Getting "unstuck" | Program Design School

in , by Mackenzie Elaine Wasilick, September 27, 2018
Where are you stuck?

The words of Erin Fischer linger in my mind today as I go through my to-do list. 8:30a.m. answering emails from when I was out of the office over the past two days - Where are you stuck? 10:00a.m. emailing report edits to our traveling consultants - Where are you stuck? 11:00a.m. brainstorming my newest resource project outline - Where are you stuck? Everywhere. I am stuck everywhere.

I can't tell if it's the travel hangover, complete with screaming plane baby and airport vomit (thankfully and also unfortunately not my own), or if it's simply the overwhelming feeling I get when I start thinking of new ideas. See, every time I go to a professional development event I get so excited... full-blown kid-at-Disney-for-the-first-time excited. So excited in fact that it leaves me mentally and physically exhausted. Finally putting my head to the pillow at 1:30a.m. doesn't help. But other than exhausted, I leave these events feeling more confident in my abilities as an educator, more connected to my industry, and more than anything, with a TON of new ideas. New ideas aren't a bad thing; not by a long shot when your job depends on it. But then comes the pressure: the timeline, the brainstorming, the crowd sourcing, the budget, the branding, the editing, the deadline - it's a whole production. So, where are you stuck?

This simple question has been repeated to me dozens of times over the past two days and I don't foresee it stopping anytime soon. I've always believed that "problem identification" was a personal strength - I even have it listed on my resume. Sometimes it is that simple: what is your problem? What is holding you back? Erin's incredible facilitation at Program Design School helped me not just understand more about program development, but how to simplify my development process and get "unstuck". Who is Erin Fischer? Erin is the owner of The Leadership and Training Studio and self-acclaimed lover of brownies, being an aunt, and the slow-clap.

Program Design School has been on my professional bucket list since I learned of it. It is a two-day intensive program that teaches you a streamlined process for creative curriculum writing. While the majority of attendees come from Fraternity & Sorority Life at the headquarters level or institutions of higher education, the program doesn't solely cater to these demographics and can impact ANYONE interesting in growing their program design/development skills.

Within my role at Alpha Xi Delta, I write a TON of content. While most of my work focuses on creating new resources on the topic of recruitment and strategic membership selection, I also help write curriculum for our online initiatives and major face-to-face events. I've been writing and facilitating programs since the moment I was hired into my position almost three years ago. Even with this experience, I recognized that I didn't have a streamlined process from pre-work to guide assembly to get the job of program development done. I left feeling more confident and even though I plan to get "stuck" plenty more times in my career, I know that now I can get "unstuck" using her program design process and tips!

Thinking about going? Here's some advice:
  • Come prepared with a program in mind! The great thing about PDS is that Erin tries to make the content applicable to the work YOU need to do. You'll spend a lot of time working on a program that you hope to develop so come prepared with an idea of what you want to work on. 
  • That idea you're bringing.... narrow it down! I came with the idea of "alumnae recruitment education" and quickly realized that #allthethings I need to share on that content would never fit into two hours no matter how thinly I trimmed it. Think very specific on a topic you want to work on but don't worry about anything else. 
  • Write down the names of people you meet! There are a lot of opportunities to "pair and share" throughout the experience, but your brain is so busy absorbing new information that you may not remember everyone you talk to. Bring that favorite pen and put it to work! 
  • Come 10-15 minutes early to socialize. You'll be sitting at the same table with the same 5-6 people for the duration of the program. Of course, you'll move around and meet other people, but the majority of your time will be with a small group. Give yourself some time to get to know each other so that you can better impact each others' experience!
  • Go to the group dinner! Erin said that she always tries to coordinate a group dinner between the two days - this was a fun opportunity to get to know everyone outside the context of the programs we were planning. Even if you traveled alone, GO!
  • Bring something to drink and *possibly* a snack. I didn't see anyone else with snacks, but I usually get pretty hungry when I'm using a lot of brain power and there were numerous breaks. Know your body, listen to it, and plan accordingly!
  • Lastly, don't be afraid to SHARE - especially the hard stuff. Sometimes we feel like we may be alone in our fears.... Like we aren't smart enough or that we aren't on the same level as everyone else in the room. Erin (and everyone else there) will 1000% reassure you that you are not alone!

As a young professional, I feel that sometimes I struggle to determine which outfits to wear throughout my travels. Don't get me wrong, working from home is the bomb. But one thing working from home doesn't get you is a bomb professional wardrobe fit to work in a large range of geographical locations and climates. I want to be completely transparent on how I feel appearance plays a role in professional life. You can have the mental capacity, skills, and confidence to do your job without placing a priority focus on your wardrobe or personal presentation. However, I operate under the "look good, feel good" philosophy and feel 1000% more confident when I know that I am presenting myself in a way that shows my personal style, shows I understand professional standards, shows I am in-tune with current trends, and makes me stand out in a competitive way that would make my organization proud. Knowing there's a good chance that there's someone out there who feels the same way, I will try and link my outfits from professional travels!

Day 1: J. Crew Army Green Mini Skirt, Nordstrom White Ruffle Blouse, Tory Burch Gemini Loafers (sold out), Tory Burch Pearl-Drop Earrings - I also spilled tea on myself about three minutes into the day, so I covered up with this cardigan blazer in heather khaki)

Day 2: Elizabeth Wilson Designs Plaid Ruffle Pullover, Black Jeans, Stubbs & Wootton Black Velvet Smoking Slippers *this was a very casual event*

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