#FridayThoughts – Autopilot

The other day I calculated that I spend at least ten hours a week commuting. That’s roughly 43 hours a month or, to make it even more jarring, almost 22 days a year.

I can’t help but feel that those 22 days are essentially wasted. Because, let’s face it, this time spent either running for or being stuck on trains hardly counts. You just sit there – or in my case, stand there – and wish away the time. Wishing the train would arrive so you can get off the cold platform, followed by wishing the train would hurry up and get to your stop so you can get away from those three elbows poking your back. You’re not only not enjoying yourself, you’re also not truly experiencing those moment for what they are, but feverishly looking forward to the next best thing.

And it’s not just the commute that follows this pattern. How many of us go through our working week counting down the days till the weekend? It’s no wonder then that so many of us feel like time is passing incredibly fast. We spend so much time looking forward to the future and just making it through the morning, day or week that when Friday does finally arrive, we can’t help but note how fast the week went. Moreover, our brains have a nifty way of functioning on autopilot whenever we are tasked with something we do regularly, so it’s hardly surprising the week felt short when you don’t really remember the conscious actions you took to get to work, do work and go back home.

Even more tricky is the fact that most of the time you don’t even realise how stuck you are in a routine until you come back from a break. There are maybe one or two days after returning from a holiday when, not used to the drudgery of routine anymore, you seem to experience it all much more vividly and consciously. It’s a great feeling, but one that seems almost impossible to hang onto.

Routine is there for a reason and perhaps many of us would change it if we could. But things like taking the same route into work every morning are simply convenient and changing that would hardly make life more exciting.

Instead, I try to remind myself every now and then to focus less on what I’m doing in the weekend or obsessively planning my next holiday, and instead try and find some small enjoyment in my working day, whether that’s treating myself to a coffee or a new book. It may not make the day much more exciting, but at least it’s a change from running solely on autopilot.

#SundayThoughts – Pros and cons

The world is a rather black and white place when you’re a child. Adults tell you what you can and can’t do, they teach you right from wrong and that’s that. Believe it or not, it takes a while to unpack that worldview – it sticks, even if you don’t think it does.

I think the process of becoming an adult is all about realising that actually, there are more shades in between black and white. Things aren’t just good or bad and things are rarely ever perfect in themselves.

As a child I saw adulthood as a checklist. Get a job, check, find a partner check, buy property check, have children and all that jazz. Of course, in this way of thinking, every single thing is absolute: you get that great job, that’s it, you made it, happiness achieved. Every additional thing will only add to that happiness until the puzzle is complete.

Life isn’t like that at all, of course.

That perfect job may seem like a dream come true at one point, but you may grow tired of it after a while. Similarly, you may outgrow a house, a relationship, a friendship. Things change, so focusing on absolutes is useless; instead, it’s about accepting that most things in life have pros and cons and about trying to find the right balance between the two.

Take living in London, which, for me, provides the best example of the push and pull of pros and cons (#thestruggleisreal):

  • Decent job opportunities PRO
  • Biiiiiig city CON
  • Disgustingly high rents CON
  • I mean, Brexit CON
  • Easy access to art, culture and nightlife PRO
  • Distance from friends and family CON
  • Opportunity to make new friends PRO
  • Breathing polluted air CON
  • Surrounded by a bunch of other grumps C O N

(woops did I add in a few more cons than pros there – my real feelings on the matter must be slipping)

Whatever naïve beliefs I still held about the world when I moved to London were quickly shattered by the reality that most adult decisions aren’t easy. They usually involve some level of sacrifice or compromise and what may seem like a good idea at one point in time may not be so a few months or years down the line. This, in turn, can make planning for the future difficult.

Even so, uncertainty brings opportunity, and while weighing up pros and cons can be hard, it certainly makes life a lot more interesting than the box-ticking exercise I envisioned when I was younger. I just wished we could stop perpetuating that myth altogether.

#MondayThoughts – Describe yourself in three words

We’ve probably all been asked this at some point in our lives and… can we just agree that it’s an awful question?

Interviews, teamwork situations, first week of uni icebreakers, name any slightly awkward or nerve-wrecking situation and this question will probably have made its dreaded entrance at some point. The goal of the question is clearly to find out more about the person you’re asking it, but, let’s face it, it’s hardly effective.

