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Self-reflection to encourage your personal development planning and self-learning activities

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A Development Planning is about you – your studies, your career, your values, and your future. It is a creative process, that requires time, curiosity, taking risks, and learning new skills, for instance (Cottrell, 2015). The transition tube is a tool that, together with its action learning sets, has been supporting my academic, personal, and professional development planning through the course. It provides me with an opportunity to reflect on my studies and how to do a great job at University, enjoying not only the academic content, but mainly the development of cross-cultural, communication, and interpersonal skills, that will be further applied in my professional career. My values have been changing considerably, especially due to the cross-cultural aspect. Living abroad is a unique opportunity that shows you that your country, your language, your religion, and your values are part of a huge world of possibilities. At the beginning of the course, my future seemed so uncertain, but now even without knowing exactly what is going to happen, I am confident that great opportunities will come up. Tulgan (2015) stated that people are hired due to their hard skills, but people are fired because of their soft skills. He also defined hard skills as technical knowledge and soft skills as non-technical, ranging from self-awareness to people skills, and problem-solving. Interpersonal skills (being able to work well with others) and intra-personal skills (being able to manage your attitudes and emotions) comprise soft skills. These set of skills are critical in a wide of careers (Cottrell, 2015). 57% of leaders believe that soft skills are more relevant than hard skills (Lewis, 2018).

There are three categories of soft skills that young professional (Z Generation – born from 1990 to 1999) lack: professionalism, critical thinking, and followership (Tulgan, 2015). The first category comprises self-evaluation, personal responsibility, positive attitude, good work habits, and people skills. The second category, critical thinking, consist of proactive learning, problem-solving, and decision making. Lastly, respect for the context, citizenship, service, and teamwork are the skills that express followership. The Professional Development and Practice in Business and Management module have been essential to reinforce the need for continuous improvement and, mainly, to support our soft skills development in the three categories.

In order to be successful in any development plan, the first step is being aware of yourself. The self-development is a lifelong journey. The whole self-awareness allows us to enter situations with total knowledge of who we are, with consciousness and choice to manage or leverage how we use our self for the welfare of the situation (Vogelsang et al, 2013). Knowledge, thoughts, feelings, experiences, and vulnerabilities are responsible for showing to the world who we are. The social constructions (from our interactions) and self-assessments (selfreflection) are keys in the continuous development of our understanding and beliefs about ourselves (Shotter, 1997; Arnd-Caddigan & Pozzuto, 2008, cited in Vogelsang et al, 2013). George (2015) mentioned three steps to build selfawareness: probing deeply into your life story, creating a daily practice of reflection and introspection, and receiving feedback from trustful people. The lifeline exercise and the introduction letter helped me to recover my consciousness towards my life story and my foundation, which are my family, my friends, my culture, and some values, such as integrity, honesty, creativity, efficiency, and commitment.

The followership comprehends the ability to coordinate, cooperate, and collaborate with others in pursuit a shared objective (Tulgan, 2015). A Google research (2016, cited in Winsborough and Chamorro-Premuzic, 2017) found out that the group’s average level of emotional intelligence and degree of communication drivers the group effectiveness. It means that individual’s personalities play a significant role in a team performance, once it impacts what role someone within the team, how he/she interacts, and whether his/her beliefs and values are aligned with the team’s. For this reason, self-awareness is crucial to determine how we are going to behave in a group context. In terms of followership, the following skills were developed during the module: developing rapport, listening skills, teamwork, and constructive criticism (working with feedback). Not only this module but the course, in general, offered us opportunities to work as part of a group, improving our teamworking and leadership skills. The rapport building relies on making connections, taking a genuine interest in the other person, with a skilful listening, and mutual trust and cooperation (Cottrell, 2015). Because most of the students were international, the need for careful listening played a fundamental role during the entire course.

