What Have You Learned This Week?
What have you learned this week?
I don’t mean in your classes. I mean what are you learning in addition to your required coursework?
Some of the greatest lessons I learned in college came from what I studied outside of my degree program. It was in my extra time that I learned about people, relationships, work, skill building, and myself.
It’s easy to get in the habit of going to class, doing exactly the homework that’s required of you (the night before it’s due, no less), and then chilling out with friends… or Netflix.
But putting in a tiny bit more effort to develop yourself every semester will pay off for the rest of your life.
I’ve never used what I know about modernist literature or Cather’s work in any of my jobs. Frankly, I don’t think about those specific things in my everyday life that often, either.
But the lessons I learned from the deliberate personal development during my undergraduate studies have benefitted me daily. I frequently reflect on the growing experiences I had during those times and feel grateful I did more than just go through the motions.
Here are some ideas to get more out of your semester.
- Read an extra book every semester. It can be related to your classes, or it can be completely unrelated. Doesn’t matter as long as you’re reading it for personal enjoyment.
- Try something new. I don’t mean drugs (too many young writers get dependent on substances for their creativity, and frankly their work never gets good enough to merit the negative physiological effects). I mean try something that’s out of your wheelhouse. Are you a technical writer? Try to write creatively (like creative essays, short stories, or even a poem). Creative writer? Create a website.
- Help someone. Get out of your own life and do something for another person. Even if you’re paid to do it (such as tutoring), genuinely giving someone else the gift of your full attention and concern for a moment benefits the recipients life and is a wonderful inoculation against ego (the number one barrier between a writer and true greatness).
- Create something. The act of creation is good for the soul.
- Do something scary. As Arthur Miller wrote, “The best work that anybody ever writes is the work that is on the verge of embarrassing him, always.” If what you write is a little uncomfortable, you’re doing it right.
I probably don’t need to explain that developing the habit of extra learning will lead to opportunities that make you a much better job candidate than your competition. I also probably don’t need to say employers care much less about grades than who you are as a person, so developing yourself is the best investment you can make,
Because if you learn something extra during your studies, you’ll happily discover how employable you’ve become very early in your job search.
PS: Sorry for the break from more “technical” messages. However, I feel the value of self-learning can’t be emphasized enough. I’m incredibly grateful for the extracurricular lessons I learned during those formative undergraduate years, and it makes me sad so many English Majors take the boring road and leave school as basically the same person they were when they entered.