Building professional confidence | MSc Strategy, Change and Leadership

Kirsty Palmer - MSc SCL AlumnaKirsty Palmer (Director of Student Services, Cardiff Metropolitan University), alum of the MSc Strategy, Change & Leadership programme, shares how the programme helped her to build professional confidence and find her voice at work.

Professional confidence

I am one of those awful people who found school and university relatively straightforward. From learning to read before I was four to topping classes in most subjects, I was an objectionably ‘clever’ child. My family valued academic learning, and so did my school. I duly trotted from my Council Estate to an old-fashioned university to read Modern European Languages and progressed serenely into a career that I loved. So far, so good.

Then I changed sectors to move into working in Higher Education. To be clear, I’m not an academic – I work in what are variously called professional or support services – but my job involves daily interactions with academic colleagues from PhD students to Senior Professors. And suddenly I wasn’t quite so clever anymore. It seemed like everyone I spoke to had more weighty arguments to make, often with citations. There was much talk of, ‘what does the research say’ in a given area. I started to lose confidence in my own, home-grown brains. What had served me well before – a quick mind, the ability to communicate clearly, and a general ability to work with most people – seemed no longer to be adequate. Gradually, for the first time in my life, my confidence started to crack. I stopped speaking up in meetings, and began second-guessing my decision-making. This was not helpful.

I knew I needed to do something about it. Changing sectors again didn’t appeal, and in any case, for all its challenges, I love my job. So, I had to find a way to get my confidence back. I spoke with a mentor, and a coach, both of whom were helpful but didn’t quite hit the spot. Then I remembered I love learning. Could I combat this issue by learning a few of the rules of the academic game? Turns out, yes, I could.

MSc Strategy, Change and Leadership

From the beginning of the first module, I knew this MSc was going to help. Understanding how to dissect and analyse an argument, how to sift good evidence from bad, all in an academic context, was giving me the foundations I needed to stand again on my own two feet. As time progressed, I was able to muster my arguments in meetings and in writing (sometimes even with citations) and, most importantly, feel able to be a good corporate citizen again. I have a role on several university-wide committees, and while I’m always happy in my own professional area of expertise, I can now confidently contribute to much wider discussions.

My own context is very specific, of course, but there’s no question that as well as the knowledge I gathered, the change in mindset has been incredibly beneficial, and I don’t think I’d have got there without this programme.

Kirsty Palmer, MSc Strategy, Change and Leadership alum.

The expected application closure date for the programme is 31st July 2022. Early applications are recommended; places may fill before the deadline. Please get in touch if you wish to apply and the deadline has passed.

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