Motivation

I’ve tried to start half a dozen new posts in the last few days, and nothing has come of them.  I can get a paragraph, maybe two, into them and that’s it.

I just have no motivation right now.

Since I graduated from University, my motivation has just plummeted. I mean, I still get up every day, do  my thang. I have my job search, my free online classes that I keep starting and never finishing, my housework………. but that’s it.

I used to craft. I used to write. I could write 8 12-page research papers in a matter of weeks, on top of constant reading, volunteering, and Buffy marathoning. I could research for hours, curl up in a ball and write all night, and still have the get-up-and-go to head off for drinks after that. I was a damn machine!

But lately……. I’m just blah. Honestly, I thrived on all of those deadlines. Knowing that things had to be done by a certain date and certain time gave me drive. I could manage dozens upon dozens of deadlines and projects at once. I had a scheduling system that encompassed a monthly calendar, a 4-month calendar, a day planner, a monthly task list, a weekly task list, and both daily and weekly to-do lists. And I loved it!

These days, though, I don’t have that. I have a decent job in customer service. It pays enough to kinda pay the bills. I’m looking for a second job, or a full-time job, but there’s no huge rush on that. I can manage for a while on what I’m doing.

There’s no structure for anything, though.

My job has an ever-changing schedule. Just today, my evening 5 hour closing shift got changed to a full-day 8 hour closing shift. I jump from closing to open to close support to afternoons all in a week sometimes. I can’t make a strict schedule for my time with my shifts jumping all over the place. I can’t say “I’ll get up and write every morning/every night before bed” when I don’t know when I’ll be waking up or going to bed. When I work a closing, I’m up later trying to unwind.

Add to that the fact that I have no deadlines. If I don’t update this blog, no one comes after me. There is no one demanding I update this. There is no negative consequences to not updating, other than losing the few readers I have. Basically, all of the structure I had forced on me before is gone, and I don’t know how to deal with that.

I’m not alone in this, either. I’ve talked to so many people who come out of school feeling empty, feeling lost, with no one there to tell them what to get done. I keep telling myself that I’ll make my own structure, that I’ll give myself deadlines, but it never works. I don’t have anyone else here to enforce them.

Anyone else out there in the Internet have this problem, Sunshine? Drop me a line, let me know how you deal with the post-grad lack of structure!

Advertisements

My Motivation……?

So it’s no secret that I’ve been lacking in motivation for quite a long time now. When I was in school, I always had a bunch of things to work towards all at once, with goals laid out for me. Every class had a syllabus that laid out what was expected; my volunteer positions had specific goals to them from the very first day I started; my on-campus jobs basically came with a check-list of what needed to get done. I never had to sit down and think, “Ok, what goals should I be setting? What should I be working towards?”

In my second year of school, I picked a career path and started working towards that in school. After that, once that goal was set in motion….. I basically stopped. I took one crappy piece of advice after another, avoided making any real goals of my own, and just kept working towards whatever was laid out before me.

Then things fell to shit, and I’ve just never recovered.

To make a long story short, the career I was working towards changed their entry-level requirements. It was too late in my schooling to change my path, and I was in complete shock. I was recovering from a sudden and pretty serious illness, my career was snatched out of my hands before I came anywhere close to crasping it, and I was running out of time to collect student loans and afford to finish school.

What should I have done? Well, I should’ve started looking into what careers I was qualified for. I mean, a Criminology degree seems pretty specific, and I have no clue what to do with it. I should have sat down and figured out what the hell I was going to start working towards now that things had fallen apart.

Instead, I just kinda skated along. Once I graduated, I just started applying for whatever. I didn’t bother taking my education and looking at what I could do with it. Basically, I wasted years and years letting that one forced career change ruin me. Instead of picking my ass back up and getting it into gear, I just kinda laid down and gave up.

And now, I work Customer Service and run a cash register.

I let five years of working through school, fives years of volunteering, five years of on-campus work experience, just go to waste. I completely lost all my motivation to move forward in my life, and made no effort to get it back.

So here I am at 34 years old. I rent a bedroom in a student rental house owned by my ex-boyfriend’s family. My boyfriend and my cat live with me. For the summer, I’m working 6 days a week trying to bank up as many hours as I can before our store hours die off for the fall. I’m watching all of my friends my age (and even younger ones) get married, buy homes, have kids……. and I’m stuck here.

So I’m working towards that whole goal setting thing. I need to motivate myself, get my life back on track, and build a life for myself.