What do we really find out about a person when they describe themselves as ‘adventurous, fun-loving, vivacious’? Surely they must have a good reason for picking these words, but we don’t know what those are. They might think they’re adventurous because they go rock-climbing now and then; you may think it means they’ve climbed the Mont Blanc twenty times – clearly, you’re not on the same page… and you still don’t know anything about them.

And then there’s the whole thing of actually answering this question, which is, without a doubt, bloody difficult. The question in itself seems to indicate that these three words should in some way be positive, but thinking positive thoughts about ourselves, and, even worse, voicing these (the horror!), is something many of us find hard to do – or is that really just me?

Moreover, does anyone actually think of themselves in black and white terms like the ones above? What do we define ourselves by? What makes us see ourselves the way that we do?

When thinking about this question I realised that I define myself by the things I love and enjoy. When asking myself, ‘who am I?’ I just kept thinking of all the films I like, my obsession with birds and cake and Victorian things and Scotland and witches and Fleetwood Mac (there is a theme in there somewhere).

Those are the things I’m passionate about, the things I can talk for hours about, the ones that occupy my mind. Those are the things that I want others to know about me. Those are the things I gladly share. And there’s so much more to learn about me from those facts alone than any three words ever could.

So let’s change the question and swap it for a much more friendly ‘Tell me about your favourite things’. Because that’s what really gets people to open up, to relate and to connect.

So please, I’m dying to know.

Goodbye January

Ah, January. New beginnings, a chance to slam the door in the face of the previous year and all its baggage and to start afresh. New year, new me and all that jazz. But is it a new me? Is it a fresh start?

We seem to be obsessed with new beginnings, whether it’s that #mondaymorningfeeling, celebrating another paycheck at the end of the month and a new chance to be more responsible with our money (ha!) and, of course, the mother of all new beginnings, January.

We all know January is a long, hard slog. You’re carrying around that December hangover, are most likely broke from going a bit too crazy over the Christmas period and God, why are you feeling so exhausted? Aren’t holidays supposed to be relaxing?

Anyway, you’ve painstakingly managed to drag yourself back to reality when the questions start coming: ‘So, what are your new year’s resolutions?’

Now I have never dabbled with new year’s resolutions as I believe there’s a time and a place for everything, and when it comes to embarking on a journey of self-betterment, I really don’t think January is the time (peek reasons why just above).

That being said, every single January I feel that I need to make a change. I would go as far as to say that I think that by this point, we’ve been conditioned to feel that way. And for me it kind of feels like I’m having to keep up with someone else’s marathon, even though I hate running. In short, every January I end up feeling pretty terrible.

It’s not just the fact that we’re collectively being bullied into this new year’s resolutions thing that is putting me down, however. It’s the overwhelming amount of possibilities that come with new beginnings, and the fact that I’m not really sure what I should be doing in the first place, even though I feel like I really should be doing something.

My resolution to my January dilemmas came when I was doing research for an article for work, and I came across this article about setting career goals which quoted Amy Poehler (comedian, you might know her from the wonderful Parks & Recreation). And Amy’s advice was that if you want to be successful in your career, you need to stop setting unrealistic goals for yourself based on what you think you should be doing, and instead start investing time in the things you love outside of work. Ultimately this will help you find your way in your career.

This idea can very easily be lifted away from its career context and be applied to goal setting in general: focus on what you want to be doing, not what you think you should be doing. On first glances, it seems like an obvious concept, and you may even think that that’s what you have been doing in the first place. I definitely thought so. But when I reflected on my way of thinking I realised that my focus had been: ‘What can I do to improve?’ ‘What should I really start doing this year to have a better chance at [xyz]?’ instead of ‘Which things do I want to do more of this year?’, ‘What interests do I want to explore further?’, ‘Which new things do I really want to try?’

Once I got that into my head, it all clicked. I know for a fact that doing things out of some sense of obligation, whether to yourself or others, hardly makes you happy, and it’s much harder to put energy into something you don’t love than something you have a genuine passion for.

So, my plan for 2019: read more books, see more films, write more, travel more, learn about history, go to interesting places and spend time with people that inspire me. The list goes on. Thanks, Amy.

