Archives for the month of: April, 2014
I fight writer's block with spaghetti.

I fight writer’s block with spaghetti.

Heidi:

I recently talked to my boyfriend about his personal statement.  He was having difficulty writing it. I gave his science-mind some advice about writing. Since I wrote my last blog on writing cover letters I figured I’d write about writing, so I’ll share some of the advice I gave him with you to ease your writing qualms for cover letters, personal statements, blogs, etc.

My blogs happen in drafts. 

I emphasize drafts for a couple reasons.  One of them being it’s much less intimidating. People tend to freak out when they think they only get one time to get it write (hehe–get it?).  What I suggested to my boyfriend is something I started doing when I wrote poetry in high school:  open a couple of word documents and put a couple of ideas on one—skip to the next one put a couple of different ideas on that one, etc.  Then flesh out some of your ideas and see where it takes you.  One word document’s ideas might develop beautifully and you can exit the others, or you might end up melding two of the ideas together from separate documents. Many things can happen.  Just go with it. Putting ideas down on paper (or computer) is like throwing spaghetti at a wall.  If you throw a whole bunch, some of it has to stick.   

As always, what works for me may not work for you.  Tell me in the comments–what works best for your writer’s block/writing troubles?

For some other helpful articles on related subjects:

1. 5 Cures for Resume Writer’s Block: bit.ly/1iA22m0

2. Bloggers: 23 Ways to Counter Writer’s Block: bit.ly/1hdOC9W

MaryKate:

To start this post, I hope your Sunday was full of friends, family, and food (whether you celebrated Easter or not!).

I was browsing some of the blogs I follow this past week and I found a great article from Career Girl Network called Who Am I? Marie, the author, discusses an activity she designed for students in her interpersonal communication classes that involves serious thinking about who you are by understanding who you are not. I’ve started to understand this concept much more deeply because, in the past three years, a lot has changed in my life and this has forced me to think about what kind of person I am and who I want to become. I’ve noticed that when I’m sitting on the train during my commute to or from work, or when I’m driving by myself, I let my mind wander and sometimes this question comes back to me: am I making what’s really important to me a priority today? Am I doing what want to do or what other people want me to do? I’ve been learning that it’s how I spend my time that makes me who I am.

As I continued browsing through the Career Girl Network blog, this entry caught my eye. It’s very concise and I was struck by the powerful message immediately: “We must be purposeful in our actions.” I think this connects so well to the message in Who Am I? because both posts made me stop and ask myself how I spend my time and what I feel is important in my life. It’s important to realize how my priorities and personality relate to my work (my full-time job as well as my freelance work): how do I break up my time during the day so that I am efficient and purposeful in my actions? How does my personality affect my work and my work relationships? How do I want my personality to affect my work? For example, I know I am an introvert but I have also discovered that I will step out of my comfort zone to take charge when it is required. I don’t want to be a leader right now, but I know I would pressure myself to take that step and push myself to the brink if the opportunity arose. I don’t like to say no to opportunities and now that I know this about myself, I can be sure to recognize when I’m taking on too much responsibility..

Sometimes I think that I started to grow personally, professionally, emotionally, and every way in between after college. As a millennial, I grew up with so much emphasis put on going to college that it almost seemed like what came after wasn’t as important. That’s ridiculous, but what did I know? I was just a silly kid. When I was in graduate school, I still wasn’t completely aware of what I’d be doing once I graduated but I was starting to see a little bit more clearly that school was not forever. I think it took me until last September, when I was finally hired as a full-time, benefits-included employee, to truly begin my journey of figuring out exactly who I am–what I like, dislike, will do, won’t do, love, hate, and everything in between. The more I get to know myself, the more I understand about the way I learn and work. This is invaluable to how I see myself growing professionally because how can I plan a career trajectory if I don’t know the first thing about myself? I suggest you read the two blog posts I mentioned before (and check out the rest of their blog, too!) and challenge yourself by asking difficult questions: who are you? Who do you want to be?

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Heidi:

I saw an opportunity at a company.  I liked the company but not the job.  Not only did I not like the job, I wasn’t qualified for it—it was a financial fund accountant of sorts.  What did I do?  I wrote them a customized cover letter.

The gist of my letter: Hey, ya’ll!  I can’t do financial stuff but I can do X, Y, and Z.  I also gave concrete examples of things that I like about their company to exemplify why I was interested in them and why I think I’d be a good fit for their culture.