Well Sunshine, off to work yet again. The damn store isn’t going to close itself tonight.

Follow Through With Your Plans

So you have a plan. That’s fantastic! You know pretty much what you want to do after graduation, what your chosen career path is, and/or what you want to do with the rest of your life.

So how to you follow through with all this?

For a lot of careers,getting a degree just isn’t good enough. You need a totally kick-ass CV and/or resume, with loads of entries on it showing why you would be the most obvious choice for a job in this field. Sounds easy, doesn’t it. Yeah, it’s kinda not.

You see, need to create epic aura of awesomeness that not only makes you perfect for this specific job, but also doesn’t make you perfect for ONLY this specific job. You need to make yourself seem like some secret super soldier created specifically for this job, but also for other jobs in that field that you may want to apply for. Basically, you need to show that you are perfect across the board.

No pressure, right?

Calm down. There are a few universal things that you can do, no matter what your career goal is:

  1. Leadership! Show that you’re not only great at taking directions, but that you can give directions to others. Join a club that interests you, and get yourself into a position of leadership. Anything from President of the Psychology Association to the Event Planning Chair of the Local Hippie Coalition works for this. Anything that gives you the power to give orders to others is good.
  2. Financial Responsibility! Chances are, at some point in your career, you will have to work with a budget. You may have to create a budget, keep track of petty cash, delegate funds for other projects, or oversee a large project on a budget. Do something specific that shows that you know how to do this already. Join a club (or just use your position in the last point), and plan an event. Make sure you work with a budget, and can track everything. And hey, now you also have experience in event planning! That’s TWO skills in one point! Bonus!
  3. Computer Skills! Obviously, someone in a Computer Science program will already have plenty of experience with computers. I mean, it’s right there in the program name. Criminology? Math? Political Science? Nothing there screams “I’m not a technological failure”. You need to up your skills, and make sure they are marketable. First off, know your Microsoft Office programs. It never hurts to get certification in programs like Word or Excel. Next, work on programs that are needed in your specific field. Things like statistical analysis have a few programs used by pretty much everyone in the field. If your field has programs like this, then you damn well better them!

Now that you have these few things taken care of, lets take a look at your actual course work. Do you know exactly what you need to get into your chosen career?  Some jobs require grad school, a doctorate, special certification, or co-op/internship experience. Does yours?

It’s best to do research into your field early. Ideally, as soon as you know what it is you want, you would start your research. If you require a graduate or doctorate degree, then you need to also start researching how to apply for these programs. You also need to know what the admission requirements are. Some schools require tests like GRE or LSATs, a large number of letters of recommendation, or admission essays. Know what is required.

Certification requires knowing where and when to test, what knowledge is needed, and where to get study material. Sometimes, it’s only a matter of sitting through a workshop. Other times, you need to take a series of tests. For my Advanced Certificate in Microsoft Excel, I took three workshops (basic, intermediate, and advanced levels), with a series of small assignments during them. To get actual Microsoft Certification from Microsoft, there are special certification tests that have to be administered at very specific locations, by specially trained administrators. Make sure you are actually getting what you need when you sign up for these.

And finally, take a look at the courses you’re taking. Even within your program, you can show specialization or expand your knowledge. In my Criminology program, I chose to take a very broad range of topics that could all apply to my chosen area of research. I took courses in Youth in Criminal Justice, Victimology, Penology, Social Deviation, and Policing and Security. I also took a series of Psychological Development courses, Social Justice, Morality, and both Quantitative and Qualitative Research. All of this is to aide in my research into school shootings and trends in violence and blame. At the same time, I also did courses in Business, Philosophy, Computer Concepts, and Political Science. These gave me a broader range of knowledge, more marketable skills, and gave me a chance to broaden my network. It’s best to also try to do a combination of both of these (specific, and broad).

So, to sum up quickly, you need to make yourself as marketable as possible in your chosen field. Make sure you have all the education and skills you need for your career, and make sure you know what you actually need for that career.

Do You Have A Plan?

I mean beside, “Graduate, find a job, make money”.

So many students go into their post-secondary schooling without any sort of plan in place. It’s almost like they’re on autopilot. Going to college or university just seemed like the logical next step after graduating high school, or not finding their dream job after a few years.

There’s also the outside pressure from friends, family, and “experts” to get some sort of degree. It’s like people seem to think that getting some sort of piece of paper will make the job offers come flying in. I’ve even heard the “advice” that it doesn’t matter what your degree is in, as long as you have a degree.