Finding my USP

Everyone has a unique selling point (USP for short). I know, it might sound like just another useless abbreviation created by some overly-keen marketeer, but there’s more to it than that. Just think about it: If we take the common belief that ‘everyone is unique’, we therefore also all have a specific set of skills and strengths – and weaknesses – that sets us apart from the rest.

Being aware of our USPs is essential in building our personal brands: it’s that unique set of qualities that we use to entice potential employers. For some people finding their USP is easy, they might have even been aware of it from a young age. Think for example of the kid who almost seems born to be on the stage, or the other one who has dreamt of becoming a veterinarian since their dog Pluto died when they were five: their dreams and talents are very strongly intertwined.

Then there’s the rest of us, of course. The ones who find it hard to pinpoint what they are good at. Not because we’re not good at anything, but because we are perhaps unsure of where our strengths and skills could take us, or because we are not convinced whether or not they are even strengths or skills at all.

For a long time I belonged to that latter category. My track record had shown me that I wasn’t particularly terrible at, well, a few things, and I had received the odd compliment here and there, but I never fully registered this. I wasn’t convinced of my own abilities at all.

Now this might seem like a bleak starting point and if you find yourself there: Hi! I’ve been there. It’s not the end of the world.

See, finding your USP might not be particularly easy, but I don’t think it’s the hardest part. It requires you to take an objective look at your past experiences and tease out all the good stuff. Noting down your successes will help you to pinpoint what you are good at as well as what you enjoy doing. Think of the accomplishments you are most proud of, the experiences that made you feel truly fulfilled, and the times you received positive feedback: all of these are pieces of the puzzle, whether big or small.

Once you’ve collected all the pieces it’s a matter of distilling the information. Your USP does not have to be an elaborate story about your dreams and aspirations; as any good piece of branding it should be short and to the point. So, for example, it could be you’re an amazing problem-solver with an active imagination, or someone who is particularly good at telling a story. Nobody is expecting you to be the next Elon Musk. Unless, of course, you want to be.

Sound do-able so far? Great, because now comes the difficult part – at least in my experience. See, I did all of the above. I crafted the CV, highlighted my ‘skills and strengths’ on my LinkedIn etc. etc. But honestly, it still felt like just words on a page. I didn’t feel like whatever I wrote there truly set me apart. And that feeling was holding me back.

The hardest thing about finding your USP is believing in it. And again, for some people this may be a walk in the park but there are those that don’t have that type of self-belief and let me tell you it can be damn hard to find it.

If you’re like me, someone can tell you a 100 times that they think you’re good at [xyz], but it might still not make you believe it. Why not? Because at the end of the day, opinions are subjective, and for those self-doubters, that’s a bit of a problem.

The good news is that I have started to believe in my USP. And it wasn’t because I suddenly woke up with a new-found confidence, but rather because I started doing a whole lot of a certain thing, and while it was hard at first, I started noticing I was getting better and better at it. And that sense if accomplishment did what nobody’s opinion of me, not even my own, could have ever done.

If this all sounds like poetic drivel to you. Sure. I’m not saying everyone has the same experience as me. But what I am trying to say is that true empowerment comes from doing, and being able to track your own progress as you go along. It’s hard to argue with that type of evidence, even for the most avid self-doubters out there.

Social Media at 25

Social media at 25 is wedding proposals and baby announcements,

that come in the form of engagement rings and ultrasound pictures.

It’s the same meme, shared into oblivion.

It’s funny once, maybe twice, but just another swipe after that.

It’s holiday pictures, vlogs and blogs.

Nights out and endless pictures of lunch, brunch and dinner.

It’s opinions that you’d rather not had read, that anger you, and that, after some consideration, shouldn’t be replied to. It’s a lost cause and ultimately a simple push on the unsubscribe button.

Or unfriend, if it’s really that bad.

It’s your own memories, that you share with a painful pang of nostalgia,

knowing that they don’t mean as much to others as they do to you.

But even so, you want them to know.

It’s ads for pregnancy tests and baby clothes,

Because really, it’s that time.

It’s a proven danger to your health but a quick remedy for boredom.

But ultimately it isn’t a lasting cure, which you know all too well.

So it’s putting your phone in your bag and grabbing a book instead,

A change in habit that perhaps takes more effort than you thought it would.

