What Am I Going To Do When I Grow Up?

Posts Tagged ‘career advice

If you have ever uttered this phrase or found yourself whining along those lines, it is deeply understandable.  There are a lot of messages that we give ourselves and pick up around us that invalidate the study of music, poetry, dance, language, history, comparative literature, and the whole spectrum of liberal and fine arts majors.

So, start by reading yet another amazingly helpful and concise posting by Kathy Hansen at QuintCareers.com.  If you aren’t already a fan of QuintCareers, let me introduce you.  I’ve followed them since 1998 when I was on the job market after grad school in English and found the content refreshing, direct, and useful.  Really, truly everything career from “I’m in high school and thinking about….” to “I’m a senior executive” to everything in between and beyond.  Start there and it’ll lead your job search journey along to many great resources, ideas, and practices.

Go now… read what she has to say about the amazing value of owning your degree.   It’s SO important in finding a job and, really in all of life…  If YOU can’t convince yourself of being likable, valuable, hirable… Well, it’s going to be  really tough sell to others.

If it’s helpful, learning to like yourself and value what is special about you IS something you can learn.  Undeniably, it *really*  helps to have great nurturing parents who’ve told you repeatedly how amazing, gifted, talented, and full of potential you are while setting clear supportive boundaries in developmentally appropriate ways.    But…..given that didn’t happen for most of us and even those that it did… well, trust me.  Not even the coolest parents are perfect.   We all have issues.

And that’s where I really want to add something to Kathy’s great list of ways to value–and, realize the value of liberal or fine arts degrees--and, it honestly might be much clearer to the fine arts majors than it is to those of us in the humanities, but PEOPLE are the most central and effective resource on a job search.  Liberal arts includes the humanities after all!

You might have heard people say, often with a snicker… that “it’s not WHAT you know, it’s WHO you know?”

Well, I’d argue it’s really, equally and crucially, both.

  1. Who you know gives you a chance to develop what you know
  2. Who you know gives you an opportunity to demonstrate what you know (and what you don’t)
  3. Who you know gives you a chance to increase who ELSE you might talk with about resources
  4. What you know can bring positive attention from who you know (and perhaps even introduce you to those you’d like to know!)
  5. What you know can connect you to others who share those interests
  6. What you know can change your perspective on who you know

Who you know is only part of the recipe of success.  If you ONLY know people and you are a complete idiot (and we all could possibly point to someone like this in our history?), you can rise quite far.  That’s true.  But you are still a complete idiot and at some point the emperor has no clothes and falls in disgrace.

What you know is only part of the recipe of success.   If you ONLY know facts and figures, information without social context and human connection is of limited use.  You can be very smart, but you need other humans to be able to put that information to work.

Connecting who and what through learning is optimal networking.   Intentionally setting out to learn from those around you through Informational Interviewing and less formal conversations too about what others are doing, how they got there, where they got started, when they learned some of their biggest lessons, and especially who else they would suggest you speak with in your mission.

Building community is crucial.  I’m not talking about fake networking of the worst most cheesy bad car salesman type.   I’m talking about being human.  Connect with other humans around what you want to learn about the world.   More on this in the future…

Sending fabulous energy as you connect with people around passionate ideas!

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As you think options through, I really want to underline the importance of writing it down.

Take out blank paper and engage in brainstorming.  If you have questions or stray thoughts or ideas that keep spinning in your mind… it’s important to the process to engage them through or they will just keep floating in your brain interfering with productivity and focus.

So, here are some options:

  1. sometimes when I’m trying to figure out an idea it helps to draw.  I might draw circles that overlap and think about what one thing related to another would make…. sometimes it’s about relationship and sometimes it’s about proportion.    often it is both.
  2. sometimes it helps to make lists.   here are some questions I ask myself and clients:
    • what are as many of my options (even silly or stupid ones) as I can think of?
    • what would someone I like and trust think or say?
    • what are the costs/benefits of each idea I’m considering?
    • what’s another perspective I could choose?
    • how important will this be in 5-10 years?
  3. sometimes it helps to just to start typing or writing around the idea… no one else ever has to see what you write, but just getting the ideas out there and following where them gets you unstuck.

You see, if you only think about things or “I have it ALLLLLLL up here” is your philosophy, think again.  Your brain can’t get traction on ideas and fully process them if all you do is process things internally.

To grow, change, and fully engage in exploring your options, it’s very important that you physically get them outside of yourself, so you can truly visualize, prioritize,  and organize.   Here are some key brainstorming options:

  • talking it over with a supportive friend, mentor, or coach.
  • drawing
  • free-writing
  • blogging
  • list-making
  • using pictures or clippings, collage with them to create a vision board

So, explore your options….using whichever tools work best for you.  If you want more ideas, just ask.

Sending fabulous energy!

Not sure if you should stay in school and plan for graduate school or graduate into a weak job market?

It’s admittedly an understandable strategy.  School is what you know.  Sure, you might be tired of it, but often people find that what is known and unpleasant is preferred to that which is unknown and therefore scary.

At the same time, graduate school is a major investment in specializing within a discipline or field and typically provides very specific training and research opportunities.   Grad school is best engaged in consciously, deliberately chosen and part of a genuine career plan…it’s really not a  place to hide out or avoid the question of what you are truly going to do in life.

