In our feature, Timehacker, we match readers with coaches to help them find time for their most important goals.
THE GOAL: In the year since Ashley Thompson, 22, from Queens, New York, graduated from Boston University with majors in journalism and Spanish, she has yet to find a full-time job in her field, despite her best efforts.
She dreams of one day working in video production on women’s, international and social justice issues, or in any media, digital or communications field. But after so many months of supporting herself with paid temporary work, part-time jobs and unpaid internships, her confidence is rattled and she’s begun to isolate herself.
THE TIMEHACKS: Ashley worked with coach Caroline Miller, who determined Ashley had lost her “mojo.” She suggested five Time Hacks to get it back:
2. Do What You Love: Ashley got into journalism because she loved writing. But she felt disconnected from that passion after a year of freelancing about anything for anyone just to get paid. Miller suggested Ashley try her hand at creative writing again just for fun –writing in a journal and blogging on her own Web site about the issues like global women’s rights that she cares about.
“Research has shown that blogging can be an even bigger intervention [to foster] one’s well-being than just journaling,” Miller said. “And she could have the added professional impact of showing herself as a writer with specific passions to potential employers if she does this.”
3. Find Your Strengths: Miller suggested Ashley take the VIA Character Strengths Survey to get her strengths ranked from 1 to 24. “Research has found that using your top five strengths creatively and proactively throughout each day makes people feel happier and more authentic, and they also succeed more often,” Miller said. “This will help her re-identify with what she already does well.”
4. Get a Little Help from your Friends: Ashley had closed herself off from her friends because she was ashamed she hadn’t found a job yet. She was preventing herself from meeting new people who could help her network and find that job. Miller suggested she make time to connect with friends and people who could be positive influences in her life.
“I suggested that she create a virtual “Mastermind” group among her friends,” Miller said, where they meet up digitally if they can’t in person “to brainstorm at least once a month at a designated time to catch up, support each other and have fun.”
5. Be Happy. That’s what it’s all about.
DAY 21: Ashley thought her goal was to find a new job. But after 21 days of coaching with Miller, she realized that what she really wanted was to be happy again. “I realized that not having a job, not having a title to give to other people, was putting me in a very, very bad place. I had lost my confidence because of how much I let having a job define my identity,” Ashley said.
She saw that being in a funk, and withdrawing from the very network of positive people who could potentially help her find her a job, was actually getting in the way of finding that job. “I realized I had to be happier in order to achieve that goal,” she said.
So, on Miller’s advice, she pursued the website, Happify.com, and began the activities on the “Stop Comparing Yourself to Others & See the Good in Life” track, which helped her stop focusing so much on what she didn’t have, and more on what she did.
She took the character strength survey, and found that her greatest strengths are Humility, Judgment, Perseverance, Prudence and Fairness. “That was really helpful, because I’d been so focused on the fact that if I hadn’t found a job, there must be something wrong with me,” Ashley said. “This showed what characteristics I have that I can offer to other people, whether in a job or social setting.”
She began calling friends, making lunch dates and meeting people after work and on weekends. Because she feels at her best when she dresses up, she began dressing up even to go to her part-time unpaid internships. She started writing articles about women’s issues that she hasn’t published on her Web site yet, but she feels better just reconnecting with what she loves again. She started meditating at least once a week, and applied to an international relations program. She still doesn’t have a job, but while that still bothers her, she isn’t obsessing on it anxiously like she had before. And she realized she isn’t the only one on earth who feels that way.
“Happiness isn’t something I ever had to cultivate in my life. But I feel like I’ve learned how to, and how to find more joy in other areas of my life,” she said. “I realized that just because I don’t have a full-time job title, I’m still working, and I’m still doing great things. That’s really helped me with my confidence.
“I feel much more optimistic about what I might be doing in the next few months.”
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