Like Ripples in Water, Professional Growth Happens in Ebbs and Waves


When I decided to pursue my doctorate degree, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. All I knew was that I loved school and saw it as a way to continue my own personal and professional growth and development. I didn’t pay much attention to how I would grow into an academic over time, but now that I reflect on it, it was definitely not a linear process, but rather occurred in ebbs and waves.

What I was not ready for was how non-linear the process would be. There were significant fits and stops; times where my fingers could not keep up with the thoughts coming to me, and other times when I literally cried because I could not make sense of a basic idea in class. There were times when I spoke like the expert I was becoming, and times when I could not even find the words to explain my thoughts. There were times I felt like my mind was not my own, racing ahead of my comfort zone, and times when it was completely blank.

These waves of activity followed by ebbs of inactivity also affected me physically. One week I would gain weight and then the following week I would lose it again. I’m sure others who have written a thesis can relate to this. During those periods when things stalled for me, it seemed like my entire PhD would come to a screeching halt. Fortunately, I did complete the PhD and life proceeded onward. It was these experiences, these taller waves separating the ebbs, that became so transformational for me. They taught me to anticipate the patterns and to know when and how to act.

Doing a PhD also involves developing important but smaller, transferrable skills such as focus, tenacity, resilience, resourcefulness, agility, adaptability, concise writing, insight, self-knowledge, etc. These formed small building blocks for my professional development As it turns out, these skills also developed in waves and ebbs. They did not come into focus slowly over time, but instead appeared suddenly because I needed them right then & there to achieve a milestone or complete an assignment.

Coming to accept these is an intricate part of my successes over time. I hear the same from colleagues who have experienced this in their own professional development. Perhaps this process hearkens back to our human development, which also tends to come in waves – like that growth spurt when we turned 12. Perhaps our professional development emulates the natural human growth spurts earlier in life. Whatever the reason, I have come to accept these are a normal part of the process.

Interestingly, these waves also occur in our business. When we started with our website, we saw an original surge in interest that quickly reached a plateau. When we started distributing a regular newsletter we noticed another wave of activity not just on our website, but also in people wanting to partner with us. The phones rang more often, our PO box required regular checks, and email boxes filled. When we branched out into Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and LinkedIn, we saw another wave of interest.

It was because of these successive waves that we are now at the top of most Google searches – just type in Collegiate Gigster and we’re right there under the ad (they paid for that, so we’re not worried). With every new milestone of success, we saw the ripple effect across all the ways we interfaced with the public, from our websites to our newsletter to our social media pages.

Most recently we were asked why we don’t teach classes. A silly question, really, especially since this was our original plan for the business. So we dusted off the idea and we are starting our Collegiate Seminars this November. Again, we saw a new wave in interest across all our media. When we go live with Public Academic, we expect to see another wave hitting all our  platforms.

At Colégas we see the importance of embracing these waves as a company. We can’t stress enough the importance of recognizing this process in your own businesses. It has been my experience in life, and especially in my professional life, and it is now what I am seeing in the growth of our business. Like ripples of water on a quiet pond, growth occurs in tall waves followed by wide ebbs in between.

This blog post is part of a newsletter I publish weekly called The Gigster 'Zine. It is a production of the Colégas Group, an organization that seeks to offer new opportunities for anyone with a college degree. To learn more about us, to receive valuable strategies for improvement, and to find innovative employment opportunities, sign up for the complete newsletter at