Keeping Up Your Motivation

By: Willow

It’s that time of year again, Halloween. Personally I love Halloween, but a big downside to this time of year is the crazy-ness of school. As much as I all like to think I’m a perfect student that never needs help this time of year, I always find myself getting overwhelmed and spreading myself too thin. So, I wrote this to help you remember how to keep your head up this time of year.

Now I know you already know these things, but it’s always nice to have a reminder before you become buried in tears and stress.

Ask for help. It’s not always easy, but it’s worth it. Usually, professors are good people who want to you do well, if you tell them you’re overwhelmed – and not just looking for an easy way out, they almost always will work with you to find a solution.

Do your reading. I know it is so easy to skip it, usually no one will notice and you’ll survive, but when you don’t read for class you end up spending 4 days before your exam trying to figure out what you missed. And it’s horrible, so try to stay on top of it before you crumble under it.

Don’t work more than you can handle. It’s ok to ask for less work during a super crazy week at school. If you know you’re going to have 2 papers due and 3 exams in the same week, there is no shame in asking your boss for less hours. I know it can be hard when you have to pay rent and eat, but try to remember your main goal right now is to get an education.

It’s ok to say no. Did someone ask you to cover their shift at work? Or watch a scary movie on a weeknight? I know you want to say yes, but sometimes it’s far better in the long run to say no.

Go see a doctor if you need one. If you go to UMD, you have health care professionals available to you right on campus, it’s awesome. And you’re paying for them in your tuition so you might as well use them. Don’t forget about counseling, your mental health is just as important as your physical health.

Life is hard. Don’t make it worse than it has to be. Happy Halloween Bulldogs.

Read Willow’s other posts

Stay Motivated in the Internship or Job Search

By: Ellen (career counselor & guest blogger)

You may be one of the many recent college grads who are still looking for that great first out-of-college-big-kid job. Your motivation to keep up with the search may be failing as you look longingly at the beautiful weather outside or if your email inbox is filled with auto response emails saying thanks, but no thanks. You may be on month 6 of the search and just out of ideas of where to go next. Well, today’s post is for you. Also, if you happen to be in the middle of an internship search, this advice applies to you as well. Any time is says “job” search, you can input “intern.”

I did some intense research (by intense, I mean I went to Google) and looked for articles about staying motivated in the job search. I typed “stay motivated in job search” into Google and got 15.5 million results. That’s a lot of advice to take in. Ultimately, staying motivated in your search is really up to you. Each of us is motivated by different things and what works for me may not also work for you. My goal is to share some of the ways I have stayed motivated during job searches and hope that one or two of the ideas may work for you. I actually still use a lot of these methods in my regular day-to-day work. And honestly, if your search is suffering because you’re not motivated, trying something different won’t do too much harm.

Stay motivated

Okay, so here’s a quick list of things I do/use to stay motivated:

  • Drink my morning coffee to start the day off right
  • Make a task list – for the day and big picture
  • Listen to music – different playlists for different moods
  • Surround myself with my goals and motivational quotes and images
  • Change up my location
  • Move, run errands, exercise (give yourself a break once in awhile)
  • Do different things throughout the day
  • Use short chunks of time to maximize productivity
  • Write in color and/or in a fun notebook
  • Call Mom (or another person who gives great pick-me-up pep talks)
  • Use a work/reward system

Now to highlight a couple of these items.

Do different things throughout the day and make a task list. These two items can really go well together. Figure out what you want and need to accomplish for the day, week, and month. This will help you to figure out what to do in the immediate future and also sketch out the big picture of what’s going on. Personally, I use a paper planner for big picture stuff of things going on and also projects I am in the middle of. I use the task list in my Momentum for Chrome app on my computer for my daily tasks. Once you figure out what you would like to accomplish for the day, don’t spend all your time on one thing. Basically, don’t spend all your time on Indeed. If you’re not finding anything on Indeed, hop over to LinkedIn. Here are a few ideas of different things you could plan for your day:

  • Job search for a set amount of time. The timer on my phone and I are good friends. Set your timer for 30 minutes and look for jobs. If you find one that is interesting and you want to apply for it, save it. Worry about applying for positions later. Setting a specific amount of time for a specific activity allows you to maximize your productivity.
  • Spend some time on LinkedIn. Reaching out to connections, contributing to a group or two, searching for jobs, connecting with someone new, and researching what alumni from your institution are doing are just a few things you could do on LinkedIn. Sample goal: connect with three new people this week.
  • Have a coffee meeting or informational interview to learn more about a specific profession or company.
  • Attend local networking events or participate in a young professionals group.
  • Apply for jobs. Yeah, you’ve got to eventually spend some time applying for positions.
  • Research different career paths that go with your college degree and/or look interesting to you.

