Studying for a degree is, in and of itself, an investment in your future – something which will, if all goes according to plan, have a significantly positive effect on your future career prospects, among other things.
All the same, many people fall into a variety of traps when studying for a degree, and consequently, end up not experiencing all the substantial benefits that could await them.
Whether you are studying for a degree such as medical reimbursement and coding with a clear idea in mind of the kind of career path you want to venture down, or whether you are already employed full time and want to study for a degree purely for the sake of expanding your horizons, there are various useful tips to keep in mind which can help to increase your odds of enjoying long-term success down the line.
Here are five tips for setting yourself up for long-term success while studying a degree.
1. Strike the right balance between social activities and work, instead of neglecting one altogether
The well-known stereotype about students is that they spend virtually all of their time drinking and partying, and therefore end up neglecting their studies in pretty dramatic fashion.
Of course, it’s definitely not a good practice, for long term success, to fail to take your studies seriously and to become completely sidetracked by other things like the nightlife and whatever university might be attending.
At the same time, however, it’s not as clear-cut as saying that you should just completely shut out everything other than your books, and should just dedicate every waking moment to revising and preparing for exams, tests, and assignments.
When it comes to long-term success in life, developing the ability to be comfortable and outgoing in social circumstances can be absolutely invaluable – and when it comes to conventional job hiring, there is always going to be a large degree of discretion exercised on the part of the recruiter, to choose a candidate they feel have a good rapport with.
Of course, it’s also important to balance work with fun for the simple fact that doing so is a great way of safeguarding your overall sense of well-being, while also helping you to develop and maintain the kind of resilience that will be necessary for carrying you through whatever frustrations life throws your way.
One of the key issues faced by many entrepreneurs, for example, is that they simply lose all sense of work-life balance, and so end up grinding themselves to a state of severe burnout sooner rather than later.
Success in virtually any endeavour in life is going to be the result of consistent and ongoing efforts over time. In other words, “it’s a marathon, not a sprint,” and developing the skill of properly balancing leisure and entertainment with work and productivity is crucial with regards to allowing you to keep moving forward on an even keel.
2. Work to establish everyday routines that will give you an edge, and that you can hold onto
According to the writer Charles Duhigg, author of the book “The Power of Habits,” it’s the actions that we repeat on a daily basis without necessarily thinking very much about them at all, that frequently end up shaping our destinies to a substantial degree.
Habits are ubiquitous – we all have them, and we have them for all sorts of things ranging from the way we prepare coffee in the morning, to how we approach our work and the way in which we wind down at night when it’s time to get ready for bed.
The thing that makes habits so powerful is that they become “automated” and ingrained, to the extent that they rarely take much if any willpower to actually execute.
This is major, because – according to psychologists like Kelly McGonigal, author of “The Willpower Instinct” – willpower isn’t just some positive choice that we exercise when it suits us, it’s actually a finite psychological and physical resource that needs to be safeguarded.
When people try to “muscle through” the various hurdles required to achieve their goals, using sheer willpower alone, it’s almost inevitable that their “willpower reserves” become depleted in a hurry and problems then follow fast.
One excellent practice to adopt while studying, therefore, is to work to establish everyday routines that will give you an edge, and that you can hold onto. Things that may be daunting or that may require a fair amount of willpower upfront, but that will become automatic with repetition, while still helping to move you in the right direction.
Many successful entrepreneurs, for example, have specific morning rituals – often involving things like meditation – which they use to get themselves “in the zone” as quickly as possible.
3. Become comfortable with broad goal-setting, complemented by a focus on effective “systems”
When you are studying for a degree, you will typically need to orient your academic goals on a three-year timeline – sometimes significantly more if you are studying a degree like medicine.
Goals are great in a broad sense, for giving you a clear idea of the direction you want to head in. But goals, in and of themselves, won’t necessarily be able to give you the motivation and consistency that you need on an everyday basis in order to keep progressing.
In fact, Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert comics, goes so far as to say that “goals are for losers, systems are for winners.”
What exactly does Adams mean by this controversial statement?
Well, he expands his argument and explains that “goals” are essentially unstable. Outside circumstances can negatively affect your progress towards your goals, and when you are always striving towards a goal that’s out of your current reach, you are going to spend a lot of time on a day-to-day basis feeling frustrated, anxious, and more or less unfulfilled.
What Adams calls “systems,” on the other hand, are the everyday behaviours that don’t necessarily require you to fixate on a particular goal, but which nonetheless move you in a generally positive direction, and therefore significantly increase the chances that you will experience “success” as a result.
This principle can absolutely help you while studying for a degree – by keeping you consistent and focused on the here and now, rather than getting you overly caught up at the endpoint.
Of course, this lesson can also help you a great deal in all the other areas of your life as well. The more calmly and consistently you’re able to keep moving forward, the better your odds of success will tend to be in virtually any endeavour.
4. Consider attending networking and future industry events and gatherings
Depending on the degree you’re studying, and your current career circumstances, it might be a good idea to consider attending networking and future industry events and gatherings, while studying for your degree.
In many places, companies will actively seek out graduates in particular fields at graduate fairs, and it could certainly be positive for your future career success to begin accumulating experience in your desired field as soon as possible.
Beyond simple experience, however, there’s also the direct and straightforward benefit of building momentum and ensuring that you don’t fall into the post-graduation slump that many former students do find themselves confronted by.
Outside of events aimed specifically at recruiting graduates into particular companies and industries, however, you will also likely be able to find a variety of less formal networking events that can help you to get to know some of the people who you might later encounter in your industry and who you might be glad you knew, down the line.
5. Consider starting up a manageable blog, small business, or other side hustle
One of the great things about many of the small business and “side hustle” options available today, is that they can often be adapted to even the most jam-packed lifestyle, and can then be scaled up as and when required, assuming they prove worthwhile as time goes on.
There are plenty of students out there who got their start on assorted blogs, small business ideas, and other small side hustles while studying, and who were then later able to turn those side projects into full-time careers – sometimes even before graduating.
At the very least, you might find that starting up a blog that relates to a particular interest of yours gives you a great opportunity to learn hands-on about a particular topic (not to mention managing a blog in and of itself), while also allowing you to let off some steam, and refine your ideas and interests in a broader overall sense.
A major component in overall success, in any endeavour, is the ability to experiment, build on your successes, and learn from your mistakes.
And there’s a good argument to be made that the more you try your hand at different projects and routines, the better able you are likely to be to identify meaningful opportunities when they come along, while the same time having a more trained eye, in general, for what is likely to work.
Are you ready to set yourself up for success while studying a degree? Which of these tips do you reckon will be most important to your long term success?
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