the hypotheticals I learned in a classroom in an actual work environment.
Though these last two years of serving have been filled with some of my biggest challenges, they have also been filled with some of my biggest successes. I am leaving City Year confident that I will continue to be successful as a professional moving forward because I had the opportunity to tap into all of my potential.