There are really many paths to graduate school and that’s really important to remember.  It is NOT crucial to go directly to graduate school after college.  In fact, depending on the program, taking time between college and graduate school to work, travel, volunteer, and gain experience in life, ranges from improving acceptance rates to actually being required.

There are basically 2 schools of thought on this issue:

  1. Many people argue that taking time off of school puts you are risk of never going back to graduate school and you should go while you have the school momentum going for you.  Additionally, some career fields cannot be entered unless you’ve earned a graduate degree.    Of course, if the ONLY reason you are going forward to graduate school is inertia, it’s unlikely to be a successful and rewarding experience.   Weigh out the costs/benefits carefully.  Graduate school is very expensive and a huge professional investment.  Of course, there are also inarguable benefits to graduate degrees and the career fields they open access to.
  2. Others argue that taking time off between degrees allows people to grow, gain experience, and avoid school burnout or fatigue.  Additionally, some graduate programs actually require that people gain work experience or  do post-baccalaureate travels or internships in order to be competitive for their programs.   Many people who choose to apply to graduate programs later in life make more conscious choices about programs, research them more completely, and find the program to be a more rewarding experience, personally and professionally.  This is not always the case.

So what might you do?  Well, start with thinking about the following:

  • Why are you thinking about graduate school?   If you are going because you don’t know what else to do in life, don’t go until you are really clear on why you are going and how it will translate into a career.  Just a vague feeling that graduate school might be helpful for you is not enough.  If you are on a mission and this graduate program fulfills a particular goal in a larger career plan that has been realistically and fully researched, then graduate school is likely part of a good path for you.
  • How motivated do you feel about school right now?  On a scale of 1-10, where do you fall?
    • If going to school, leaves you moaning and groaning and wishing for something else, than put grad school planning on hold right now.  Choose career planning instead.  If at a later time graduate school is something that is part of a well-thought career plan, you will be motivated to go back.
    • If the opportunity to study, discuss, write, research, and work-harder-longer- hours-than-you-ever-have-imagined-working-in-your-life on a life quest makes your eyes shine bright, then graduate school might be heaven for you.

So, if you aren’t sure about whether or not you want to go to graduate school, that’s wonderful.  It’s good to ask questions.  To not question your decisions at all isn’t good planning.  It’s bullheaded and likely to lead to ill-conceived plans of all sorts.  Questioning leads to better answers.  Better answers leads to better decisions.

If it’s helpful, I question my career decisions all the time.  It’s when I can’t find answers that I know I need to do more research.  The issue isn’t questioning, it’s not questioning when it comes to great research.  And great research is really what graduate programs are about.   So, start asking great questions of yourself and those that can help illuminate the way.  Enjoy the process…

Sending fabulous energy!

How often do we say “I just have to get through this?” What does “getting through” really mean? How does that drain your energy? What does it mean when we set up educational goals, classes, career aspirations, family get togethers, and other activities, but tell ourselves that we just need to “get though” it?

Many of us envision our lives on a time-line , like in history class… Often this timeline has only the big milestone markers on it, like high school graduation, college graduation, get a job, get married, have kids, retire, and then die. There is a distinct beginning and end to things. There is a sharp fracture between milestones, at each marker a total shift of being or behaviors. Often these goals or milestones don’t seem very connected to each other and then also, even when we do reach these milestones, they frequently feel like hollow victories. At each milestone moment we expect that we will feel more complete, more “grown up,” more successful, but each time we get to the milestone and are left feeling like “this is it?” and then move on to “face what’s next.”

So, what if we are not really on a timeline? What if, instead, we are building our foundation with each thing that we do? What if we are not getting through calculus, getting through the degree, or getting through the day? What if we are really building our foundation with our education? What if each class, each conversation, and each new idea or experience is part of our foundation of success?

What is the purpose of a foundation? How does the foundation function in a building? What happens if my foundation is very broad? Very deep? Very intentionally set together? What am I able to do with my house if my foundation is very solid? How does a strong foundation empower us to have a more fabulous house? So, how could that change the value of education, if we saw each experience as part of our foundation? What if each experience is set in place as a piece of our foundation when we consciously decide to learn from our actions, others’ responses, how we feel, the material, the patterns, the connections, in essence the building material of our foundation. How is it helpful to see how each experience as connected to previous experiences and set an intention as to future experiences? How could it be beneficial to explore how we could practice our new intention in specific ways? How does that empower us to take our foundation to the next level?

What might the value be of not “getting through” anything, but rather simply celebrating each learning experience? What if we could see not mistakes, but rather opportunities to learn and grow? How could that release us to enjoy our present and truly celebrate each experience? How might that change our energy to transform our image of moving through life, one huge far away milestone at a time, to an image of building foundation and like a spiral staircase, we circle around the same values because we are still ourselves, but each time, each learning experience, we become better, truer versions of ourselves, when we learn?

How could this shift of energy be helpful to our friends? Our families? Ourselves? What might we change in our interactions with them if we saw each experience, each class, each conversation, each moment as having the potential to learn and to grow? What if we were looking for the growth and could focus on what we are doing right? What would be the benefit of building on each person’s strengths? How might that focus on what we are doing right change our engagement in the learning process? In life?

How might that build stronger foundations for ourselves when we see what we can do? What we have learned? How might it color our college and career experiences if we saw the meaning and relevance of each moment? How might it empower us all to compose our success with each learning experience?