OK, I must confess. I have been meaning to write this blog post for the last three days, but each time I have found something else to do. One of my many useless strengths, is my ability to engage in 'task displacement' - also commonly known as procrastination.
This morning whilst eating my breakfast, I found myself thinking - why do I avoid doing certain things? In my case it is often the fear of getting it wrong, thinking I am not good enough or simply getting distracted by other, more fun things (for example, lately I seem to playing this game called Crush and popping balloons easily ends up in an hour or two wasted).
I think this TED video by Tim Urban provides a very insightful look into the mind of a procrastinator.
The truth is, some of us hide under the umbrella of procrastination when in reality we are struggling with genuine anxiety with regards to the task at hand. I often observe this with the students I work with. A common confession I hear from students is; "I find the whole job hunting thing really overwhelming" or "I cant seem to find anything I can do". Occasionally students also tell me how they worry about getting things wrong when job hunting (this could be getting the application, interview or even choice of career wrong). Therefore, it is all to easy to find distractions and to not confront the real issue.
If this sounds like you, below are some tips to help you take that first step:
- Overwhelmed: my granny always said to me, "you can't eat an elephant whole". Putting aside the fact that this is a rather gruesome analogy, there is something in it and applies to job hunting. It might be helpful to break the whole job hunting thing into smaller manageable actions such as: book a quick query with an adviser, attend one event on campus or spend an hour exploring what Bath graduates have done. Small action can lead to big clarity.
- Perfectionism: If I had a pound for every student I have seen who was waiting until they were sure that they were applying for the right opportunity, I’d be a a very, very rich woman. John Lees (who is a superb writer on all things careers) suggests the 70/30 rule. If you feel engaged with 70% of the role you are considering (and meet 70% of the skills required), then it is worth applying. The other way to view this is to approach job hunting as a series of small controlled experiments. Give yourself permission to give things a go and along the way you'll not only gain clarity about your future direction, you will also pick up useful skills. Do remember, the job you do now, isn't something you'll do for the rest of your life.
- Fear of failure: have you ever stopped yourself from applying for a particular placement or job because you think 'you are not good enough'? Self-sabotage is one of the ways we try and protect ourselves from failure. More often than not your perception of your self is far more critical than the reality. Therefore one approach is to challenge your self-perception by actively seeking feedback. Instead of thinking you aren't good enough, pop in and see a careers adviser who can help you identify your strengths. Hit the send button and get a few applications out, it is the surest way to test the market. After all, you really don't know your limits until you try.
- Easily distracted: the best way to tackle this is by eliminating time wasters. Be honest, what do you waste time on? Yik Yak? Facebook? Twitter? Stop checking them so often. One thing you can do is make it hard to check your social media – remove them from your browser quick links, switch off notifications and your phone. Schedule set times to browse and perhaps reward yourself with social media time when you tick an action off your to-do-list. The same approach applies to Netflix, you tube etc.
- Fear of change: it is easy to put off the fact that your university life will come to an end. Some students apply for a Masters course to procrastinate and to put off career decision making for a further year. At some point, before you know it, you will have to confront career decision making. However you don't have to work through this on your own. The careers team are here to guide you, inspire you and help you feel more confident about your future. Do consider booking a guidance appointment - it is only 45 minutes of your time, so what have you got to lose?