13 Things about 13 Reasons Why

Warning: This post contains spoilers.

13 Reasons Why has taken off. The addictive nature of this Netflix series has made it a massive talking point, and watching the series within a day or two seems to be the norm. Although the series might be seen as another Netflix Original hit, things are a bit more complicated than that. Dealing with the topic of suicide, many have heralded 13 Reasons Why for making this issue a talking point. However, the series has come under fire by viewers and experts alike for the way it deals with this topic.

13 Reasons Why centres on the suicide of high school student Hannah Baker, who leaves behind a bunch of audio tapes intended for a select group of her classmates. Each tape is dedicated to a specific person, who, according to Hannah herself, contributed to her death. Suicide prevention experts have reportedly spoken out against the premise of the series, as well as its graphic portrayal of Hannah’s self-inflicted death. The lack of support shown towards Hannah and the ‘glamorizing’ of her suicide through the use of the tapes have left a bad taste, as one expert says the series sends ‘a potentially dangerous message to viewers’.

Reports such as these are extremely important, and a reminder that we should not take everything at face value. Series like 13 Reasons Why are immensely powerful purely because of the topics they deal with, and critical reactions to them should always be taken seriously. That is why I do encourage anyone who has watched the series or who plans to do so to read up on these topics. The article linked above is a good place to start.

That being said, I had some additional thoughts and feelings about the series. Some in conjunction with what has been said above, some formed during watching, and some after. Anyway, here’s my 2 cents – or 13, actually:

1.

The series deals with the issue of bullying, which in itself is a good thing: the topic needs more attention. The series shows the detrimental effects bullying can have on young people, and emphasises the idea that we cannot know what is really going on in someone’s life, and therefore we should all treat each other nicely. It’s a nice thought; we could all be a little bit nicer to one another. However, when the series is connecting bullying to Hannah’s death, it skips over one very important issue…

2.

Mental health. For a series that deals with topics such as bullying, rape, and suicide, it remains uncomfortably silent when it comes to discussing issues of mental and emotional health. Hannah’s death is not discussed in relation to this, not even by herself; her tapes place the blame of her suicide on those around her. Although it’s very safe to say that bullying played a substantial role in Hannah’s death, the series misses a step when it puts bullying and suicide in a step 1- step 2 connection.

Hannah’s mental state is never really discussed but merely hinted at. As such the showrunners are not doing themselves any favours. They had a chance to start the conversation about mental health but fail to do so on an epic scale. Not just Hannah, but other characters in the series seem to be dealing with pretty serious issues. Clay himself seems to be experiencing some kind of anxiety issues, but again these are never discussed as such. Nobody in the series talks about mental health, not the victims themselves, the teachers, the parents, the school counselor, nobody. The result of these decisions has already been discussed above. Not only can de series be deemed as potentially harmful, it also looses credibility. If it was really serious about discussing topics like bullying and suicide, how can it fail to mention the mental health aspect that runs as the undercurrent of the show?

3.

We’ve all been to high school, and we know what it’s like; kids can be mean. At Hannah’ school however, everyone seems to be from planet horrible. Everyone always thinks the worst, says the worst, or does the worst. With the exception of Clay, of course, 13 Reasons Why’s poster child for turning a blind eye. The series seems to strike an unrealistic balance as it only focuses on the mean kids, and thus the drama.

4.

The series shows the big impact parents can have on their kids. Perhaps the most interesting example is Alex, whose ‘yes sir, no sir’ relationship with his dad seems to be in conjunction with his inability to express his feelings.

5.

The kids in 13 Reasons Why seem very concerned with their reputation, turning their backs on their friends, family, and the truth to protect their squeaky clean repute. The series shows the hollowness of the concept of reputation, and how damaging keeping up appearances can be.

6.

High school drama is toxic, 13 Reasons Why shows that. The sad thing is that for Hannah – or anyone else for that matter – no way out is introduced. Even when Hannah goes to a poetry group outside of the high school environment the drama seems to follow her around. The series does a good job of showing how in high school, even the smallest things can seems enormous, while the big things are ignored. What it fails to do is show a different perspective.

7.

Even though the series can be addictive, it can also be annoyingly slow sometimes. There are times where it is very clear that the showrunners are just buying themselves more time and dragging it out, which adds nothing (good) to the viewing experience.

