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Empowering students to fulfill their dreams through education.



Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Student Success – Motivation by Kelli Turpin

Leg #1: Motivation

Last time, I asked you to think about what “success” looks like for you.  If you did your homework, skip to the next paragraph.  If you didn’t (Lesson learned: do your homework!  There’s usually a reason for it), go ahead.  Do it now.  We’ll wait.  <bored humming>  Ready?

One of the first questions I ask students when they sit down in my office is “What’s your plan?”  Most people respond with something along the lines of “get a degree or transfer.”  If the major they’ve chosen is directly related to a job, like engineering, or social work, I nod.  If it’s something like psychology, or history or English, I push harder: “What do you want to do with an English degree?”  I’m not asking to satisfy my curiosity; I want to know how far ahead you’re thinking.  There’s nothing wrong with an English degree (If you've read my bio, you know that I have a couple of those myself), but finding a job that relates directly to English is tough.  My goal is to get you started at picturing your decade-older self.  Who are you going to be when you’re done with college?

Understanding what your target looks like and who you want to be when you get there, is one of the most important things you can do as a student human being.  The clearer that picture is in your mind, the more likely you are to do whatever it takes to make it happen.  That mental image of who you want to be is your motivation.  It’s the reason you do what you do.  Find a way to make that picture in your mind as real as possible: look for photos in magazines, on websites, or books that represent your dream.  Write a paragraph describing that idea and post it somewhere you’ll see it every day.  Record it and play it as you go to sleep.  However you do it, you need to keep that picture clear and accessible. 

Is that the only motivation in your life?  Of course not.  You go to your job and work hard in order to earn money to pay your rent, feed your family, and pay your bills.  You may hate that job, but you do it because your vision of yourself now includes a roof over your head and food to eat.  You volunteer at your kid’s school because your vision of yourself now includes being an involved parent.  For our purposes, we’re looking at your vision of yourself ten years from now.

In order to cement that vision, I recommend that students conduct informational interviews (I was going to just link to handout, but I found Quintessential Careers, an on-line career resource, which has this really cool multi-page tutorial about informational interviews) or job shadowing experiences with people who are currently working in jobs they’re interested in.  An informational interview is simply a list of questions you ask a professional to get an idea of what they usually do in their jobs.  Job shadowing is spending a few hours to a week or so following a professional around and experiencing what they do first hand.  Why?  Your image of what a crime scene investigator does is probably inspired by and colored by every episode of CSI or Bones that you’ve seen on TV.  Your idea of what a doctor does is colored by your five minute interaction with your primary care physician at your yearly physical, and every medical show you’ve ever watched on TV.  There will always be more to the story.  Informational interviews and job shadowing experiences will further clarify that picture of who you’re going to be – they will give you something more real to hang your dreams on.  In addition, they give you real feedback of what the job situation looks like locally and the beginning of a professional network, which will be invaluable when you start looking for a job in that field.

The clearer your image of your goal and the more confident you are that you really want to do it, the stronger your motivation to succeed.  If you know, without a shadow of a doubt, that you want to be a pediatrician, meetings and paperwork and sick babies and all, you have a reason to get your rear off of that sofa and away from the TV (OK, you can watch House, as long as you promise not to treat your pediatric patients like he treats his) and get that reading done for history, work those problems for calculus, and study for that test in biology.

Homework: Before next time, keep track of how you spend your time for a week.  (There are schedule templates in MS Word you can use, or you can search on-line for a “time management log.”)  The key to this exercise is to be brutally honest.  No one’s going to see it except yourself.  No one will judge you for how you spend your time.  Next time, we’ll look at how much time you’ll need and analyze your schedule.  

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