What Am I Going To Do When I Grow Up?

Posts Tagged ‘lyrical purpose

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!

If you are thinking about graduate school, please read the post at Grad Pit Stop before you do anything else.

Moving forward without writing things down, weighing pro’s and con’s, talking it through with a number of people you respect, and thinking that you will be fine is not a plan.    I say this because I didn’t do these things and it would mean a lot to me if others could learn from my mistakes.

I headed off to graduate school because it seemed like the next logical option without any formal or informal examination of my various broad reaching career options.  I loved studying, reading, writing, and discussing ideas along a broad range of deeply interrelated subject matter.  My faculty, who were great mentors and supporters, thought it would be a great option.

It wasn’t until I was in graduate school and looking more seriously ahead at a field replete with ABD-ghosts broken and floating lecturers teaching night and weekend classes, cobbling together a meager income from several different adjunct positions all over the region, that I started to see with greater clarity that the field I thought was so wonderful had a rusty carcass at its core.  The dream of making tenure by 30 was mythic for almost any person, even department stars.

There were quite simply too many implausible odds on writing one of two published books a year and scoring a tenure-track position at even the most remote a college, much less a top-tier university.  Unless I was on a holy mission to prove something or another, it just didn’t seem worth it to continue into the Ph.D. program.

When I started I was on a mission.  But then I discovered that my mission wasn’t built on pure desire to know, it was built and driven principle on a genuine desire to prove myself as “good enough.”    This discovery was piercing.

Like many transformational moments it was deflating, dispiriting, and fraught with despair at the same time it was the foundation of discovering the path to my self.    I totally admit that at the time it was happening, I didn’t see the opportunities as much as I saw the devastation.  It’s only in retrospect that I see how it was all meant to be.

So, I share this with you so that you might be much clearer on your mission, more conscious of actual field realities,  and more fully engaged in guided career exploration.

Sending fabulous energy!

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!

Often students who are planning to go to graduate school dismiss internships and even the idea of career planning entirely.  I’ve truly had student-after-high-ability student absolutely refuse to consider the idea of working on career exploration and development activities while in college because “I’m going to graduate school.”

So, if this is something you’ve thought, you aren’t alone.  Lots of students only focus on getting a degree.

Consider this:  Just because you plan to get ANOTHER degree doesn’t mean you are prepared to enter the job market.  Just having a degree (even an advanced one) does NOT automatically get you hired, nor does it guarantee a satisfying meaningful career.  It just means you have cleared the academic hurdles set up by a specific program before they will issue a degree.

I’m not saying that degrees aren’t important and valuable, nor am I dismissing just how hard you might work to earn the degree.  What I am saying that a degree is not the entire recipe for success.

Getting any degree at any level is a huge commitment of time, energy, and money.     Yet, going to school is only part about the classes and subject matter.   Half of why you come to college is to learn technique and information.  The other half is about networking and gaining experiences.

So, here’s some very real talk on the issue of graduate school and internships:

1) First, internships, volunteer work, and other experiences that show involvement, leadership, and dedication make you a better candidate for graduate study.  Engaging experiences make you an more interesting person who can write better letters of application, have more people to ask for letters of recommendation, and brings more meaning to the process.

2) You might not anticipate this, but it’s possible that you might not get into graduate school or not get into programs you want to attend or it’s possible that by the time you are finishing up your seniors year you just can’t bear the idea of MORE school and decide to put grad school off for a year or two.   Internships lay the groundwork for your career, providing experience and networking connections in a field.

2) Graduate school just is not all it’s cracked up to be.  It’s a lot of work.  If it’s meaningful work that fits into your long terms career goals then it’s enjoyable and worth it.  At least most days.  😉   But if graduate school is just because you are good at school and feel that “it’s just a logical choice and really what else would you do?, then you are going to graduate over-educated and completely ill-prepared for a meaningful job search.  Internships, volunteer work, and leadership experiences at any time help prepare you for the job market in ways that more school never will.

3) Internships, volunteer work, and leadership experiences all help you explore who you are in different situations.  These experiences help you develop a sense of what works and what doesn’t when interacting with people in professional settings.  Eventually, school will be over and you will need to confront the question of “what you are going to do when you grow up?”

4) Depending on which graduate program you attend there may be a HUGE range of career development support available to you.  Some graduate programs are absolutely AMAZING in terms of what they provide in terms of leadership development, networking opportunities, internships, practicums, co-ops, residencies, clerking, teaching, researching, or other applied learning experiences.  Yet, sadly some number of graduate program are abysmal, providing even less support for graduate student career development than the inadequate scraps of career services they provide for undergraduates in the same programs.

