Tonight, I’m thinking quite a bit about time. I’m not talking about time management, balancing time between work and school or the vow to submit assignments when they’re due. All very important, but this post’s intent is a bit more existential. I’m talking about age.
After my first unfinished collegiate attempt, I was truly adrift and my rudder was mangled. I had no idea what I wanted out of life. I knew only that I was dissatisfied, unhappy and wanting more.
Now that I’ve returned to school, I’m happier and more fulfilled than I can remember being, but occasionally insecurity rears its ugly head.
I’m almost 40, and the “what if’s” can be endless if I let my brain run away with itself.
Why would someone hire me when they could have a younger applicant who is eager to please?
How much of my life have I wasted because I was unable to know myself well enough to make a choice?
What if I’ve waited too long and I end up failing at this too?
Yes, I’m being maudlin. But I know I’m not the only one with these worries and fears. Many working adults who make the choice to return to school do so online. Studying online is often easier to maintain around work and family.
Also, future employers may like the idea of a fresh-faced 22-year-old, but an older graduate has the luxury of life experience that a younger person typically can’t claim. So if you find yourself with any of these same insecurities, remember that that life experience and the work skills we all pick up working the assorted jobs we drift through before finding a “calling” can be very attractive to a potential employer.
Use your age proudly as a hiring tool! And sit down and make a list of those life experiences. Every part time job you’ve ever had may not be the most prestigious among your accomplishments, but the office skills you’ve picked up or the management skills you’ve absorbed over time may be just the thing that tips you over the edge into the hiring pool when added to your newly acquired college degree.
We all know there’s something to be said for a perfectly aged wine. A beautiful piece of music is often referred to as a “classic.” A perfectly preserved (or restored) car is labeled “vintage.” Thesaurus.com states that “vintage” implies “prime superior excellence.”
And really… what could be better as a resume header?
This isn’t my first foray into higher education. In 1992, as a fresh-faced 18-year-old high school graduate, I immediately began my (first) freshman year of college. I was a classically trained flautist, and I wanted to major in music performance. My immediate family talked me out it, though, and instead I went with the suggested practicality of music education. I didn’t want to teach music, but I still went to school for a year and a half. In the middle of my sophomore year, after my fear that music ed. just wasn’t for me had been hammered home repeatedly since enrolling as a freshman, I gave up. I cited money as my primary reason for dropping out, but really? It was apathy and frustration. I didn’t want to take music ed., I wasn’t receiving the support I was hoping for as a student of music performance and I was unsuccessful in fleshing out another interest worthy of something as important as a college major.
Fast forward twenty years to today. I’m still a newborn senior, and I can’t believe that I’ve accomplished so much since beginning my journey toward becoming a degreed journalist. Since re-enrolling in 2010, I’ve gone straight through without a break. Spring to Fall through each Summer semester and back to Spring again. The first couple of years my enthusiasm and momentum really kept my motor running.
My point? My academic motor isn’t revving as loudly as it was three or two or even one year ago. I’m in the home stretch. This has been a marathon, and my mental half is screaming at me to sprint for the finish line while my creative half is begging me to lie down on the couch with a cocktail. I find myself sitting in front of my computer staring blearily at the screen, waiting for some inspiration to strike in finishing even the simplest of assignments. Right now, I need a second wind!
For those of you also experiencing my brand of acute and painful Senior-itis, pat yourselves on the back for how far you’ve gotten. Today, you’re a senior! We only have roughly 270 days to go until we graduate!
(You’re right. In the future, I should leave numbers out of this.)
- TIME MANAGEMENT
Remember that you’re studying online because your schedule is such that you knew you’d have a difficult time fitting real-time classes into your life. Budget that time carefully. If you know you have an internship assignment due soon, don’t put it off. Before you know it, you’ll remember a class assignment you didn’t realize you’d forgotten until the last minute. Then you’re not scrambling to finish one task, but two or more.
- KNOW YOUR STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES
Internship employers understand that a virtual environment is different than a real-time office. No one is going to be looking over your shoulder policing your time, making sure you get your work done. This sounds great to almost everyone, but there are just some people who work better and more efficiently in an office environment. A virtual experience isn’t going to always afford you instant access to your supervisor if you have a question. You may have to think quickly on your feet and make some fast decisions on your own depending on the type of work you’ll be doing.
- BE CONFIDENT
If you do decide to dive deeper into the virtual life, then be prepared to go in head-first. If you know you can trust your commitment to sticking to a schedule and to turn in quality work, then make sure you do so with the right attitude. Don’t hand a project in to your supervisor with any insecurity attached. You wanted this, so make sure you look at it from all angles. Talk with your potential supervisor, and get a feel for how hands-on he or she might or might not be. If that supervisor is going to give you free rein, inviting you to run with the projects they dole out, they’re not going to want an intern who’s going to follow up a submission with questions like, “Was that okay?” or “I wasn’t sure if that was what you wanted, so do you like it?” If your supervisor wants you to edit your work, you’ll find that out. Otherwise, keep your eye on the ball and exude to your supervisor that you’ve got this. Fake it ‘til you make it. And pretty soon… you’ll see yourself making it.
They say that time flies, but – really – only in hindsight. I’m a senior, and I really can’t believe that I’ve made it this far in what now seems such a short time. But, when I look at things head-on… in an in-the-moment, day-to-day, god-help-me basis? I imagine I’ve been sucked into an alternate dimension in which one week here equals one year there, and all homework assignments are single spaced and in a size 10 font.
Thankfully, my exhaustion leads to a smidge of exaggeration. Since enrolling as an online journalism and media studies major in 2010, SMWC has offered me a wonderful education that includes compassionate and knowledgeable instructors – many of them as patient as anyone would need to be in order to have me as a student.
As a freshman, I was terrified to conduct interviews, and I had already made the uninformed choice that I was always and forever going to write editorials – that I would never report on anything that required me to regularly speak with another human being. Now, while I still know that my strengths lie in features and commentary, I also know that I’m more than capable of diving into the black and white side of journalism. And I’m very confident in my skills as an interviewer. My instructors have given me that.
My day job lies in the field of therapeutic massage, and – ironically – it was at my graduation from massage school that my path as a writer was forged. That is a story for another blog post, but suffice it say I’m glad I took those hints from the universe. I am an older student, age 39 – my first attempt at higher education was in the field of music education. My true preference at that time was to major in music performance, but… I chickened out. I’m glad I didn’t do that the second time around.
Now, I’m doing what I love. I know I’m moving in the right direction. And, after an exhaustive search, I knew that SMWC was most definitely the right school for me. It was the only college I could find that offered an online journalism program, and I knew that working “virtually” was the only way I would be able to juggle work and school.
This is my first of many blog posts this semester, and it’s nice to meet you. My name is Stephanie Dolan, and I’m a writer.