What Am I Going To Do When I Grow Up?

Posts Tagged ‘positive thinking

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!

Perhaps you’ve already applied to graduate school and are nervously awaiting the response?  Or perhaps you’re a recent graduate frustrated in the job search and find your thoughts keep turning to graduate school?  Or perhaps you’re stuck in a job and think that perhaps a graduate degree would help you move to the next level of your career?  Or perhaps you are an undergraduate student consider graduate school as the next step?

No matter what your situation, here are a few things to consider as part of the process:

1. This is the most important aspect and it might seem really basic, but know specifically WHY you are going.

  • What are your motivations for going to graduate school?
  • What do you hope a degree in a specific field will accomplish?
  • How is it tied to a specific career plan?  how realistic is that plan?
  • Who do you know who has a career in that field?  What do they suggest regarding your plan?
  • How very specifically do you think the schools you’re applying to will partner with you to meet this plan?

Put this all in writing.   This is the basis of each of the different letters of application you will send to the schools.

2.  Know your audience.  Each application to each school must be crafted with the specific school in mind.

  • Read absolutely everything you can about each school and this is mandatory:  Read the entire website of the specific department to which you are applying.  i.e.  if you are applying to the English program, read the entire English departments’ website.  if you are applying to law school, read the entire school of law’s website.   It is not enough to read the information admissions provides to you.    Know who the faculty are that teach in the program.  Know what the program requirements are.  Know what the structure of the program is.  Know everything the program put out there for you to read.
  • Speak to a specific audience in the letter.  Do not use the same letter of application to each school.   You might have an initial template you start with, but identify specific people in the department from whom you want to learn, name resources such as libraries in your field or research facilities in that program that are attractive, and  list experiences that the program provides such as teaching, research, interning, surveying, clerking, or whatever actually attracted you to them about their program.   Make the pitch to them as to why you selected their program out of the many that exist and what you hope to contribute to the program.
  • Best fit is key.  Part of the letter should address why you as a candidate are a good fit for their program.  Do it from their perspective:  How are you a team player?  What in your background qualifies you for their program?   What experiences led you to feel that going to graduate school in their program was part of your career or mission in life?  What’s your planned contribution to the program or field?   Use specific examples.

3.  Go Visit.

Perhaps you’ve already turned in the letters and didn’t do the above things?   It is what it is.   This is still a great move.  Or perhaps you are still exploring going in the future?  No matter where you are in the process of considering graduate programs, there is no substitute for a scheduled on-site visit.

  • Reading about a program online is great.  It’s mandatory before applying to a place you will be studying for a minimum of at least a year and typically 2 to 6 years.  Knowing the program’s culture is something that you will only truly understand by meeting the people in the program.  So, an on-site visit really helps you make sure this is a solid professional choice.
  • Visiting will increase your chance of acceptance.   It shows you are serious about your application and helps you fill in the gaps any application might leave.   Visits are very impactful any time of year, but timing is a factor.
  • Make sure you make appointments in advance.   People are not just waiting around in their offices on the off-chance you might pop by and if you don’t have an appointment they might not have time for you.  Scheduling appointments far enough in advance will ensure a great experience for everyone.
  • Request the experiences you want.   Ask to meet with faculty who do research in the areas of study and would potentially be teachers of graduate classes and/or your faculty adviser .  Ask to sit in on a class that is required in your area of study.  Ask to meet with graduate students in the program.    Ask to tour the facilities.    Ask for information on housing, student organizations or clubs, career services, programming, and time to meet with people who can answer these questions.
  • Be prepared to make quite a number of phone calls to set this all up.  It is likely that people keep their own calendars and there is not a central person to make this magically happen for you.   This is your job.

4.  Remember that you are interviewing them (the school) as much as they are interviewing you.

Take this as seriously as a job interview.   So, be prepared.  Ask questions.  Do research.  Set expectations and conduct yourself professionally.  Going to graduate school is an enormous professional investment in time, energy, and resources.  If you aren’t willing to commit to a serious search process, ask yourself if you are ready to commit to what graduate school demands of you.   Make sure that going to graduate school is a meaningful conscious choice on a path to a career you have chosen, researched, and are entering aware of what the graduate degree will do for you.

At the same time, just like a job interview, this is not a one-sided process of trying to squeeze into someone else’s expectations of what kind of candidate should do, be, or act like.  This is a process of you knowing what you want and asking questions…seeking to find the program that will be the best fit for you and one in which you can make a meaningful contribution to a field.

Graduate school can be a great investment in yourself personally and professionally… and like any investment, if you to do the research and groundwork to ensure the investment is a good fit for the goals you have, it is more likely to pay off.   And, if all of this seems a bit daunting, that’s understandable.    Most people find it pretty overwhelming to do this all on their own and so it’s wise to have a mentor or coach helping walk you through the process, pointing you towards resources, and providing accountability so you stay on track.

So, start where you are, take inventory of your resources, and if you need assistence, ask for help.  You aren’t alone.

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.

What is the power of like?

Well, any guesses on the number one reason why people get hired?   I’ve been part of countless hire situations and the conversations about hiring always begins on things like degrees, experience, and skills.  But, it ends on like.

It’s not that degrees, experience, and skills aren’t important.  They are.  They put you in the pipeline as a qualified applicant.  The thing that will move you to “you’re hired” is the degree to which you are perceived as a “good fit” for the organization.

There always comes a moment in the hire process when the manager, recruiter, committee, or whomever is making the decision…and they decide who they like.  It can happen as they talk through the process or it can happen because they know the person who referred the candidate or because the candidate was already known by the company, but even when that’s not the case, there is moment when someone finally says, “I really liked her” or “He really connected with those on the team.”  It’s the moment when of all the candidates it could be, there is one that really is the one you can imagine sitting next to… imagine giving the keys or password to… imagine letting loose with clients … or even just sitting in a meeting and not wanting to smack!  🙂

And, ultimately, that is the candidate who will get the job…. and that is a very good thing.   Liking those we work with is really key to productivity, profit, and tapping potential.   Not liking those we work with is costly, draining, and rife with turf wars.  Not liking can destroy departments and whole organizations from the inside out.   None of us need more of that!

So, recognize and celebrate the power of like!  It not only will drive your career but also enrich your life.

What does it mean to have purpose?  to be ON PURPOSE?

A lot of people will start naming goals, like graduate from college or get a job.   Those are goals.  So, what is the relationship between goals and purpose?  Well, goals are defined, tangible accomplishments.   Purpose is the reason why.  Purpose is the reason for the goal.

So, why did you choose these goals?  perhaps the honest answer is that you didn’t choose the goals.  perhaps the goals were given to you, expected of you, and you thought you had no other choice but to pick up the goals and slug through, racing to the finish line, hoping that it will provide happiness.

Consider the following questions:

  • What do you want most out of life?
  • What would you like to see happen in the world?
  • What makes you special?
  • What would you like to accomplish right now?

Make a list of at least 3-5 items in each area and circle the elment that is most important to you or provides the others.  Take those 4 elements and make it a sentence.

I will (Take the circled item from List 4) , using my (Take the circled item from List 3), to accomplish (Take the circled item from List 2 , and in doing so, also achieve (Take the circled item from List 1) .

Read this out loud to yourself and let it settle in.

How does it feel to know your purpose?  How does it feel to know it is YOUR purpose?

Keep in mind this a draft and you can continue to polish it up.  So, what if you can choose to put it somewhere you can see it on a daily basis?  What if you could put it on your screen saver?  put it in your journal?  put it on your mirror?  make it a creative collage?