I could probably write volumes on the subject of the inadequacies of career development at university, but I’ll sum it up this way… depending on what type of graduate program you are looking at and why you are looking at it, they might be selling a dream that isn’t as shiny as you think it is.  So, if you are going to graduate school because you want to be faculty, be prepared to examine the rusty interior of academia before choosing that path.   More on that topic in future posts.

No matter what your educational plans are in relationship to your career plans…wherever you are in your journey, it’s never too early or late for more experience.   So whether it’s a part time internship or a volunteer experience or any other kind of structure that allows you to meet people and connect with specific fields, it’s an invaluable in yourself.   You are totally worth it!

Sending fabulous energy!

If you’ve been reading along in my series on going to graduate school, you might at some point in the process get overwhelmed.  That’s totally normal.

If it’s helpful, I get overwhelmed as much as the next person.  Thinking about life… career options… relationships… from the big picture to the smallest pixel… there are moments when it can all become too much.

From questioning where one might to live, work, study, or raise a family?  to considering what others might think?  how it might work?  or even what might happen if…? Sometimes, it can be good to pause, take a minute to breathe, and consider the larger purpose of why we are heading off to do something.

Just like anyone, I can get caught up in exploring the enormity of options, unknown variables, quantity of elements to coordinate, etc…that it’s just a seemingly never-ending pointless laundry list of tasks and duties and responsibilities…and it’s at that moment, especially if I find myself discouraged, frustrated, or wanting to just quit, one of the most powerful things I’ve found I can do for myself and others is to ask “What’s the Point?”

Try it.  Take a deeeeeeep to-the-belly-kind-of-breathe…hold in and sloooowwwwwlyyy–as slowly as you possibly can– but evenly…let your breath out.  Gather your focus in doing so.   Slow your heart rate by slowly breathing in and out.  Ask yourself: “What’s the Point?”

When I’m asking “What’s the Point?” it’s not typically in a despairingly dramatic “ohhhhhh woe is me….what is the point of living…” while swooning, gnashing my teeth, and falling on my heroic but trite sword of death, while whining that “it’s not faaaairrrr.”  Not typically.   but you know everyone has their moments.  😉

More helpful in asking “What’s the Point”, I’ve found, is that it calls for a focus on purpose or mission.  In  Breaking the Rules, A Visionary’s Guide to Effortless High Performance, Kurt Wright examines the difference between a goal and a purpose.  For example, going to graduate school or getting a job is a goal.  It is a specific (albeit large) task that can be accomplished.   Goals are great.  But, a goal without a reason is hollow, demotivating, and unlikely to be successful.

Consider any time someone orders you to do something.  It really typically doesn’t matter who it is doing the ordering: it could be your mom, your boss, your significant other or roommate; it could even be yourself, but almost every time, our natural response is “Why?”  Often that “why” question is a way to resist…or contest power…but that’s deeply understandable.  Anytime we commit our time, energy, and resources to a task, it it is more helpful to know why we are doing so, than to simply march forward with a 1000-yard stare into meaningless action.

So, in someways whenever we get overwhelmed, frustrated, or otherwise feeling grumpy about something, it can be useful to take a moment to consider that core “Why” questions because the answer is central to providing a motivating reason to each goal.  Providing context and purpose is key to swift action and to meaningful results.

“What is the Point?” is another way of asking “Why?’ and gets at the central motivating reason or purpose of the goal.    Knowing the purpose of a goal is much more likely to move me into action.  Simply telling myself “I have to do this or that” makes me actually resist or procrastinate action.  When, we know why we are doing something, we have the power of choice.

Yet, if it’s helpful for me to share, sometimes that all important “why?” question can simply be too confrontational, too personal, too combative, or too philosophical to be helpful in asking ourselves and others.  It’s a crucially important question to ask, but because it’s the most core question,it can be too much for us to address, especially at stressful moments in life.

For example, even people close to us…even when we mean no confrontation…even when we ask a simple curious “so, why’d you park out front, honey?”…and it’s not a deep philosophical issue that requires soul searching…people can snap at you when you ask “why?”

So, here are ways to ask “why” in more effective frames:

  • What’s the larger mission?  What’s the central purpose?
  • Where does the mission point?
  • How does the larger purpose or mission frame options?
  • When does the mission connect?
  • Who benefits?

Ask yourself these questions at any point along the way.  Asking and answering these can keep you going, as well as keep you focused and motivated.

It can also be a great tool in crisis.

