Reflections of a recent graduate

Posted in: Members

Author: Zoe Jeffery, PA to the Vice President (Implementation) 

At this time of year, I usually look back over what I have achieved (or not), things that have happened (good and bad), and try to make sense of how I can move forward in all aspects of my personal and work development.  This year, however, is slightly different and I would like to share with you why.

My journey began last September (2016) when I decided that I would like to study a masters in design. I knew I couldn’t take time out from my job to do this so I enrolled on a distance learning programme through Northumbria University.  The course was full-time for 1 year and although some thought it was impossible to work and study full time at the same time, I went ahead and did it anyway (I really don’t like being told I can’t do something).

My undergraduate degree is in fashion and textile design, and for the past ten years since graduating the opportunities for me to work in that industry have not (by my choice) been there. I have, however, always held such a deep passion for my creative fashion practice and have made sure that I design and make clothes when I can.

When I first embarked on the master’s programme I thought that it would be a continuation of my fashion practice and that I would be designing and making a collection of clothing, like I had for the undergraduate programme, but as the course developed I found that this was not going to be the case.

The course is based upon philosophical and psychological design theory, which really makes you think about what you do as a designer.  It involves reflective practice and action research, along with learning about the ‘human’ element of design through the use of empathy. Throughout the masters I learnt to use reflective practice and capability mapping to find out exactly who I am and how to get the best out of what I do.

When someone asks you what do you do? We normally answer with a generic job title, for example ‘I am a PA and I do this’.  We build up an idea of who we are through this title and sometimes we never take time to truly understand that we are much more than this.  Capability mapping is something that I really suggest everyone should try to find time to do.

Here is how you do it:

I used  virtual post it note board, but you can do it manually too.

Create a new board with you at the centre (use a picture or image that represents you).

Now, think about you as a person. What skills do you have that you can do really well? Add these to the board.

Then think about your values and attributes, for example kindness, empathy etc. and add these to the board.

Finally, add your passions to the board, for example baking, sewing, music, family -- anything that you love.

Once the post-its are in place, start to group them in to capabilities. It is quite amazing how you can start to build a picture of capabilities you never knew you had.

You will then have a board that looks a little bit like this:

There are so many personal development skills that I learnt whilst on the master’s programme, and I would really like to use the skills I have gained to help others with their personal development and careers goals. If anyone is interested in finding out more about these, I would be very happy to sit down with you and go through how you can start to better know what you are capable of.

So as 2018 approaches and I look back over what has been a deeply profound experience, I am more optimistic and positive about who I am, and what I can do. The best thing about it is that there is no need to wait until the end of each year to reflect back, I now have the tools to do this each and every day.

I am pleased to say I passed the degree and obtained a commendation and graduated on 4th December 2017.

Zoe Jeffery

Posted in: Members


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  • Congratulations Zoe!