Change up location. Treat your job search as if it were your job. Get dressed, leave the house, and go be productive. Do not stay in your pjs all day. You will not be productive nor motivated to get anything done. Your location can be different each day based on how okay you are with different noise levels. Personally, I like going to coffee shops. You can also check out libraries, a local college campus, or other locations that have wi-fi and don’t mind you sitting there for a while.

Use a work/reward system. Accomplish a set number of items on your task list? Treat yourself. Sample work/reward system: apply for 10 jobs and treat yourself a coffee from Starbucks, Caribou, or your favorite local coffee spot. Just be leery of treating yourself to something that could easily suck you in for hours (i.e. Netflix, Pinterest, Instagram, video games, etc.). If you do treat yourself with something like this, break out the timer again.

As I said at the beginning, staying motivated is really something you need to figure out for yourself. My advice is if even in the big picture things aren’t going great, set up a system where you can be motivated for accomplishing smaller tasks on your list. Try not to let the one big thing get you down. Eventually, things do work themselves out.

Of Possible Interest: 

Photo Source: Unsplash| Morgan Sessions

Finding the Adventure in the “Transition Phase”

By: Emily

Editor’s Note: We’re welcoming Emily back for a guest post! Check out all of her previous work on the blog from when she was a student.

Hello! This is Emily, a recent graduate of UMD. I finished school last May with a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre and a minor in Art and Psychology. I am currently living in Minneapolis and, since graduating, have worked as a Field Canvasser fundraising to pass environmental policy measures and am currently working as a Visitor Assistant at the Minnesota Children’s Museum. Transitioning into the “workforce” has and continues to be an adventure, since I am still uncertain of my career path and can see myself doing a great many things. I do not have a particular “field” or one particular passion that I am set on pursuing exclusively. I have always enjoyed being a student because I could explore new knowledge and experiences, picking up new interests as I went along. Now that I have graduated, I continue to explore my multiple passions through different work experiences with more intention and renewed determination. For those of you who find yourself with a liberal arts degree without a clear “next step” or for undergrads who are about to start their “real world” journey, here’s what I’ve learned about this transition phase so far:

Perspective is everything, because how you view yourself in this stage of life is very important. It can be intimidating to apply for professional positions. There are moments of self-doubt when you contemplate the size, talent and experience of the candidate pool. Sometimes you feel like a kid that isn’t fooling anyone. But you have to believe that you have something unique to offer, because you do. If you consider yourself chronically under qualified for every position that you’re interested in, you might need to pursue more education and training or you might need to shift your perspective and really consider your strengths. You have to have confidence that you are an excellent candidate.

“Adventure” is a positive, exciting word, but real adventures are full of highs and lows. Moments of adventure can be as terrifying as being faced with a dragon. Moments of adventure can be as lonely as wandering through a desert or as uncertain as drifting through outer space. And that is what adventures are. The best stories are not full of characters who are living comfortably in their circumstances. The same goes for our lives. The best stories are about when we are met with unexpected challenges that seem too large to defeat and we overcome. When you are experiencing your own lows, know that you are experiencing the mountains and valleys of your adventure. With hard work and determination, there will be a time when you’ll be standing on the mountain enjoying the view.

Adventure in transition

Now I will leave you with some practical and specific tips from my job searching experience and blunders. Avoiding these pitfalls will save you some time and embarrassment and will help you stand out in your entry-level position:

  • Format all your attachments as PDFs and send yourself an email before you send them to any potential employer. That way you can make sure the attachments open and are still formatted the way you’d like.
  • Sometimes you should physically go to the places you are applying. Once I was asked in an interview, “Have you ever visited before?” and I had to say no. Physically go and ask companies if they are hiring. After a face-to-face conversation, my friend was invited to do an on-the-spot interview by a business owner and was offered the position I had applied for online.
  • In cover letters people often explain how their skills and experience match the job qualifications listed. To set yourself apart, make sure to explain how the values of the company match your values. If you appreciate the “why” of what they are doing and specifically “how” they are doing it, you will be a more attractive candidate.
  • Ask for three Letters of Recommendation before you graduate and ask for one before or immediately after you leave a position. Do this while their memory of your work is fresh in their minds. Going to past employers after several years of no longer being their employee and asking for a recommendation is far more awkward than sending them a message asking them if you can continue to use their letter. If you don’t want to ask for a full-fledged letter of recommendation, at least ask for a recommendation on LinkedIn.
  • Say “thank you” to everyone that helps you along the way.
  • In entry-level positions especially, find out if there is another position in the company that you might be interested in. Seek out opportunities where you can ask your coworkers about what they do, embrace opportunities to learn a new skill on the job and find ways to go above and beyond in your current position.
  • Keep applying, ask for feedback and find a healthy life balance with Netflix.

Good luck with your adventure!

Of Possible Interest: 

Read Emily’s posts

Your Motives for Doing What You Do

By: Emily

There is a lot of conflicting career advice out there that puts certain types of motivation in right and wrong categories. The idea of following your dreams, for example, is often considered noble, but to pursue a job solely because it will make you a great deal of money might be viewed as the “wrong” motivation. The truth is, we are people with different personalities, backgrounds, values and needs. In the end, only you can determine whether or not you are being true to your own values.