Check for meaning, clarify details, and body language enabled an assertive communication within the group. Moreover, extracurricular activities (Parallel Society, the Travel, Language, and Culture, and the International Student Career), as well as my social life, had considerably contributed to my soft skills improvement. Meeting new people, new places, trying distinct foods, and having a spare time to take care of husband, my mind, and body had underpinned my happiness and welfare. The labels, part of the transition tube, will be used to share my discoveries in Cardiff with another student and to reinforce the need for work/academic-life balance. Constructive criticism and working with feedback have been a useful tool for academic, personal, and professional purposes. Feedback improves our performance, develops our talents, align expectations, and solves problems. Usually, the feedback process strikes at the tension between the need to be accepted and the need to learn and grow, two core human needs (Heen and Stone, 2014). I have been trying to work with feedback on a regular basis. The feedback questionnaire had a reflective effect on me, once I had to identify a way that would make the process easier to receive, reflect, and, mainly, work on the observation. As I have already received some feedback related to the first term assignments, I have been using the form to improve my academic performance continuously, for instance. I have been consulting more sources and presenting distinct points of view, working on my speech rate when performing a presentation or giving a public speech, and being aware of my body language. I do believe that I can learn and progress every day and in all aspects of my life, for this reason, I reflect on all received feedbacks. Receiving a feedback consists of practicing the active listening, avoiding arguing, evaluate it at a slow pace, and be mindful (Kruse, 2014). When it comes to critical thinking, every assignment and activity from this Master’s degree demanded critical thinking and analysis. Critical thinking is a complex process that involves skills and attitudes, such as identifying other people’s positions and arguments, evaluating evidences, weighing up opposing arguments, reflecting on issues in a logical way, drawing possible solutions, synthesizing information, and presenting a point of view in a clear, well-reasoned, and structured way (Cottrell, 2011). The critical thinking is essential for postgraduate students working on assignments and research; nonetheless, it is also an invaluable skill in professional scenarios (University of Essex, 2018). The newsletter activity led me to a deeper reflection on the topic and to notice how this skill is essential, especially for future leaders. Another factor that impacts our development is how we get things done. The learning process plays a crucial role in our performance. Cottrell (2015) defined learning as the ‘how to’ discovery, while performance includes learning, but also putting into practice our learning, knowledge, skills, qualities, and experiences. My preferred styles of learning are activist and pragmatist. I enjoy new experiences and am more likely to make decisions based on my intuition. On the other hand, I do not like structured procedures. Practicality, down-to-earth approaches, group work, debate, and risk-taking express pragmatic learners’ preferences. They also avoid deep levels of understanding and reflection (Honey & Mumford, 1992, cited in Van Zwanenberg et al, 2010). I have also learned that I am a kinaesthetic learner, it means that I prefer learning from activities that involve touch, movement, dance, sport, or other practical activity (Pritchard, 2014). To guarantee a satisfactory academic performance, I decided to implement some techniques to support my learning process. First, I tried to actively participate in all lectures and workshops and I learned how to take note in an effective way, prioritizing relevant content and using keywords or mind maps. Secondly, I bought an A1 calendar to plan my studies and to manage all tasks according to its deadline. Thirdly, I read the module content in advance, then I could interact and engage in a more assertive way during lectures. Finally, I enjoyed all opportunities to improve my English skills, such as being part of a society and becoming International Student Career Ambassador. Therefore, I felt more confident to communicate in a multicultural environment, using a second language. The development plan is strictly related to our employability. Based on this correlation, we have worked on how to build a resume and looked at some interview skills. Cottrell (2015) defined employability as the ability to get and keep a job, which is supported by the following skills: career development, labour awareness, articulation, self-awareness, and self-management. Hence, self-management, self-awareness, and self-development, combined, is relevant to any person through his/her whole life. We are always a work in progress because we can always understand ourselves better, extend our knowledge and expertise, and improve our performance. The interview is the moment where the employer needs to be convinced that you are the best candidate for that job, is the opportunity to create a positive first impression. Personality and values are the most important factors taken into consideration at this stage (Corfield, 2009). Being prepared is a competitive advantage. It is not about having the best resume or being able to provide example of all your skills (soft and hard), but it is about understanding the company and the job that you are applying for, how you see yourself and how this opportunity will impact positively your development, and how you can contribute to the contribute to the company’s mission. Considering all support provided by University, I do feel prepared to be part of a selection process, even in the United Kingdom. I could learn, for instance, that the resume structure here is completely different from the one used in Brazil. Here, it is essential to express your skills and if you have experience, highlight your achievements. Peter Drucker (1999, cited in Drucker, 2005) stated that each individual is responsible for his/her own development. It means that placing ourselves where we can make the greatest contribution to our communities and organisations is our role. My transition tube is a tangible result of my past, my present, and my future. It is a vehicle to identify some activities that corroborated to improve my soft skills and to start my own development plan, consciously. For example, the graduate attribute worksheets were useful to summarize and exemplify all achievements related to this Master. During this course, I was able to reflect and see a different perspective of myself – with strengthens and weaknesses, adopting new attitudes, and managing my emotions, especially in unseen situations. I could notice that I am an organised and quicker thinking person; however, my creativity and my anxiety impact negatively on my time management and on my interpersonal communication, once I may lose my attention and avoid communicating when trying to keep my focus, for instance. To conclude, this module offered me the opportunity to rethink and reorganise myself and my life. From this Master in International Business Management, there are many learnings that I will carry wherever I go, as described above. However, the most significant is the beauty and the challenge that globalisation bring, especially in my personal life. Being a foreigner is hard, but it is worthy. Culture and social aspects are so rooted, that if you are not out of your comfort zone, you will never notice how it impacts your life. Working in a transnational company gave me a sample of this diversity, but only this real experience was effective to develop a set of soft skills that a globalised world requires. I am confident that I will be a greater international business professional, but also a greater citizen, and a greater student.


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