Looking back on such a busy and different academic year, I marvel at the dignity with which students, faculty, and staff alike used to overcome the tall order of difficulties thrown their way. Sick family and friends. Remote learning and work. Zoom fatigue. Political unrest. A changing world. Everything was challenged, and every fiber of our being needed to be harnessed to meet what came at us.
While there is much to be proud of, my own honest reflection reveals that I did not always handle these challenges so well. This sparked a desire in me to search for answers to the question, How can I improve for next time?
And then, perfect timing. Arrive Stillness is the Key, a book on stoic philosophy by Ryan Holiday that describes a quality all brilliant people possess: stillness. It is the art of maintaining composure while the world spins around you. Thinking clearly in order to make good decisions. Finding time for silence so we can quell inner turmoil. Practicing all of this so we can better handle what’s to come.
This eye-opening book gave me a lot of tools for dealing with life. It also made me think: is this not wisdom students can apply to job searching, interviewing, really any aspect of preparing for a career? I think yes!
So behold, three principles I chose that can help your career success:
Slow down, think deeply. “The world is like muddy water. To see through it, we have to let things settle. We can’t be disturbed by initial appearances, and if we are patient and still, the truth will be revealed to us” (47). Think deeply about who you are – your skills, interests, and values – as you chart your path. During an interview, when you’re caught off guard, pause briefly to allow the answer to come to you. When accepting job offers, consider all the factors and your priorities. It pays to take a moment to find quiet and be with your own thoughts.
Choose virtue. This one stumped me at first, as virtue has many definitions. According to Holiday, it can mainly be thought of as moral and civic excellence in the course of daily life (98). We would do well to sit down and examine what we stand for, believe in, and what we are really living for (100). To me, this means to reflect early and often on all of the above as you embark on your career. Doing so will allow making tough decisions to less negatively affect you. Doing the right thing at work will become easier. The right industry and job for you will become clearer. Thinking about and applying these deeper things will bring out “the goodness” in us that we should share with the world.
Be a human being. “In real life it is always the anvil that breaks the hammer” (225). Don’t overwork yourself unnecessarily. Easier said than done, especially since looking for a job is in itself a job. But honesty and knowing our limits can help us learn the road signs of exhaustion, and we would be good to listen to them. Apply to jobs gradually, creating a schedule of deadlines and working on applications a little bit at a time. Space out your interviews to avoid back-to-back scheduling. Take care of your body – with a good night’s sleep, healthy eating, and exercise – to be able to perform at your best. It all takes patience and practice, but boy is it worth it!
Source: Holiday, Ryan. Stillness is the Key. New York, Penguin Random House LLC, 2019.