April 21, 2015
We kick off our Dorie Clark Thinker in Residence series with an article from the author.
"How do you stand out in your field and really get noticed? It's a challenge for any professional, but ... half the battle is simply raising your hand. ."
About Dorie ClarkDorie Clark is a former presidential campaign spokeswoman who now teaches for Duke University's Fuqua School of Business. She is the author of Reinventing You, her new book Stand Out is now available, and can receive her free Stand Out Self-Assessment Workbook.
How to Stand Out in Your Field
By Dorie Clark
How do you stand out in your field and really get noticed? It's a challenge for any professional, but as I describe in my new book Stand Out, half the battle is simply raising your hand. The story of one high school teacher in New York City perfectly illustrates the power of using tools like content creation (such as blogging) and stepping forward to apply for fellowships to jumpstart new career opportunities.
"I knew there were other people doing this work, but I felt isolated," says Ileana Jimenez, an educator who decided to launch a blog about teaching and feminism. "I was frustrated I wasn't able to connect with other teachers."
At first, she worried the political nature of the blog might make it a professional liability. "I thought if I did it, I'd put myself in peril—that I might not be able to be hired in schools ever again. But I realized I don't want to be hired anywhere that my politics and pedagogy isn't accepted, and that was a big awakening for me that allowed me to push through and launch the blog. I said, OK, this blog is going to document my work with young people, and to show other teachers how they can bring this work to their schools, and provide a platform for teachers to come together to create a dialogue with each other."
Nothing like her Feminist Teacher blog existed, so she quickly attracted a following. "The blog has been recognized nationally and globally, and there are professors in the UK and Australia who follow it and have invited me to sit on panels with them at conferences," she says. She's currently working on a book with one of the professors who found her through the blog. "I don't have a Ph.D.," says Jimenez, "but I do believe I have a lot to contribute in terms of moving the needle in education."
Ileana chose herself again several years later, when she felt herself sliding into a professional rut. "I had been teaching over a decade—2 or 13 years," she recalls. "I had really hit a plateau in my development as an educator and wanted to move to the next level." That's when she heard about a newly-launched program—the Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching. Run by the U.S. Department of State, it provided a six-month international fellowship to teachers to conduct an education research project.
"When I saw it, I thought, 'This is what I want to do!'" recalls Jimenez. "It allows me to still be in schools and working with young people and teachers, but it also gives me a new challenge in my career." She took the initiative to apply and was selected for a fellowship in Mexico City, where she researched the experience of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth. "I met with about 40 kids total, and I interviewed each one of them for about an hour," she says. From coming out to bullying and harassment in school, she listened to their stories and created a report on her findings. "I really feel that experience allowed me to deepen my understanding of what queer youth are facing in the US and globally," she says, "and it allowed me to do my job better when I got home. When we think of LGBT youth, we're often thinking of American kids, but kids facing bullying and safe schools—that's actually a global phenomenon."
Between the Feminist Teacher blog and her Fulbright, Jimenez has seen her impact increase exponentially. "Pretty much immediately when I came back [from Mexico City], I started to receive invitations from various schools and organizations to present my research or be a part of panels. I think the Fulbright automatically expands your professional network... I've been able to meet people in my field who I would not have had access to without Fulbright." I recently met up with her in India, where she did a guest-teaching stint in Kolkata as the result of a friendship she'd struck up with an Indian principal she met through the Fulbright network.
Beyond that, the American Association of University Women invited her to speak on a panel at the National Press Club, and she was the only teacher who spoke at a Buenos Aires conference co-sponsored by UNESCO and GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network. The Feminist Press named Jimenez one of their "40 Feminists Under 40," and she's been honored by the New York City chapter of the National Organization for Women.
"I'm often the only teacher in these really cutting edge, innovative conversations, which makes me feel extremely honored," she says. "There's also a sense of urgency to represent the voices of teachers who are doing this work, and queer youth and students of color facing issues in schools."
When it comes to blogging and winning prestigious fellowships, most people assume those opportunities are only open to certain people in certain professions—business leaders, perhaps, or Ivy League professors. But as Jimenez shows, any professional with a desire and a vision—even a busy classroom teacher—can step forward and stand out.
"As [Ileana] Jimenez shows, any professional with a desire and a vision—even a busy classroom teacher—can step forward and stand out."