Finding Your Dream Career

Near the end of September when summer has officially ended and we enter the season of autumn, I often get inquiries from students about job searches, applications for graduate schools, or in some cases, what do I do with my degree now?

Outside the walls of academia, students need to face whether what they learned can actually get them a job that pays the bill or a dream career that carries them through the days when the going get tough.  Is it possible to get a job that is your dream career that pays well and moves you forward to your personal purpose?  Yes. head-1556567_1920

In one of my courses, I teach the subject in ‘strategic planning and management’. A very useful technique called SWOT, which stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats, which allows assessment, inquiry, and reflection on a problem at hand, the issues to explore, or even a job search.  Here is a SWOT analysis to assess “job searches” effectively:

  1. Identify Your own Strengths. What did you do well in-class and outside of class (extracurricular activities)? When someone had a problem and asked you for help, what were those things? List these items. With  this list of strengths (your mojo), you feel confident during your job search and job interviews.
  2. Be Aware of Your Weaknesses. Even though we live in the world where folks don’t like to hear negative criticism from others, it is important that you are at least aware and can acknowledge your own weaknesses before others (i.e. your future boss) tells you. By having a mental inventory of your weaknesses, you know how you to improve these skills (i.e. take an online course, read books/articles …) or ask for help. Find a mentor who has these strengths.
  3. Find Opportunities.  With your graduate degree, what are new opportunities that you makes you more remarkable than before? For example, did you take a biostatistics class, and realized that you are good at statistical programming and your classmates often ask you for help. During your job interview, you can emphasize how you communicate and share knowledge with others. This illustrates that you are a team player.  Look for opportunities to showcase skills, practice, and sharpen your skills.
  4. Look out for Threats. We all have a tendency to derail our path to success. As you list your strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities, your internal dialogue may attack your positive thoughts.  What are the competing voices in your head? Are they real? Are they giving your reasonable feedback?

One position with many applicants. You can maximize your chances for a success job search by completing your own Self-SWOT analysis.


Motivation and Procrastination are Two Sides of the Same Coin

Oh. I got a great idea, and here is another good one! The excitement of the new ideas can flood the mind, and you immediately get motivated to take action. However, for other things we tend to procrastinate, and that tomorrow would be another tomorrow. I see this procrastination tendency in myself, in my students and others.

Is it possible to create motivation or in other words, defend procrastination?

Researcher and Professor Pier Steel, who has researched on the theory of motivation theory, gives direct tools to stop procrastination or to get motivated.

screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-11-33-41-pmBased on this formula, the level of motivation (M) is directly related the level of expectancy (E) and the value of the activity (V) to be done and indirectly related to the one’s level of impulsiveness (I) and time delay (D).

Expectancy relates to the one’s ability to achieve or to carry out the activity and the value of the activity regarding personal (one’s confidence), work (salary bonus), or social (greater good for humanity). Impulsiveness relates to one’s desire for immediate gratification. The longer it takes to obtain the reward, the strongest impact that delay has on decreasing motivation.


person-1281607_1920Tip #1: To increase motivation, since the E and V are in the numerator of this formula, increase your expectancy (your ability to achieve) and the value of the activity.

Tip #2: If you tend to be impulsive in your decision-making and strive for immediate gratification, practice embracing boredom. Strive to be comfortable to wait for a reward. Linger in the presence and be patient.

Tip #3: Sit still, meditate, and listen actively and with intention. Pay attention. Observe the task. Ask yourself whether this task or goal matters to you.


SMARTER Semester

block-1512119_1920How to Start and End each Semester SMARTER?  

With over ten years of teaching undergraduates, graduates, professional students, and myself,  I often see the same aspiration for a successful semester by turning homework on time, preparing for exams (weeks in advance), and making plans for the study group. Then, somehow, during the mid-semester, life happens, or one just realized that life has been happening.

In my course, Principles of Public Health Management, I teach students how to develop strategic SMART goals, which was developed by experts in business and management.

Make your goals:  Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timed. (SMART). 

Here is an example of a SMART goal:  This semester (realistic), I will study biology (specific) for 25 minutes (measurable) every day after class before lunch (attainable) for the next 15 weeks for Fall Semester (timed).

However, even with SMART goals, many failed to follow them, ignored them, and sometimes, just don’t like their SMART goals anymore. Why is that?

I’d like to add my own twist to it – how about making your goals SMART-ER, where ER refers to adding the “Enthusiasm and Reason (ER)” to your SMART goals. Without some enthusiasm, excitement, and energy to creating your goals, you’ll lose steam quickly in continuing your plan (when the going gets tough).  Without a reason, you won’t hold yourself (or others) accountable to achieving this goal.

Let’s revisit the same example:
This semester (realistic), I will study biology (specific) for 25 minutes (measurable) every day after class before lunch (attainable) for the next 15 weeks for Fall Semester (timed) because (reason) I love learning about the family history of my genetics (enthusiasm) so I can be better prepared about my health.

Begin and end this semester with SMARTER goals:

Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timed, Enthusiasm, Reason. (SMARTER)!