Are you thinking about what subject to study at university? Are you already at uni and worried that your degree may not have enough “direct job prospects”?
Whatever your situation, there are always questions over the choices you make.
Should you study a subject with good job prospects right now, or should you focus on what you like doing already?
If you’re like most people, you don’t have all your plans laid out perfectly. It’s rare to have no questions and no doubts.
That’s why Episode 012 of TUB-Thump is here to reassure you that the most important thing is to find your own context. Unless you’re studying Medicine or something with a well-worn and required path, a lot of the situation boils down to making the most of what makes you tick.
You’re worth more than the subject you study. There are lots of stories you can tell about yourself. Today’s episode is a brief reminder of that, to help you start thinking about getting the most out of what you’re doing, no matter what you’re studying.
Here are the show notes for the 6-min episode:
00:35 – Get a degree with best job prospects, or study a subject you already enjoy? The first thing to do is to look at what is behind that question.
01:30 – The act of undertaking a degree, as well as everything else associated with your experience, makes more difference than the course itself. Some vocations need a specific route, but the majority aren’t that set in stone.
02:10 – Jobs change. It may not matter what you study now for the roles that don’t yet exist. Education isn’t simply a route to a job anyway.
03:10 – What does “direct job prospects” mean?
04:20 – Your achievements and stories from outside of your degree work are also important. Employers increasingly look to the wider story of who you are. The more you can use this, the more chance you have of distinguishing yourself.
04:55 – The question of job prospects versus a subject you enjoy is a bit of a straw-man. It needs more context of you as an individual to be able to answer properly. Look at your own attitude, your own wants, and your own strengths.
The difference between compulsory and compelling is huge.
Compulsory sounds negative. You must do something, whether you like it or not.
That’s enough to put you off most compulsory stuff. The psychology is all wrong.
Compelling sounds great. You must do something, because you’re excited to keep going. You’d hate to stop.
University involves a lot of work, so it helps when you want to do it. But when you have deadlines to fulfill and the need to submit thousands of words, it’s easy to switch your attention to what’s compulsory.
Do yourself a favour and concentrate on the reasons why you’re interested in your work. The more compelling you make it, the easier you’ll find the less savoury points.
Terry Anderson sees possibility in this through self-paced learning, especially through “sophisticated social networking contexts” that let students discover each other and interact in realtime as well as through past comments and artifacts from previous students on a course.
You may not have this luxury on your degree for most, if not all of your assignments. But there are other ways to turn your attitude from plodding to probing.
Regain Your Enthusiasm
Start with an interesting question – What makes you tick? What would you like to know? Where do you want to explore today?
Thinking about word counts and submission dates will only fill your mind with stress points. Bring your focus to the assignment itself, not the logistics.
Don’t overthink it – Once you’ve asked interesting questions, keep working on them until you start to grow tired of it. When you feel things dragging, stop right there. Pack up. Do something else. Even the most fun activities get boring when you don’t stop. So learn to let go.
Team up with others – Deconstruct, discuss, debate. Five minutes may be all it takes to uncover talking points that get you enthused about the task at hand. Whether or not you like to work in a group, an academic chat can get the creative juices flowing. If you’d prefer to do the actual work on your own, that’s fine. Once the urge is there, your mission is to stay in the mood to work with a spring in your step.
Space things out – The nearer you get to the deadlines, the more you focus on the compulsory aspect of your work. You avoid this by starting early and doing the work bit by bit. Not too much in one go, and certainly not all at once at the last minute.
Make it a habit – The longer you procrastinate, the more likely you’ll see the compulsory over the compelling. As well as spacing things out, as I mention above, find ways to develop habits to ease into the work. Habits can be different for everyone and is enough to be the subject of many texts, including Charles Duhigg’s recent book, The Power of Habit.
Duhigg says that you should identify current routines for habits you would like to change. What is the cue that leads to your habit taking over? Next, choose different outcomes (it doesn’t really matter what they are) to work out what cravings are truly driving the routine. Then isolate the cue. Are you reacting to your location, the time of day, how you feel, what happened just beforehand? In time, you’ll find a pattern will emerge. Finally, have a plan. Commit to a new habit that you feel is better placed for what you want to change. From first-hand experience, Duhigg found embedding a new habit to be a challenge, but it was worth persevering.
Let the subject excite you and stop the admin from getting you down. So much of the change from compulsory to compelling is in the attitude. Set things up for an activity you don’t want to stop doing. And when you do stop, you’ll miss it.
That will make a change from never wanting to see it again, eh?