Graduation

It has been nearly two months since I finished my final exams, and about three weeks since I crossed the stage and received my diploma. It has been almost five years since I moved into residence at UBC and embarked on my undergraduate journey.

The actual “graduation” happened very quickly – I was scurried across the stage and had some photos taken in rapid succession, with more being quickly taken by family after the ceremony. However, the process of getting to the stage has been longer and is what made the brief hat-and-gown stroll so significant.

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1st year: I returned home from residence the first night I was to stay there, and skipped my Arts student frosh event. My friends came to visit me and made me feel like not all hope was lost in this new place that I was meant to call a home. I went to my first event and someone said “hi” to me and I said “hi” back and we chatted and he introduced me to someone else who said “hi” and we became friends. Confused and lost, I attended “Imagine UBC” with my “M.U.G. Leader” guide and witnessed a large and daunting place be just that but with life pulsing through it with swarms of colour-coded students bustling about. A really amazing 8 months of my young adult life was beginning.

Continue reading “Graduation”

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Don’t follow your passion – foster it.

My last post was somewhat-obnoxiously but somewhat-accurately entitled “How to Become Better”, and it featured summaries of videos and podcasts that outlined strategies and theories relating to self-improvement. These were not strategies to attain such contentious goals as eating better, achieving mental peace, or weight loss; indeed, the summaries I shared were strategies to connect with external and internal resources for achieving whatever goals you wanted to.

One of those podcasts by Freakonomics Radio featured a woman by the name of Angela Duckworth, who is a PhD in psychology and studies high achievers and the concept of “grit” or stick-to-it-iveness. I stumbled across a New York Times article yesterday that struck a chord with me before I even got past the title: “Graduating and Looking for Passion? Just be Patient.” As I read through the first couple of paragraphs, I suddenly felt that I was familiar with what was being discussed, and checked to see if the author was – yes! – Angela Duckworth.

I highly recommend checking out this New York Times article on fostering – not simply finding – a passion. If you’re similar to me, you have wanted an “ah-ha!” moment for some length of time (I’ve clung to this phrase since a presentation I saw nearly 5 years ago); Duckworth’s article ties back to my previous post and reminds me that I have control over a passion coming to fruition.

One of the most significant takeaways for me was that one might have to go with the option that makes the most sense and is better, not worse, even if it doesn’t seem ideal.

Being Cognizant: How to Become Better

Self- and other-improvement resources from Carol Dweck and Freakonomics Radio.

A series about the ways I work towards being cognizant through decisions that make me more mentally engaged with various facets of my day-to-day life.

Cognizance (noun): Awareness, realization, notice, knowledge, perception.

The title is a little bit off-putting (or perhaps inspiring depending on who you are), but hear me out.

Inspired by the Freakonomics podcast and their recent series of episodes for “Self-Improvement Month” (ongoing), I wanted to share some of the resources that Stephen Dubner and his team at Freakonomics shared with their audience, as well as a concept I learned about in Psychology and my work last summer.

All of these resources bring together concepts and tools for improving your skill at just about anything, increasing your grit/stick-to-itiveness, and reshaping the way you think about your own abilities.


The Power of Yet” (Carol Dweck)

I first learned about Carol Dweck in a childhood and adolescence psychology course, and then again in my work last summer. Her work has changed the way I think about what I can and want to do.

Dweck
Carol Dweck, Professor of Psychology at Stanford University

Study: Gave 10-year olds problems that were slightly too hard for them to solve. Some of them reacted in surprisingly positive ways, saying things like, “I love a challenge!” Others felt it was catastrophic and that they had been put up for judgement and failed. Those students performed downward social comparisons next time they faced a difficult task and did not succeed (downward social comparison: comparing oneself to someone perceived as inferior in order to prop up one’s own sense of self).

2 mindsets discussed by Dweck:

Fixed mindset: The belief that one’s abilities are “fixed” and cannot be changed.

Growth mindset: The belief that one’s abilities can be developed through effort/work.

Continue reading “Being Cognizant: How to Become Better”

Being Cognizant: The (Summer) Job Hunt

A series about the ways I work towards being cognizant through decisions that make me more mentally engaged with various facets of my day-to-day life.