8.

One text can reach a lot of people in a really short span of time in 13 Reasons Why. Are we supposed to believe that everyone is the same group app or somehow everyone has everyone’s number? The forwarding speed of these kids is incredible. Or am I just old?

9.

Friends do not seem to exist in 13 Reasons Why. Everyone betrays each other in a heartbeat, and nobody is to be trusted. Sure, these things happen, especially in high school. But again, every single person Hannah meets lets her down in some way. For a show that has young people as its intended audience it is sad that no better examples of friendships are given. Except of course Kat, who is swept away in the first episode only to be heard from in the last.

10.

The word slut gets thrown around a lot in the series, and again there is not one voice of reason to dispute the use of the term. Again, the series is setting a very sad example.

11.

It is really simple: if you don’t fit a stereotype, 13 Reasons Why doesn’t need you. For a series so concerned with changing the conversation its approach to presenting truly original characters is uninspiring. The evil gang of jocks, the mean cheerleaders, the awkward kid who works for the school newspaper and the easy target, they’re all there, doing what they do.

12.

Upon finishing 13 Reasons Why you might ask yourself whether the series was really about Hannah, about Clay, or about someone else altogether. The deeper you get into the series the less it seems concerned with presenting Hannah’s experiences and feelings.

13.

The question of a second season is still up in the air, but some hints have already been dropped in the final episodes as to what might happen if a new season was to come. In any case, the showrunners have some time to take into consideration some of the criticism that they have received. My only hope is that they do.

Review: Kong: Skull Island

This post contains spoilers (also for Godzilla (2014)).

When it comes to big budget fantasy films like Kong: Skull Island I usually have rather subdued expectations. What I mean by that is that I often come in thinking something among the lines of ‘I am sure I will be entertained to some level, but I don’t expect anything more’. This was definitely true for some of the last big budget features I have seen that centre on slightly-larger-than-usual beasts. Godzilla (2014) did not amaze me with anything more than the fact that they killed off Bryan Cranston’s character so early on. Jurassic World (2015) had a bare minimal of tricks up its sleeve, the only redeeming factor being a high dosage of nostalgia. With a promise to be just as action-packed and CGI-heavy, can Kong: Skull Island deliver anything more than that?

It’s a tough one. Kong: Skull Island does not waste much time introducing the impressive giant gorilla, who is seen attacking two pilots who have crash-landed on his island in the opening scenes of the film. The unlucky pilots, one American and one Japanese, are identified as soldiers in the Second World War. Even though it seems a pretty sure fact that they have become victims of Kong’s rage, there is that not so subtle hint that we haven’t seen the last of these characters just yet. The fact that Kong is introduced so soon might also not come as a surprise for those who have seen the trailer and thus know that he is not the only out-of-proportion beast roaming around on Skull Island. In other words, Kong doesn’t need the element of surprise, as the makers still have an array of other creatures to introduce which are lesser known both in stature and reputation.

One flash forward later and we are in the 1970s. The film spends more time making sure that its viewers are really convinced that indeed, this is the seventies, than it is with properly introducing its main characters. Bill Randa (John Goodman) is first up as the obsessed government agent who will lead the mission to Skull Island. The rest of the crew is quickly formed – cue scene in which Tom Hiddleston’s character expresses serious doubt about the mission but agrees to come when offered a hefty reward – and they are on their way.

Where Kong: Skull Island takes minimal time to introduce its characters, it takes even less time to kill most of them off. As soon as the helicopters break through the clouds of Skull Island they are met with an aggravated Kong in full battle mode. The ensuing action scene is extremely drawn out, and could perhaps rightfully be labelled ‘epic’ had it not been so ridiculous. A long string of shots of Kong fighting in the most majestic of ways almost raises the question of a hidden agenda – perhaps the giant gorilla is looking for the perfect selfie angle? With a bright red sunset in the background, and some explosions carefully situated in the right and left hand corners, it would be an amazing set-up for snapchat.

All jokes aside, it’s the preoccupation with the visual that sets Kong: Skull Island apart from some of its mega monster counterparts. Individual shots get a huge amount of emphasis, especially as they are made as ‘epic’ as possible to stun the audience. This quest for the perfect shot is echoed within the film, as photographer Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) does her best to capture the unimaginable creatures which inhabit the island. By confronting viewers with highlighted glimpses of the ineffable the film is doing its best to put spectators in the shoes of the adventures they see on screen, and allows them to experience the fragmented and confused reality that those characters find themselves in.

