We’ve all been there at some point.
Regardless of whether you’re a self-confessed board-gaming geek like me (D&D, Agricola and Time Stories most recently) or can only ever be found playing Monopoly at Christmas under serious family-induced duress, you can probably relate to the board-gaming phenomena known as “AP”: Analysis Paralysis. That moment where you totally freeze because there are so many possibilities and ideas available to you and they all could head in completely different directions and you don’t know which is right. Eek. So you do nothing. You stay in unconfident limbo, feeling slightly sick because you know you need to make a move.
Being a student is much like being locked into a board-gaming battle of wits. Everyone’s fighting for your attention and time, whether it’s to get involved with a society, attend a tutorial, break into a new clique or share last-minute revision tips. But then comes a point where you realise: at some point your studying is going to come to an end. And actually that end isn’t all that far away. Some could say it’s imminent. *Sharp intake of breath!* You realise: it’s not enough to have a great degree. You need a plan. You need experience! You need a CV and a cracking cover letter template and great interview technique and contacts and-and-and- and an idea of where you’re going in life.
Sound familiar? Are you reading this – probably procrastinating from what you’re meant to be doing – thinking “ohhhhh nooooo, that’s meeeee!”?
It’s definitely been me at times.
Fortunately, the nice thing about being a University student is that this Careers game is collaborative. We’re all on your side. We want you to find the right decision and you have time on your side to consider, discuss and try out different moves. You can overcome AP and do this: you’re not alone!
Here are my top tips to overcome your AP-induced crisis of confidence:
- Take a deep breath, you’re not alone.
The first step is the hardest, so try something small to get started:
- Check out your university career page: they’ll have a section dedicated to where to start in your plans (which often is the key to building your confidence) and are designed to answer all your most pressing concerns such as where to find a job, how to find what you want to do and more.
- Check out your university careers events and workshops for practical experience or tips on writing CVs and applications, setting up and using a LinkedIn profile and opportunities to meet employers and hear first-hand what they look for.
- Check out websites like Prospects and TargetJobs for information on different jobs, sectors, where to find these opportunities, entry requirements and more. You can also complete Career Planners to learn more about what jobs you might want to do!
- Think about what skills you’re going to need for the jobs you’re applying for and how you can demonstrate them: you can find examples from your course, from any extracurricular activities you’re involved in like societies, sports clubs, volunteering etc. as well as paid work. Do you have any gaps in what you can evidence? Think about how you can address these.
- Visit your Career Centre for personalised and confidential information, advice and guidance on a 1-2-1 basis, whether you have no idea where to start or are preparing for the final stage of the interview process for a niche role!
- Speak to your tutor or a lecturer you get on well with for ideas that are specific to your sector or course; they might have great contacts who can help!
- Remember you probably already have a large support network of friends and family who will want to help. So have a chat to them – you never know who might have your next great opportunity, from mentoring to work opportunities!
- Get a mentor: mentors are great people to work with, especially when you have tough decisions to make or are going through a transition in life. They can offer a source of insight into industry, network connections, a sounding board and far more. Some of the most successful people on the planet – Oprah Winfrey and Richard Branson are two – credit their mentors as being instrumental in their success. Then there’s Luke Skywalker, Daniel Larusso… where would they be without Yoda and Mr Miyagi?
- Mind-map your concerns: this really helps clear your mind and identify where your lack of confidence is coming from. What’s getting to you? Get a big piece of paper and some marker pens or felt tips and get it off your mind as you write. Don’t try to edit your thoughts at this time; just get them onto the paper, however small or daft they might seem. Feel free to embellish with doodles, all-CAPS and different colours as you write; I find this is your subconscious helping you identify your true feelings!
- If you’re struggling beyond this contact your Student Support service in person, by phone or email for confidential help and advice or try Nightline, a free and confidential student-run telephone service.
- Be kind to your self: release some of the pressure you’ve put on yourself. We’re usually our own worse critics. If that little voice in your head keeps putting you down by suggesting you can’t do it or you’re not worth a great opportunity, firmly remind it that it’s there to help you, and that if it’s not going to help then it needs to pipe down for a bit!
- Congratulate yourself for every action you take; success is built from many little achievements and your confidence will grow with each step.
While 13 might be considered unlucky for some, I hope it’s your lucky number. Let me know how you get on – I love to hear from you!
The content of this blog post contributed to the article 5 ways students can boost their confidence, published 6th May 2016 in the Guardian online.
Image credits: https://iamessex.wordpress.com/tag/university-of-essex/, https://atouchfarvetched.wordpress.com/2011/06/27/dont-panic-mr-mainwaring/, http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Yoda’s_lightsaber/Legends