Cognizance (noun): Awareness, realization, notice, knowledge, perception.

It’s that time of year for university students: The hunt for The Summer Job.

Or, even more daunting, the hunt for The Real World Job.

Many deadlines have passed already, but it’s not too late to apply some strategies to find that job that will make you some money, keep you occupied through the non-academic months, or move you closer to a career that you aspire to.

Here are 3 steps for preparing to land that job:

1.) UPDATE THOSE DOCUMENTS.

Résumé: Before you do anything else, set yourself up for easier success by getting your résumé updated, spell-checked, and bolstered. Visit with a friend to go over the general flow of your document. Keep it to 2 pages maximum unless otherwise stated in the job description. Keep a longer document to draw experiences from that you update and refine depending on the job you apply to. Always make a new résumé for every new job you apply to. Be sure to have the following components, ideally in the following order:

  • Bold heading, where your name is large and in charge and your contact information can easily be found (include a LinkedIn URL if you’ve got it).
  • Highlights of qualifications (or “key competencies” or “highlighted skills”) section that highlights what you want the employer to see first and foremost. Use qualification from the job posting as a guide. Include languages that you can speak well.
  • Education section. If you’re in university, exclude high school information UNLESS you have relevant international schooling or higher-level (e.g., IB) high school education. Note your major/minor, honours status, and anticipated graduation date if applicable. Throw in some “relevant courses” if you think the employer would be interested (key word being “relevant”).
  • Experience. This can be strategically divided into multiple sections, such as: Relevant and Additional Experience, Volunteer Experience, Community Experience, Relevant Project Work, Lab Experience – it all depends on the needs of your employer and what you want/need to highlight. I opt for the Relevant and Additional Experience route, but may refine those sections as my experiences grow and become more specialized.
  • (Optional) Hobbies/Interests. If you’ve got room at the end, include a bit about yourself that isn’t necessarily related to the job you’re applying to!

Cover letter: This one simply must be individualized every time for every job. Your standard cover letter tips online will probably tell you to do the following:

Say hi, tell them your name and what you study/studied and where, where you found out about the job, and how excited you are to apply. THEN you’ll use a paragraph or two to talk about your past experience in more detail, elaborating on what the résumé said. Then you’ll wrap it up with a thank-you and a “hope to hear back from you” sort of sentiment.

All of that is great, BUT… It could be more exciting. I encourage people to think of their cover letter as the way to make the employer want them not only for their skills, but for them, as an individual. Picture that you and someone else are both applying to this job with identical résumés and skill sets, and this cover letter will make them want you over the other person because you are great and truly desire the job more or would make more use of the opportunity. Don’t feel like you’re 100%, or even 50% qualified for a job that you really want? Use the cover letter to talk about how great of a learner you are, what your career goal are and how they align with this opportunity, or how passionate you are about the employer’s mission or values.

Instead of the above example, use the following components to create your cover letter masterpiece:

Say hi (by name, job title, or To Whom It May Concern). Open with a memorable statement about yourself that connects you to the company/position being applied to (e.g., “As a connector of people and ideas, my greatest fulfillment comes from solving problems for others.”). Then say something about the company/position and how you FIT into that puzzle/concept (e.g., “Your company’s goal to leverage the power of people to unearth the potential of others through innovative problem solving is a framework that aligns with my natural abilities to connect with individuals and find solutions to their problems.”). Then, tell a story. Any story that is slightly connected to any of the following: How you became interested in your career goals, the first time you realized what you wanted to do with your life, the moment you realized your “path” didn’t make sense anymore, the connection you have to the company/employer and how that developed, or something else that explains why this job makes sense for you and why you make sense for them as an employer. Then, wrap things up with a nice “thank-you for your consideration” and tell them that you would love the opportunity to meet in-person to discuss your qualifications OR that you “look forward to hearing back from them” – end on a confident note! You presented them this document because you think you could do this job. Use language that shows you are confident.

I believe in you!

2.) RESEARCH AND COMPILE A LIST.