Although the emphasis on strong visuals is definitely a noteworthy aspect of the movie, it is a shame that this powerful imagery often fails to elicit the right reaction. Paired with an abundance of sounds, bad timing, and just a whole lot of craziness flying around on the screen, the shots often lack nuance. It’s just overdone in a way that at times I found myself chuckling in my seat, while also thinking ‘come on, you could’ve done better than that.’

While the film pumps up the spectacle on the one hand, it remains annoyingly vacant when it comes to presenting interesting and well-rounded characters. Hiddleston plays the adventurous ex-soldier, Larson is there to snap some pictures, and Samuel L. Jackson is the baddie of the bunch. Little is done to scope out these characters in more detail, which is a massive missed opportunity in a film like this.

More interesting is the character of Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly) who appears mid-film to reveal himself as the American pilot from the opening scene, who – surprise surprise – survived his encounter with Kong and has been living on the island ever since. Bringing some much needed comic relief to the film, he helps make the second part of the movie feel a bit more dynamic.

There are times where Kong: Skull Island seems to be aware that it is a bit ridiculous, but I am not quite sure whether in this instance, I should count that in its favour. It certainly has not been able to escape the traps that others have fallen into, choosing spectacle over substance, and coming too close to the familiar and the cliché. The following questions then remain: Is it entertaining? Yes. Is it more than that? Only just. I sometimes like to measure a film’s success by how well it stands out in my memory, whether that’s for good or bad reasons. Those epic shots definitely left an impression, which is more than I can say about many other fantasy films I have seen. Make of that what you will.

The Best Cover Letter I Ever Wrote

We live in a world of convention. There is always a certain way to do things, a certain way to be. While diverging from the norm is often heralded and encouraged, you and I both know that it is a scary scary world out there, that will stare you down with a billion more frowns than it will provide you with claps. Thing is that perhaps deep down we do not necessarily want to do the given thing, or follow the long-established path, but when it lures us in with a pat on the back, it does seem more attractive than having to face that ominous cloud of ever prominent criticism.

One of the reasons I started thinking about convention is because I am a recent graduate, looking for that ever-so-important first job. To all others in a similar spot, I think you know what I am talking about here. Applying for jobs is such a strange task of honestly selling yourself to potential future employers, while also trying to fit their ideal picture. I am not trying to say that you should present yourself as any different than you really are, or that you should just lie about the skills or experience you possess. I am referring to that art of presenting yourself in such a way as to tap into what employers really want from you. An illusive idea, if you ask me.

Reading a job advert can tell you a lot about the core skills and experience a company is looking for, but even then it can be quite tricky. I have gotten rejections for jobs I thought, based on the advert, I was a right fit for. However, the advertiser had something else in mind entirely.

The thing is, you’re not the only one applying for this job. And in a competitive world, you will probably lose more than you win. But not to worry! There are always those little lists which consist of ’10 helpful tips to make your CV stand out from the rest’. And here we are, back to the convention debate.

Honestly, every single example I have seen of a ‘confident’, or ‘out-there’ cover letter was just a very, very arrogant write-up which seemed to convey the message of ‘I am bluntly telling you that I am the best, therefore I must be. Hire me’. If someone has ever tried this approach, does it really work? The only thought that comes to mind when I see it is, ‘would I want to work with someone who sounds so full of themselves?’ The answer being no.

I am not the person to write an arrogant letter, proclaiming I am the best. And maybe that says a lot about me already. And maybe it says something good about me too. Or maybe not. The point is, there must be another way to stand out?

I do not have the clearest answer to this question, or any answer at all. I just think that to stand out, you need to show as much of yourself as possible. And this is hard to do in a one page letter.

At the end of the day, you are your cover letter. Everything you ever did, thought, felt, everything you are is your cover letter. But not everything you are warrants a place on that one page letter. Not everything you are is as relevant as another aspect of you in a professional setting. So you pick and choose the things that are worth telling, the things you are proud of, the things that fit that category of ‘professional’.

