“If I join that extra club, I will set myself apart from other internship applicants.” “I know my academics aren’t where I want them to be, but I really need to do this volunteer work so that employers can see I gave back to others.” These may be typical thoughts for students who feel that they are never good enough when compared to their classmates. I’m here to tell you: SAY NO. Now, some of you may be thinking that I am telling you to not do anything on campus because you could be stressed out. However, what I am saying is that you need to think about what you want and need to accomplish and how that meshes with other opportunities presented to you.
What is it that you want to do during school and/or post-graduation? Do you want to accomplish specific goals within the next one year? Two years? Five years? Once you figure that out, set a realistic and tangible goal for where you want to be in your professional development at that time in your life. Okay, so you’ve set that goal. Now be strategic about your decisions. What steps do you need to take to accomplish that goal? Who can you talk to that has accomplished a similar goal so that you can get advice from them? What can you get involved with on or off-campus to help you accomplish that goal? What connections do you need to make with others who can give you an “in” on achieving your goal?
Now that you have thought about these questions and possible solutions, write it all down. That is what those of us at the Center for Career Development call an “action plan.” After you have created this action plan, I want you to repeat two words to yourself: “say no.” Seriously, say no. Say no to all of the extra things that everyone is asking you to do. I know this can be hard, particularly when you are a leader on campus and staff and faculty get excited about you taking on everything they want students to do. But think to yourself, “is this part of my action plan?” “Will this opportunity give me transferable or relevant skills to help me accomplish my goals?” Additionally, “is this opportunity going to make me too anxious or busy to take care of myself, my academics, or my other obligations?” Once you have thought through the opportunity presented to you, then make a decision based upon your goals, passions, and interests.
I do want to make sure and say…don’t shy away from new things and don’t say no just to be selfish. If I wouldn’t have gotten involved in my undergraduate degree with some programs I never imagined myself in, then I wouldn’t be who I am today. However, by saying no, like I did, to some things that you understand will just not work for you, it is okay. Your action plan and personal goals will thank you in the end.
Picture source: http://everydaypeoplecartoons.com/cartoon/226/