Typically, when I watch animations, I focus wholly on all the action and humor. However, I recently found time for Kubo and the Two Strings, and asides from my mesmerization with all the intriguing details across the story, three weeks later I realize I am still obsessed with a phrase from the first voice-over. Within the context of this post, I have taken this phrase in isolation (and idiomatically) to buttress an important message which I think is relevant for early career people coming into the world of work. I believe that the spontaneity associated with blinking, that immediate, involuntary action with non-negotiable timing, can be a good reference for the manner with which we should execute certain actions towards achievement of our personal objectives.
“If you must blink do it now………… If you fidget, look away or forget anything I tell you, our hero will truly perish.”
For the average university student in their penultimate or final year, everything looks like it; motivational books, career coaching sessions, career events at school, career events out of school and just about anything that represents a harbinger or a stepping stone to the next stage of life. While these are good avenues for self-development, often times most people spend so much time engrossed in these activities, without focusing their efforts to yield reasonable results in the short-term. This article is for these group of people and I call them “Stallers”. Blinking in this case would then mean the process of translating already learned lessons from indulgence in networking, reading, career coaching or any such initiative to tangible results. Put simply, “Blinking” is the process of taking action in the immediate to avoid missing key opportunities. Very briefly, I have highlighted five things that every staller should start blinking on;
#1 Undisciplined, non-strategic reading;
Generally, when we read books, we do so for entertainment or recreational reasons or even for enlightenment on specific or general subjects. Truly, in contemporary times, reading relevant books has become a necessary habit to cultivate and sustain. In fact, a recent study showed that a group of 1200 wealthy people had reading as a common past-time so it definitely isn’t a bad idea. However, the problem emerges when early career folk start reading books which suggest actionable ideas in the short term, but “novelize” them, stacking book after book without any proper action plan. The end result is a waste of time on the short-run and longer delivery times for personal career objectives (of course no knowledge gained is a waste really). So for the staller still stuck with the habit of reading and not taking steps, it’s time to blink and step out. You might make mistakes or everything might not straighten out at first, but atleast you are on the right course.
#2 Networking to Infinity;
Networking opportunities are invaluable for graduates at the school-work transition phase. At this stage it is common for prospective graduates to be more involved with local career fairs, workshops and even webinars and this trend is totally understandable. Asides from gaining interpersonal skills and boosting confidence in business environments, networking ultimately helps the school-leaver forge essential relationships which could positively catalyze their job-search process. That said, the big question is “when the right relationships have been initiated and cards exchanged, what happens next?” Ideally you will expect some form of result from such ingenious activity and this is the case for some graduates who have successfully followed up on contacts from networking activities to secure roles in their desired industries. However, for the staller another questionable trend emerges. Instead of taking actionable steps such as restructuring their CVs/cover letters with new information gained from career fairs about the prospective company or even arranging for an informational interview, the staller goes back online and makes the very same monotonous applications as before. Soon enough they are back to square one, applying to attend another event, and another after that until an unproductive cycle is formed.
#3 Lousy Job applications
“If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it. The more things you do, the more you can do.” – Lucille Ball
With the increasing competition for jobs globally (consider the Southwest airline case with 80 applications per minute), it becomes very easy to carve a pastime out of the job application process. After all, a good rationale is that the more applications made the higher the chances of scaling through, and this is true to an extent and for the few graduates that have done this smartly. However, the staller is unlikely to get over this pastime, preferring instead to pacify his inner probing that he is doing something about his unemployment status by applying to every job out there. For this kind of staller, a good way to blink on this would be to improve your career profile by engaging in online part-time work. A stellar approach is by engaging with the United Nations Online Volunteering service which pools jobs that can be done online for charitable/non-profit organizations worldwide. While this is usually unpaid, typically a certificate is given for every successful project completed and this can go towards refining your portfolio. More so, there is the added advantage of forming key relationships and learning about different projects outside the periphery of your academic background. Lastly, which employer wouldn’t prefer this engaged version of you that is (genuinely) moving humanity forward?
#4 Lazypreneurship; Blink that Start-up to life!
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” – Chinese Proverb
For the prospective graduate looking to tread the entrepreneurial line, the best time to start is now. While it is essential to have a solid plan on ground, it is not that crucial to have one before managing the basics of your business. In the world of entrepreneurship, time is of essence and the earlier you took your first steps, the better off you will be. Certain business necessities (read: website design, talking with investors, starting the registration process-remember this takes a while) can be initiated simultaneously with feasibility studies during the planning phase. Asides from the fact that motivation to continue comes with starting these tasks, the prospective graduate would find that the business would be in a much better position when set to launch. The key point here is not to put the whole idea of starting the desired enterprise in one box and procrastinating this into limbo, but to break down the process into realistic actions in the short-term which would cumulate in the actualization of the desired venture on the longer term.
#5 Blink the Code!
This one is for just about every prospective graduate set to come into the world of works. Everyone plans to learn some form of programming but no one wants to learn one now. As the world continues to go digital at an unprecedented pace, businesses and organizations globally are increasingly becoming more efficient and the pressure to deliver in much smarter ways rests on employees in contemporary times. Coding, whether with Macros in Excel or with one of the many languages, is one of such ways to work smartly and is a must for every new employee as GE CEO, Jeff Immelt points out in a recent post. Interestingly, most prospective graduates prefer to leave programming for the computer scientists, and some of those from other disciplines that dare to learn, continue to procrastinate on their to-do lists forever. Coding is essential not just for the practical value it provides on common analytical, data-based tasks, but also for the innovative, out-of-the-box kind of mentality that comes with an unbroken devotion to learning the skill. So for the staller who is yet to make up their mind, the time to learn a language is now (Some good sites to look up are Code Academy, Udacity, Code School and Tree house).
Invariably, if we will put some of these crucial tasks on the same pedestal as our need to blink, we will find that we will suddenly be able to transform our approach to achieving targets.