Career Values

When you are considering where you want to work and what you’d like to do, it can be helpful to step back and assess your motives. Here are a few types of motivation that you might identify with:

Security

Who do you hope to provide for in the future? Some people’s primary concern is whether or not they will be able to provide for themselves. They know with personal financial security comes the freedom and independence they that need to feel happy. For people motivated by security, money might be seen as a way to provide for the people they love either in the present or future. This motivation is common among personality types that are considered “planners”. If you have a tendency to think about the future, a dislike for transition periods and uncertainty, and enjoy working in a structured setting with clear expectations, you might value security.

Money

What type of lifestyle are you hoping to obtain or sustain? Money opens doors and can be a way to achieve your dreams of traveling around the world, or starting up a business or going to the Olympics. Having a lot of money is tied not only to security, but also to status. If you are motivated by money, it might be important to you that you have nice things and are seen in a certain way. To some, working is a way to achieve a luxurious or comfortable lifestyle.

Passion

Do you love what you are doing? This motivation type is more based on emotions and the present moment. People who pursue their passion are genuinely enjoying the process of getting where they’re going. Since it is emotion-based, this type of motivation is subject to change or expand depending on your experiences.

Competition

Do you have something to prove to yourself or someone else? Some of the most amazing human feats were accomplished through competition. Competition is often tied to ego and even though it can push you to do your best work, it can also produce many emotional highs and lows. For instance, it may be difficult for you to find contentment if you are not the best or you don’t view yourself as “winning”.

Fear

Are you doing what you’re doing because you’re afraid of judgment or uncertainty? If there were one type of motivation that I would consider “wrong,” it would be to make your future decisions out of fear or insecurities. Nobody wants to fail, but if your fear of failure or disappointing someone else renders you incapable of taking risks, you might not be living your life to it’s fullest potential.

Impact

Do you want to make a difference? Whether you want to feel like your life has meaning and significance or whether you want to be a part of a collective effort to produce a better future, impact can be a strong motivating force.

Although we are all looking for happiness in this lifetime, we all have different beliefs on how to find it. Depending your personality and values, you may disagree or identify with certain career advice. Just remember to take your own motivation into account when you are in the process of making life decisions and stick true to what you believe will be the most fulfilling.

Read Emily’s other posts

Those Days When You Don’t Feel Good at Anything

By: Emily

Ever have those days when you feel like you’re failing to live up to your own expectations? For fellow perfectionists or for anyone who enjoys trying new things, this feeling is probably a familiar one. Learning a new skill is not always fun and it’s not always a graceful process. Sometimes it requires us to wobble along like babies learning to walk in front of onlookers that laugh heartily at our failed attempts. People generally avoid putting themselves in situations that might make them feel embarrassing or slightly incompetent, but by doing so they are missing out on the long-term benefits of taking a risk and trying something new.

When you are having one of those days that you don’t feel good at anything, here are four easy tips that may make you feel better:

1. Embrace the Beginner Phase

Whether it’s learning the guitar or learning about astronomy, accept that you won’t be the best or the smartest in the room. Accept that there will be a time when everyone will be giving you advice. Humble yourself and accept this advice with gratitude whether it’s helpful or not and whether it’s given to genuinely help you or to make the advice giver feel important. Accept that some people (hopefully very few) might enjoy seeing you struggle. Accept that you won’t always get positive encouragement, acknowledgement or any sort of pat on the back for trying. If you are able to fully embrace the beginner phase you will be better off for it.

2. Celebrate Small Victories

If you’re not having any fun, then you will probably give up prematurely. Focus on small, easily accomplished, goals and celebrate your small successes instead of getting discouraged contemplating on how much further you have to go. Every step forward is a step in the right direction and things will become easier and easier as you continue on. Keep some perspective and remember that it’s okay to laugh at oneself from time to time. Finding that lightheartedness and sense of play is invaluable in this process.

3. Be Kind to Yourself

Although we are often our own worst enemy, don’t put yourself down out loud or in your head. “Should have, could have, and would haves” will only make you feel worse. Own up to your mistakes, realize what could have been done differently and then turn the page. Practice positive self-talk instead of self-punishment. Studies have shown that positive reinforcement shapes behavior more effectively than punishment anyways. Identify your strengths and remind yourself that you are still learning.

4. “Don’t Stop, Don’t Give Up”

If all else fails, there are two things that always make me feel better after a long day of not feeling good at anything. One is watching this delightfully encouraging YouTube video.

And second is a quote that Christopher Robin once said to his friend, Winnie the Pooh: “Promise me that you’ll always remember that you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”

Someday, you’ll look back and you’ll be glad you were brave enough to make those first clumsy beginner steps. They will be the stepping-stones that lead you to your current state of awesomeness.

Read Emily’s other posts