  • So, if you haven’t yet articulated a specific mission and find yourself adrift, unfocused or unmotivated, this can be a great jump start.
  • Or, if you at one point were on a mission and then started to forget to keep checking in with your mission and begin to get frustrated and overwhelmed, this can knock you out of your rut.
  • Or perhaps like all of us, even when you are clear on a mission, certain days and experiences are just hell.   Being able to not get stuck there is key.

Asking great questions, creating mission statements, or reciting inspiring quotations  and the like are a powerful tools in controlling our thoughts, beliefs, motivations, actions, and are a few of the key elements of transforming our lives on our terms.

Sending fabulous energy!

When looking for specific graduate programs, students frequently ask me about college rankings.

Of course, you can turn to resources like US News & World Report College Rankings if you just want some ideas of programs that might be worth looking at.   However, much has been written about the issues with these rankings.  I’ll sum it up this way:

  • These rankings often look at the entire university or college and often do not address the specific strength or weakness of a programs like music, law, or pharmacy within the university.
  • Even when the rankings break down to department, program, or school, rankings do not speak to specific strengths or weakness of specializations within a field.  For example, a top ranked law program may not actually focus or offer much on entertainment law.  Or, a well-ranked English program might not do much in the area of Post-Modern literature.  Even though a program is “good” doesn’t mean their focus matches your interests.   Every program has to make choices about what they want to be known for and they can’t be good at everything no matter how big the program is.
  • Rankings capture what people in the past think or report in response to cryptic questions.  Rankings do not speak to where a program may go in the future.  They can be a good indicator of central funding or on going support, but if the only faculty member teaching music cognition leaves the program and that’s what you came to study… well, it doesn’t bode well for your future studies in the program.

So, how can you do good research into programs?  Well, start by reading my previous posts on graduate schools.  Then, a next great step is to regularly read The Chronicle.  You can see trends in programs.  You can look at the facts and figures available regarding salary and opportunities.  And, you can ask questions in the forum.

There are many such resources along the way.  Use them all.  It’s a process and great research on the path to well-thought out decisions doesn’t happen over night.  Research and uncertainty are just part of the gig and are deeply understandable.  Anyone considering graduate school at moments gets overwhelmed, frustrated, and annoyed.   So, one thing you can do for yourself is to connect with others who are in the same place.  Sharing resources and experiences can be very helpful .  It provides support and a good catalyst for making progress.

Sending fabulous energy!

All of us want to be liked, but most of us feel it’s a bit of a random process of who likes us and who doesn’t.  We worry and obsess about whether or not someone might like us or not, but we often feel that it’s not something we can control.  That’s totally normal and understandable.

So, let me share a secret with you…and this is the honest truth: I was voted class introvert in high school.  Painfully shy and insecure, most days I felt like nobody liked me.   What I discovered over time was that feeling came from not fundamentally liking myself very much.  In that I discovered a bigger secret that can benefit us all.

So, want to know how to make people like you?  It works almost every single time…with all people and all situtations.  And, if it doesn’t, you will know that it wasn’t you.  That you’ve done everything you can do.  It’s a powerful tool and it’s very simple.

There are two ways to make people like you:

  1. Like them first
  2. Be helpful

There it is.  So, whether it’s a social gathering, a job interview, or first date….if you want someone to like you (and that is completely up to YOU) then start by just liking them first.

Find something about them that you can genuinely like. For some people that might be that you like their shoes, for others it may be that you have a shared interest in a cause or field of study, and for still others it may be that you like what they do.   The like has to be genuine for it to work or you will do more damage than good by being fake.

Then, if you want to build on that initial sense of like and create a solid relationship, focus on being helpful.

And, by helpful, I don’t necessarily mean you need to go tromping though someone’s life doing stuff for them.  Often there are things people do because they mean to be helpful, but aren’t because they are intrusive, bossy, or irritating.  That’s not what I’m suggesting at all.  Rather, adopting a spirit of helpfulness or an openness to being asked for help is more on target.

For example, after chatting with someone,  a simple “it was so very nice to talk with you today.  If there is ever any way I can be helpful to you, let me know”  can do wonders in building long term relationships.  It doesn’t matter who the other person is or who you are.   This offer of help resonates with people as deeply likable.   You don’t commit to anything in particular and of course reserve the right to say no if what they ask isn’t something you can do, but you hold out an openness to helping them but don’t assume you know what might be helpful.

All of that communicated very simply, honestly, and directly.  Likably.

So, just try it to see.  Smile at a stranger.  Talk with someone sitting by you at a meeting or in class.   Take a leap of faith and know that you are deeply likable and there is absolutely no reason why someone wouldn’t like you if you like them first and radiate helpfulness.   Life’s so much more fun when you like people. …  Starting with yourself.