What to do now exams are over
Once we hit high school — especially when NCEA starts ruling our schedule — we might feel like we’re constantly stuck between doing work and procrastinating doing work.
The bad news is that the modern world encourages busyness and often makes it feel like we should always be hustling. This means that you might be feeling a little like that for the rest of your working life.
The good news is, there’s an easy way to break up the tedious routine, and now is the best time to start doing it. Instead of falling prey to the pressure to move on immediately to a new goal. Before you start worrying about next year, or getting a summer job, or starting your empire, don’t forget to celebrate your achievements from this year.
A celebration is an important part of actually feeling like you’ve achieved something. Regardless of how you did in exams, it’s stressful to go through the process and you did it! Reward yourself by planning to do something exciting, specifically to reward yourself. This could range from asking your family to cook your favourite meal, to watching a movie with friends. Whatever it is, you should openly use it to mark the end of exams so the effort that went into them doesn’t pass you by.
2. Create a list of fun things to do over the summer break
We all know that feeling: one moment, it’s the beginning of the summer holidays, the next, you wake up and it’s back to school time.
A little bit of planning on your part can make your holidays fun and memorable. Without a little planning, it’s easy to fall into the trap of spending too much time online, or never really getting around to doing much except lazing around.
We suggest creating a list of all the things you’ve always wanted to do. Then, allocate one to each week of your holidays. Don’t try and bite off more than you can chew and plan to do one every day, but slowly and steadily plan so things that will help you relax and unwind after a busy year. Don’t rule out things that will require a bit more planning. Ask around with the right people — whether it be your parents, or connecting with the right people online — and many things that may seem impossible can happen.
3. Reflect on how your year has gone
Reflecting on how your year has gone is just as important as celebrating your achievements.
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: your brain is a silver-linings factory. Regardless of how you did this year, even if there were some tough times, your brain will be working out how to learn and grow from your experiences.
When we constructively reflect on the year, we help speed up the learning process and bring our awareness to changes we can make next year.
Here are some ideas of questions to help you constructively reflect:
- What went really well this year?
- What achievements were you proud of this year?
- Why were you able to achieve the things the previous questions brought to mind?
- What things didn’t go well this year?
- Why do you think your answers to the previous question went poorly?
- What parts of the things that didn’t go well was in your control and what parts were out of your control?
If you have trouble assessing how you’ve been doing without looking on the bad side, try thinking about what a good friend would say about how you went. If you tend to be self-critical, they would most likely take a more balanced perspective on your ups and downs.
4. Start thinking about goals for next year
A good activity to think about once you’ve started considering how you did this year is what you want to do next year.
Here are some prompts to get you thinking of goals for next year:
- Think about where you see yourself in 5 years time. What’s a small step that you could take in the right direction?
- What do you want to do after you leave school? What will you need to achieve to do this? (you may want to check entry requirements on university or other education facility websites)
- What is an extra-curricular activity that you could explore that interests you? (extracurriculars are rewarding in and of themselves, as well as looking great on job and university-related applications)
- Is there a way you could use your skills to give back to your community? (giving back to those around you not only increases your happiness, and those you help, but looks great on applications)
“A goal without a plan is just a wish,” writes Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in a Little Prince.
Once you know what you want to do, think about how you can make small, manageable steps in that direction. Reaching a goal is somewhat like building a habit. You have to work out how to incorporate a small step in the right direction into your daily or weekly life.
Here’s the scientific low-down on how to build a habit:
- Make a small step in the direction of your goal each day. Begin by doing something that will only take around a half-hour of your time.
- Plan to do this activity straight after another activity that you already do each day. For example, if you want to get faster at typing, then plan to do half an hour of typing practice each day after lunch.
- Habits take quite a while to form. Experts debate on how long exactly, but most say 30-60 days. Stick a calendar up on the wall and stick try to keep your baby step each day without fail (or however many days you feel is appropriate).
5. Create a CV and try to get a job
If you’re in high school and older than 15, it’s a great idea to try to get a job.
It’s true, your first job isn’t likely to be glamorous or closely related to what you want to do with your life. However, it’ll teach you many life skills and these will likely support a comfortable lifestyle throughout university or the career uncertainty of early adulthood.
It’ll also mean more spending money, increased confidence and a greater understanding of the world around you. We’ll soon have an article up about creating a CV, which is a great thing to practice doing even if you aren’t quite ready to get a job yet. Making a CV will help you decide on goals for the following year because you may be able to make goals that will help you create a more impressive CV.
Once you have a CV, start applying. Most places now use online application systems, although, for locally owned restaurants and shops, it can be worth taking a CV in. When searching online, categorise jobs by things such as ‘retail’ (unless you have a special skill) and keywords like ‘entry-level’ and ‘no experience’.
Here are some good websites to look at:
Student Job Search
Trade Me Jobs
With jobs, it’s often a numbers game.
Apply to as many places as you can. Get an adult or a careers councillor to take a look over your CV, and cover letter if you’re writing one. Make sure you make each cover letter specific to the job you’re applying for. Then, send them out to as many places as you can.
Let adults you know that you’re looking for a job too — a great percentage of jobs are found through other people rather than formal applications. You can post on your Facebook or Instagram to let people know you’re looking for work.
6. Get experience in an area of interest
If you’re having trouble finding a job (or even if you have one), you may want to get volunteer experience doing something you’re interested in.
Many good things can come from volunteering in an area you’re interested in:
- Satisfaction and enjoyment
- Greater well-being from giving back to your community
- Learn more about areas of interest to be informed about future career paths
- Gain skills and experience you can take forward into career or university
- Pad out your CV and show you are a well-rounded person
- Get good connections that may help you get a job or give you references
Many communities have a local volunteer centre, where you can often meet with a staff member who will set you up doing a job that you’ll be interested in. They also often have websites with available positions listed, so search on Google. Otherwise, use the ‘volunteer’ or ‘unpaid’ tags on the job websites we listed earlier.