I got an interview.

Tips for this kind of work?  Be genuine.  That’s basically the overall theme of a successful job search, but you want to make sure you’re being especially genuine in cover letters and résumés.  Here’s why: you can always defend the truth.

Many people embellish their résumés and cover letters because they think it will help them get a job and it might—but then they’ll be in a job that they’re not qualified or experienced for.  Your problems just start there.  The goal of the job search is to get into a position that fits you, so how can you do that if you don’t tell the truth in your résumé and cover letters?

If you want to work somewhere and you don’t see a job posted that suits you, try it.  You’ll be surprised at what kind of results you can get.

Helpful links:

Here’s a link to the video that I used to write my customized cover letter: http://bit.ly/1p0UGLR

If you’re not at the cover letter writing stage yet check out this blog on how to begin your job search: http://bit.ly/1mTzAOl

If you’ve already written your cover letter and need some résumé help, check out this video: http://bit.ly/1ig3AzS

I struggle with varying degrees of anxiety (some could call it perfectionism) in all areas of my life. Work (obviously) is one of the most important areas where I worry about failing and, at the same time, succeeding. Weird, right? Well, not entirely. I find on Mondays, I’m high-strung and going at 1,000 mph trying to accomplish tasks at work and at home. By Wednesday I’ve finally relaxed a little to where I’m completing tasks calmly and more efficiently, but I’m still hyper-focused on what I’m trying to accomplish. And by the time Friday rolls around, I’m hovering somewhere between burned-out and I-can’t-anymore (but I still find time to complete my to-do list for the next week, complete with little stars next to the items that must be completed first). Then, the cycle starts all over again on Monday. Am I crazy? Probably a little–but aren’t we all a little nuts? What I’m trying to write about here is my decision to start working towards balance in my life. I’ve always been a perfectionist, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post, and sometimes I can freak myself out. I think part of my problem is that I have to stop allowing myself to worry about everything, from the smudge on the page of my crisp planner to that deadline I have to meet. There has to be a way to balance all of this, and I don’t think I’ve ever truly allowed myself the luxury of figuring out what that balance is.

I did a little research to see if anyone else has written about this struggle between work anxiety and actually getting work done, and I found some valuable posts. “Stop Worrying about Failure,” an excellent post on the blog personal development, opened my eyes to the reality of failure: it happens. I know I wrote a post about this recently, but I think “Stop Worrying about Failure” gives concrete advice: “There is no necessity of being afraid to fail at all, as in most cases it might just scare you off from doing it; the decision between success and failure lies often beyond your own control, when you did everything possible and made above average efforts to accomplish your targeted goal.” This is especially important for me (and people like me) to remember: if I did everything I could do, then I did my best. I have to learn to accept my best and not try to push myself almost to the breaking point. Another interesting blog post that addresses this is “Less-Confident People Are More Successful,” a post on the Harvard Business Review blog. It’s difficult for me to say that I agree with this blog post’s message because that means admitting that I feel less-than-confident in myself from time to time; however, after reading the post, I have to admit that it did make sense. I am not completely without confidence but I wouldn’t say I’m quite ready to stand in front of a room of my peers and express my ideas with conviction. It’s a long, slow learning process and I’m a millennial just trying to wade through it.

Heidi touched on this topic in her post last week and she put it nicely when she wrote, “If I stop thinking that nerves get in the way of communication but rather fuel it, I can focus them on what I’m actually communicating whether it’s a song, a presentation, or speech.” I feel similarly to what Heidi describes in that quote: I use my anxiety to fuel my desire to do well; but, there is a line between letting your nerves control you and using them for the greater good. I struggle to achieve a balance between insanity brought on by stress and complete, worry-free relaxation. I don’t believe either extreme is healthy and I’ve discovered just how much better I feel when I don’t indulge my tendency to work in hyperdrive when I feel overwhelmed. I’m not sure if this post is more rambling than a collection of well-thought out ideas that I’ve gathered to impart to you, dear readers, but I hope that, whatever it is, it has caused one of you to stop and think. Are you doing too much? Not doing enough? Feel like you’re going crazy? Take a step back and look at what you’ve accomplished in the past and what you’re on the way to accomplishing in the future–and pat yourself on the back! Oh yeah, and maybe get a massage.

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