Get online and find those jobs! Compile a list (save them to bookmarks, make a word document, write them down, save them to a list through a jobs site, etc.) of the positions you are interested in. Check multiple websites if you are open to ideas. Use keywords that will help filter out locations, positions, employers, and job categories that you aren’t interested in applying for. Save all of the positions of interest somewhere.

3.) PRIORITIZE AND APPLY.

Now, go through your list using a variety of qualifiers to prioritize your list of possible jobs to apply to so that you apply to the most important ones first:

  • Application deadline: The sooner the deadline, the sooner the application must be completed and submitted.
  • Position: Prioritize the type of work you want to do most.
  • Job type: Part-time? Full-time? Seasonal? Use these if applicable to decide what ones are more in the range of what you desire in your job.
  • Feasibility: I tend to avoid using this as a major qualifier, because I believe that you can be capable of taking on a role even if you aren’t fully qualified based on the job description (really, that description outlines their ideal candidate, not the most realistic and likely one). However, for you, it might be worth prioritizing the feasibility of getting certain positions for a variety of reasons (location, qualification, desirability, work atmosphere, etc.), especially if you are narrowing down a large list of applications.

Then you need to start ticking off boxes! Get through those applications. Tailor each one for each job. Make yourself want those jobs and make those employers want you.

 

Good luck!

Photo Journals: A Brief Taste of Eastern Canada

Reading Week is a magical time where students have the chance to catch up on readings, catch up on sleep, and/or go off and do something that breaks up the ol’ routine. We elected to do the latter. To visit family and friends who are on the other side of the country, we planned a whirlwind trip out to Ontario and Québec (then back to Ontario).

Heading out on a red eye flight, we made our way to Toronto, quickly departing to make our way to Ottawa on a record-breaking day of snowfall (51cm in 24 hours, beating an all-time record from fifty-some years prior!). We arrived at our hostel, which was modelled as a place for travellers to sleep after being created as a place to hold criminals.

Landing in the snowy east and traveling to our first stop.

The snow continued to fall and the wind blew with gusto (ha) as we sought out a place to eat on a budget after realizing we had not eaten any real food (save for two shared granola bars) for the last 9 hours or so. We found ourselves at a familiar-but-unexplored restaurant called WAREHOUSE, which also has a location in Vancouver and other major cities I have visited. The entire menu has a baseline price of $4.95, which adds up depending on what you want to add to your dish. The food was great, especially considering the affordability!

Exploring the parliament buildings after dinner on our first night.

Ottawa in the daylight was beautifully sunny and snowy (but watch out for melting snow on the roofs of buildings)! I tried my first Beavertail and hiked through freshly-fallen (and densely packed) snowy fields to the Parliament buildings, the Supreme Court of Canada, and eventually an Uber driver (my frist time), who took us to the bus station. From there, we made our way to Montréal.

Upon arriving in Quebéc, we quickly established our place of rest for the night before heading out to dinner. When it was confessed that we had a vegetarian at the table (me), the waiter, knowing there were no meatless menu options, exclaimed, “Madame, I have a plan!” and dashed into a back room. Apparently, this is where they hide the vegetarian menus, and I enjoyed a superb meal with a wine that I found slightly better than tolerable (I’m not a wine person yet; the wine was very nice, I’m sure).

After a short evening of exploring followed by sleeping, we climbed Mount Royal near McGill university and enjoyed spectacular views of the city from atop its wee mountain (it is wee, please don’t take this as an insult if you are sensitive to the topic). We then meandered through the city streets, covering whatever skin we could so as to defend ourselves against the seemingly docile but harshly cold air. Our time was short in this city, and before we knew it, we had arrived at the train station, where I would hop on to my first train for a ride!

A portion of the view from the lookout on Mount Royal.

We arrived late in Toronto and wasted little time getting to our destination for sleep. We hiked across the city with our suitcases, this time enjoying an easier stroll than when we arrived in this part of the world a few days ago in the newly snowy conditions. By now, the streets were drying, and we found our way to rest. After a very late meal, we slept in preparation for a full day of being welcomed to the University of Toronto’s law school (I attended as a guest of a new admit). Following our full day, we explored the city, saw a movie, and walked in circles before selecting a place called Kit Kat(‘s?) for dinner – margherita pizza and delicious Mediterranean salad (so many olives <3).

