Traffic Jam: How Navigating Graduate School Helped Me Refocus

July 5th, 2017 | by Erick Taylor
Traffic Jam: How Navigating Graduate School Helped Me Refocus

Graduate School

I just finished my first year of graduate school with one more year to go, and it feels as if I am stuck in the middle of a traffic jam full of untouchable job openings. But, instead of letting the anxiety about an uncertain future build up, I keep my eyes right in front of me, lest I crash on the way to my destination. Finding a way to keep perspective is a daily effort that we must all pursue because there will always be a million things going on around us out of our control and our only viable response will be to focus on being effective in our current role. We must be more focused on the process than the result. When the result is that next jump in the career ladder, there are a few ways I recommend for prioritizing the process which is to stop looking at jobs, take the time out to organize and evaluate your professional life, become a passenger on someone else’s job hunt, and actually make an effort to enjoy life outside of the office.

Stop Searching

Window shopping can be fun, but there is always a point in which wishing for a possible future will just distract from focusing on the steps necessary to attain said future. Instead of focusing on jobs that I know that I will not be applying for, I look at the skills required in those jobs and make sure that I am developing them in my current role in some way. Any research into the job market when you are not on the market should only be to assess the skills that are needed for the job that you want so that you can develop them. Torturing ourselves over jobs that we can’t have is only bound to decrease our daily productivity. With all of that in mind, try to give yourself a moratorium on researching job opportunities at least once a year. Taking a break to actually inventory and evaluate yourself Is more likely to be better for you in the long run than trying to force the hands of time.

Organize and Evaluate

Speaking of organizing and evaluating, when’s the last time that you updated your resume, looked over your cover letters, and put some thought into your LinkedIn page? In an optimal reality we should all have a career journal where we write down our duties and assignments on a weekly basis in order to regularly update our professional portfolio monthly, or at the very least, have a log to study when it comes time to update our resumes for the next job interview. This is a practice that I have participated in that truly helps me remember all the day to day work that I’ve put into our internships and has aided me immensely as an evaluation tool for the goals I set. However, like many, I get caught up in the hustle and bustle of school and work and lose touch with updating my professional documents. That said, the summer should be not only a time of reflecting and evaluating but updating and preparing for opportunities that lie ahead. If we’re going to focus incessantly on the future, we should at least make sure to secure the present by having the most up to date professional profiles that we possibly can as we possibly can.  

Be A Passenger

The next step in battling the restlessness that comes with waiting for your time is to reroute your energies into something productive. That said, if you’re just in a space where you want to be a part of a job search, then why not sign on to being someone else’s copilot. I have personally kept myself busy from focusing on my own search next year by helping friends and colleagues with their job searches, graduate school applications, and interview preparation. At the end of the day, job hunting is a skill that we have to put on the shelf so often that the best way to keep ourselves from getting rusty is a little bit of vicarious experience. The way I see it is that if I’m going to lament about roles that I can’t have then at the very least I can help others pursue those similar roles.

Enjoy life

This final step may or may not be considered a hot take, but I say forget about your career. I hold the belief that our “why” is entirely separate from our careers. My why is to be a change agent and an educator, something that working in collegiate athletics allows me to do. However, my why isn’t only fulfilled through what I do at work. I embody helping others and changing lives on a day to day basis. Even more so I know that there is only so much energy that I can devote to my “why”. During the offseason, it is important for us to take the time out to rediscover ourselves beyond the workplace. Between work and school, I find myself living in a city where I don’t know much about the community that I didn’t learn in a classroom or the office. There’s a life to lived and none of us can afford to let what we do to become who we are. Ultimately, perspective will always play an important part in helping us maintain balance and understand that there’s no need to rush when we find ourselves in one of life’s traffic jams because the destination will be there when we get there.

About Erick Taylor
Erick Taylor is an aspiring college sports professional and MPSA candidate attending Texas A&M University. Originally from the Greater Atlanta area, Erick received his bachelor’s degree from Georgia State University, where he also served as a development intern for the Panther athletic department. A young, relatively inexperienced prospect in this industry, Erick is in search of the tools and skills required for success. By sharing his journey, he hopes to help others achieve their professional goals as well.

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