Convention is a tricky thing. Sticking to a certain idea of what is professional and what is not means sticking to convention. So which rule are you going to break? Because that’s how this works, right?

Are the cover letters I write conventional? Yes, and it is a conscious decision I have made. I think trying to stand out from the crowd is much more difficult than just shouting that you are the best, and in all honesty, I am still working out what is the best route to take to make my letter stand out from others. It’s hard to beat convention, especially when there’s a lot at stake. I know this might be seen as an excuse, and maybe I should just suck it up and be brave, but I would rather take my time to learn to do something right than trying something I don’t feel comfortable with.

This blog is me being me. It’s where I try to leave convention behind, in the sense that I won’t let it constrain me in saying what I want to say. It is part of my cover letter, the one that I am still figuring out how to write.

Motivation

One of the things I have learned as a recent graduate is that trying to navigate the job market can be rather discouraging at times. Knowing what kind of job you want is one thing, getting it is another. Setbacks are normal in regards to this process, but also in general; life can be quite good at throwing you some punches. The trick is to find ways to cope with this, and to work out how to keep your motivation levels high. I have had some time to work this out for myself, and thought I would share some of the things that have been working for me. Of course, it all comes down to figuring out what works best for you, and it might be the complete opposite of what I do. In any case, it is worth taking the time to try different things and see what helps you.

Organisation

When you have a lot on your plate, it can be quite easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of work you have to get done, and in turn become quite unmotivated to do it. If you are applying for jobs and your laptop is one hot mess of random bookmarks, cover letters, and saved applications, you are not creating a very motivating environment for yourself to work in. That is why good organisation is key.

Start with decluttering your work space. Go through your bookmarks and throw away anything that is not relevant (anymore), and add different folders to keep potential jobs separated from your saved banana bread recipes, cute cat videos, and gift ideas for your friends. Do the same for all the other files and documents on your pc. If everything is clearly named and in a designated folder, it will save you a lot of time and stress having to find it when you desperately need it.

Plan ahead. Whether you use an online diary or just an old-fashioned notebook, planning your day can be very fulfilling and even if you do not stick to it a 100% (which, in all honesty, I rarely do) it can provide you with a nice guideline. Do not overplan. Be reasonable and allow yourself enough time to work on a specific task, taking little breaks in between. It can also be useful to set aside a certain amount of time a day for a recurring task. That way you can build up a routine, without setting yourself deadlines that are too strict.

Make lists. I have been an adamant list maker ever since I started university. It just helps having all the information in one place, and in one glance you can get an idea of all the stuff you still have to do. You might think, hell no, I would rather not be confronted with all the tasks I have been putting off, but if you are really serious about getting them done this is the way to go. It’s easier to prioritise when you have all the information in front of you, and it takes away the stress of potentially forgetting about urgent and important tasks. While making lists might seem like a task in itself, do not be the person that just writes them and never looks at them again. Trust me, crossing things of your list is very fulfilling, even if it was just a minor chore you needed to get done.

Treat Yo Self

While being productive brings with it feelings of accomplishment and thus positivity, this might not be enough to get you through a long day of perhaps long and tedious tasks. That’s why it’s important to also take time to do things that you enjoy. Take little breaks from working. Cook yourself an amazing lunch, take time to listen to a few songs after every hour of work, or go on a refreshing walk with your dog. It doesn’t really matter what you do, as long as you take some time away from the tasks at hand, so you can return to them with a refreshed mind.

You can also schedule something fun at the end of the day, that way you have something to look forward to. This can be as simple as just vowing to watch the newest season of a favourite series or going to the gym. If you feel most productive during the evenings you can also switch this routine around and start your day doing something you enjoy, so that you are in a good place to start work later. Whatever you do, make sure you take some time for yourself just before going to bed. That way you are more relaxed, and ready to start the next day on a positive note.

Goals

Setting goals for yourself can really help when you are struggling to find motivation. It is way easier to just get on with it when you know that you are working towards something. Set yourself deadlines and act as your own boss. This takes a fair amount of self-discipline, but at the end of the day you will be proud of yourself for reaching the goals you set out for yourself. Need an extra incentive? Why not plan a little day trip following your deadline. That way you will be extra motivated to get your work finished in time, so you can fully enjoy your day off without having to worry about overdue work.