Being a final year student is stressful, but having a dissertation on top of that is just a nightmare. I’ve been working on my research for the past five months and I have roughly three weeks to finish it. I’m getting more and more anxious by the minute, and I’m sure there are other students who feel the same way. So, here are my tips on how to handle your dissertation if you are on the verge of giving up.
Choose the right topic, but be ready to change it
Researching something that you are passionate about will help you stay focus. But don’t think that your topic won’t change eventually. For the past two months, I changed my context and my title at least five times. Once you have done your literature review, the gaps in the existing studies will point you into a different direction. Also, you might need to tweak your topic when you start recruiting for participants. I couldn’t find people for interviews in the beginning, because my topic was too niche. I had to broaden my research scope in order to find enough respondents, but I kept my main idea.
Get as much feedback as possible
Every student has an assigned supervisor to help with their dissertations and provide feedback. However, try and get feedback from other people as well. For example, I often discuss my research with my friends, because they can give me new ideas and different views. Also, I signed up for two student conferences, where I can present my work in progress.
Last month, I presented at the SURE conference at Bournemouth University, and even though my research was far from ready, I got feedback from lecturers and other students. And next week, I am going to Wales to present at the British Conference of Undergraduate Research. My dissertation is still not finished, but I have more findings to show and I’m sure that I will get valuable feedback from the professors there.
Breathe, everything will be fine
Writing a dissertation can be a very stressful period of students’ lives. I’ve felt hopeless and depressed numerous times for the past few months, but everything works out in the end. I was struggling to find participants for a very long time, but I managed to interview enough people. It’s important to focus and do your best, but your dissertation shouldn’t overtake your life. There will be moments when writing the literature review is the last thing you want to do, so just do something else. I still binge-watch Netflix over the weekends or go to the cinema. I haven't restricted myself from relaxing things, because taking care of my wellbeing is essential. If you are too stressed all the time, you will be demotivated to work on your dissertation.
If you are currently writing your dissertation, just hang in there, everything will be fine. To all final year students out there, good luck. We can do this!
Personal branding is as important as a company’s reputation. People do not buy products from businesses with a bad reputation. In the same way, people wouldn’t want to talk to or hire someone, who doesn’t have a good reputation.
We live in a world, where recruiters will learn everything about you before they talk to you. All because of social media and the digital footprint you leave. Therefore, you have to put some effort in presenting yourself in the best way possible. I’m not saying to be fake, just be authentic.
Google yourself. Do you like what you see? Do your LinkedIn and Twitter profiles come out? If you have a blog, is it one of the top results? If the answers are yes, then well done. Below you can see that the first link related to my name is my website (yay!) with keywords like PR and social media. It's very important to keep your website optimised, so it always shows in browse searches.
Twitter and LinkedIn are the professional networks, where you need to have an online presence. You must keep them up-to-date, because as I mentioned before, people do ‘stalk’ you on social media. These are the platforms, where you can easily connect and engage with like-minded people and start interesting conversations.
My personal branding revolves around PR. That’s how I want to be known, therefore the content I post is related mostly to public relations. Personal branding is all about how you brand yourself to be perceived. Use the profile sections on Twitter and LinkedIn to describe yourself. Don’t leave them empty. Also, use a professional headshot as a profile picture. First impression matters, and this will be the first thing people see, when they open your profile.
Another aspect of personal branding is blogging. It has helped me to get my name out there. I have made so many valuable connections thanks to my blog. And being recognised while still a newbie in the PR industry feels like a good pat on the shoulder. My blog series #10QuestionsWith allowed me to talk to well-established practitioners and authors in the PR industry, which might not have been possible without my website.
And finally, make sure your online and offline personal images align with each other. As Marcel and Stephen said at the last #CommsSchool session, there is nothing worse than presenting yourself differently. Communicating online is easier for some people, but if you are someone who is tweeting all the time, but doesn’t say even one word in person, that might leave a bad impression. Once people check your profiles on social media or blog, they will have certain expectations from you when they meet you in person. Just be yourself online and offline. Be authentic.
At the last #CommsSchool session, Stephen and Marcel talked about habits, time management and writing. Blogging might be effortless for some people and really difficult for others. And for me, it’s somewhere in the middle. When I have an idea for a blog post, the words just start flowing on the blank page. And on the other hand, when I have a writer's block, I wonder why I created the blog in the first place.
As Marcel has said numerous times, blogging is based on dedication and hard-work. It’s not for everyone, because it demands a lot of time and effort. You need to prioritise your daily tasks and be really good at time management in order to cross out everything from your to-do list.
Below are my tips on how to keep blogging, even if it’s a struggle in the beginning.
It’s really important to master this skill early in your life. At the moment, I am a final year student (dissertation nightmare); I work part-time; I am a co-founder of a PR organisation for small charities and president of the PR Society; I am a mentor for a first-year student, and I still find time to go to the cinema and enjoy life. It’s stressful, but once you manage to divide your 24 hours, you know what to focus on. I try to set 2-3 hours per week only for blogging. It’s usually on one of the days that I have lectures, because it puts me in a productive mood.
Some people are more productive in the morning, others at 11pm in the evening. It doesn’t matter as long as it works for you. Just sit and start writing, when you are in a working mood and try to make this a habit by doing it every week. You only need to repeat it for 21 days (at least that’s what scientific journals state).
There are times in my life, when the last thing I want to do is blogging. Every person has moments when they feel down and demotivated. When I am overwhelmed with assignments and work, I don’t want to spend more time on my laptop to write a blog post.
Blogging is not an obligation, so it shouldn’t feel like work. If you are busy and not in the mood for writing a blog post, don’t do it. Go out, have fun with friends, watch a movie. Do something that will calm you down and relax you. And when you are not so stressed anymore, return to writing. Who knows, you might get a new idea for a post.
I find my motivation to keep blogging from other bloggers (Orlagh, Jessica, Lucy) and from networking. Having a blog gives you an extra advantage during interviews and helps you to connect with like-minded people. And I don’t want to lose those connections. It might sound like a selfish reason, but personal branding is very important early in your career.
Writer's block is a serious thing. I’ve experienced it hundreds of times and I’m sure others have as well. It’s normal to run out of ideas (Kudos to Orlagh for writing few posts per week!). Whenever I have a new idea, I note it down on my phone or notebook, so I don’t forget it. It might not be the right time to write about it, so I save it for later.
My blog posts are usually related to something I’ve done as a student. I tend to share my experience and tips for other students like me. I get inspired by new creative campaigns, so sometimes I feel like writing about them and why those campaigns matter. Also, whenever I go to an industry event, I like to share the key moments from it.
Ideas can come from many places, but here are some if you have a writer’s block:
Write, therefore you will be!
Hi there! Welcome to my blog about PR and things that I find fascinating.