Well, that’s not exactly true.

Now, you don’t need to have a concrete plan, set in stone, laying out every educational and career move you plan to make in the next five years. You should have some sort of idea of what you’re getting yourself into. You can’t go into this whole “planning the rest of your life” thing blind.

Do you have an idea of what career you want after graduation? If so, that’s great! Make sure you’re on the right track to get there. (I’ll have a whole post next week about how to do this) Not so much? That’s ok too.  Not everyone knows exactly what they want out of life. The main things to focus on are to not panic, and to not pigeon hole yourself into such a small niche that you have no options to look to.

Do you have a major topic of study? Many students spend a year or two as an “undeclared” major, or in a “general arts/science” program. And that’s perfectly fine. If you’re not sure of what you want, then don’t rush into something you could totally regret. It’s perfectly fine to take a variety of courses in order to find out what it is that really gets you going. You may find that you have an undiscovered love of statistics, or geology, or quantitative research. Taking a little time to explore could help you discover your true passions.

Do you have no idea whatsoever what you want to do, but you’re in school anyway because it’s what you’re supposed to do? Then maybe you need to take a little time out here. So many people get pushed into university by well-meaning people and advice, when what they would benefit most from is going into a skilled trade. Or they rush into getting a degree when what they really want is to be a chef. Or they get a job with a company, and would love to just work their way up the chain there, but are pressured to give that up to go to school.

Not everyone needs to run out and get a degree! If you really have no clue what you want to do, or you have a career goal that some seem to see as non-traditional, then maybe you need to take a little time off to figure things out. Some people travel, or take time to explore different career options. I’ve known people who took time off and worked for cruise lines, department stores, garages, fast food restaurants. Some of them found a career path they loved. Others found something they thought they would love, and instead hated with the fiery passion of a thousand supernova-ing suns. Either way, they found something about themselves, and were able to either create or narrow-down their career path.

So do you have a plan? If so, congrats! You’re ahead of myself, and about 3/4 of the people I know. You don’t? That’s ok too. Just make sure not to pigeon hole yourself out of options.

Time Budgets

Sometimes it feels like there just aren’t enough hours in a day to get everything done.  Other times, it’s like there is absolutely nothing to do for hours on end. And in Netflix time, you’re 23 episodes in to Supernatural and decide you have just enough time for another season or two before bed.

No matter how you spend your time, though, just remember: you have 168 hours to use each week.

That’s right: 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, equals 168 hours in every week.

I know that seems like a lot and not enough at the same time, so just take your planning one step at a time now.

1) What commitments do you have?

This is where you factor in the things you absolutely must do on a set schedule: classes, labs, work, and other things you simply MUST be in attendance at. Write these things down in your day planner (don’t know how to use one? We’ll get to that another day). Add up how many hours you have in your week that you just cannot use for anything else, because they’re already scheduled.

2) Check your “time sucks”.

Yes, “time sucks”. These are the things you might forget about, even though they’re unavoidable. This could be anything from commuting to and from campus, getting to and from different parts of campus, or those awkward bits of time between classes (seriously, who thought a 15 minute break between classes would be productive?). Make sure you figure out roughly how much time these will take up.

3) Now throw in your basics.

Everyone needs to sleep. Some people only need 5 hours a night, while others need a good 9 hours to feel productive. Figure out how much sleep you need, and factor that into your schedule! Don’t forget the time it takes you to prepare and eat your meals. And (many people forget to factor this in) most of us don’t just roll out of bed looking (and feeling) fabulous. Make sure you factor in whatever time you need to get ready to start your day. (Personally, I need at least 1 1/2 hours to wake up, shower, have my coffee, check email, and get myself looking presentable)

4) Now you can plan everything else.

Take a look at the hours you’re not using yet. THESE are the hours for you to do everything else you want to do. This is when you study, socialize, volunteer, party, and marathon Netflix.

5) Be realistic.

Don’t schedule every spare moment for studying. You’ll burn out pretty damn fast. Don’t plan every day to keep you on campus from 8am until 10pm. Don’t plan nothing but work and studying, with no fun. No matter how dedicated you are, you need to take a break from time to time. Frequent breaks ensure that you won’t burn out too fast. If you see that you have a rough couple of weeks, make sure to plan a night out (or a night in to relax). If you see that you have an easy few weeks, try to throw in a little extra study time to work on things you’ll have less time for later.