Another late night after hiking back to our sleeping place.

Another day of city exploration and a new restaurant called WVRST where I tried my first bratwurst (vegan) and was thoroughly impressed. The restaurant, from what I was told, is modelled like a traditional German beer haus, and fosters communal eating and meeting new friends. Too soon again did we make our way to a vehicle to leave the city, and we flew back with relative speed to Vancouver, landing to meet old friends and enjoy even more random food in abundance.

$20 Coupon for PHOTOJOJO!

If you haven’t already heard me talk about Photojojo, you haven’t seen me struggle to articulate my love for a website.

I believe that if Photojojo was a single person, we would be best friends. However, Photojojo is a culmination of a multitude of different people from across the US (and maybe a few in Canada and other places, too?) that must be the best people there are! They are the exclamation points of the people world and they have led to a website and blog and social media presence that have this irresistibly pleasant personality. They also carry a lot of super neat gadgets and accessories and photography/phoneography* gear in their store.

*Phoneography is the practise of phone photography. It’s a very PJJ word.

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Click the following link to get a $20 coupon to their store to spend on you or someone you like by Friday, December 18!
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I don’t want to come across too obnoxiously by trying to push this coupon, but I have already become a devoted fan and loyal advocate of Photojojo, so having a gift to share with you all is my pleasure.
Use it before Friday!

FOMO: Fear Of Missing Out

I consider myself a somewhat indecisive individual.

Many people that know me on a moderate to intimate level would also consider me somewhat indecisive.

Individuals who don’t know me at all, but who are in positions where they are asking me to make a decision (anyone asking for my food order) would probably consider me fairly anxious and very indecisive.

This quality of myself is something I have been reflecting on a lot over the last handful of months as I look ahead to May, when I will officially graduate with my undergraduate degree and move on to…

… Something.

FOMO (or “Fear Of Missing Out”) is a term I was introduced to during my time as a Residence Advisor, when I was advised not to do every activity available during my 4-day training retreat. FOMO, I was told, would make me feel like I should and could burn me out. I took this to heart, and rested when I needed to and indulged in activities when I wanted to. However, since then, I have experienced many moments of FOMO wherein I have struggled to make decisions because I am afraid that the number of good things I could miss out on in one opportunity by taking another opportunity instead. Whether it is making a decision at a restaurant or taking a job offer, I have recently struggled a lot more with choosing a path because I fear the missed opportunities of other paths. This has felt very heavy and real as I consider what my next steps will be following graduation.

I was watching Aziz Ansari’s Master of None, and in one episode that highlighted a difficult relationship decision, the following quote from Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar was referenced:

“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”

This resonated with me, as the timeliness of the reference was opportune. I am constantly getting caught up in my thoughts about the future and how I don’t want to decide to do something that will “lock me in” to one thing. However, what I am realizing is that my FOMO is getting in the way of me pursuing something. I can still enjoy many other things that I won’t be actively pursuing in an educational or career sense, but I am ultimately not able to enjoy any of them as much as I could because I am so afraid of choosing one thing to focus on (e.g., through getting a degree in it).

A supervisor of mine described my way of thinking as “comparing lists of checkmarks and trying to decide which thing has the most checkmarks (i.e., good things) when, in reality, they ALL have a lot of checkmarks*” (*paraphrasing). I try to keep this in mind as I look ahead to this somewhat more significant, but not necessarily life-path-deciding decision. I know that I am probably going to hold multiple careers over my lifetime – likely in slightly different fields, too! However, the decision to embark on a particular path feels like a heavy one, and I am working on coming to terms with the ways that any decision will benefit me and that I can acquire skills to pursue other careers if I so desire.

If you, too, struggle with FOMO, try to reach peace with yourself by knowing that any decision with many “checkmarks” is going to be helpful to you. It might teach you what you love, what you don’t love, or it might reveal an unexpected source of enthusiasm! Choose with thoughtfulness, but don’t be so thoughtful that your options pass you by as you try to understand which one is the “best”. You can always learn new things later, but you can also start learning something right now.