These past few weeks have been littered with internship applications and resume updates galore as I attempt to find my place in the professional world for this upcoming summer. I’ve fine-tuned every application to perfection, written countless cover letters that no one is likely to read, and scoured the internet for internships with the enthusiasm of a middle schooler who recently discovered Instagram.
In times like these, I begin to question if I am good enough on paper, finding it difficult to see value in myself beyond the applications I submit. When I think about who I am, what I’ve been through and how I treat others, I am proud of that person, confident in where I’ll end up.
Yet seeing my collective life efforts put into paper for the judgment of potential employers seems to steal this confidence in the process. Though I’m still happy to be me, I begin to doubt my chances of getting a job, assuming that the paper representation of my life is lackluster in comparison — a version of myself that no one would want to hire.
As defeating as that feels, I understand why the world of employment works in such a way. If I were looking for an intern, their work experiences would be of greater interest to me than their life experiences. While getting through a hard break up, or battling mental illnesses are admirable life skills, they don’t show one’s competence in Microsoft Excel or your ability to meet a tight deadline.
So how do we, as job seekers and providers alike, cope with the different realities of our personal and professional existence? That’s a question I am still working to answer for myself, but figured I’d share the progress I’ve made thus far in the hopes that you too can begin to feel better about joining the workforce, in whatever capacity that may be.
Apply, apply, apply
Your chances of getting your top choice for an internship may be slim, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use this summer or upcoming job season to work toward your future dream job. If you can find an actual job opening that would make your career dreams come true, look hard into what kind of a candidate they’re looking to hire. What experience is required or types of skills are preferred? Though you may not be the CEO of anything just yet, that doesn’t mean you can’t work toward becoming one. It’s likely the types of experience a more specific or prestigious dream job requires are skills that thousands of opportunities might offer. In addition, you’ll get a better taste for what type of work you actually enjoy, allowing you to narrow down what your eventual dream job truly is.
Don’t forget who you are
In theory, this seems simple, but the reality of a busy life can prove the opposite. Taking time to dream about the kind of personal life you want to live beyond your professional one, and acknowledging the parts of yourself that you already admire is a good place to start. This is especially true when you imagine through drawing or writing your thoughts down, you can connect with your mind in a new way.
Introducing your visions with a physical medium allows you to keep your dreams nearby. When you can reference a physical source of your life goals, they begin to serve as a reminder of who you are and who want to be every day — simultaneously allowing that person to influence your present decisions as well as your future ones. If the broad idea of wildly dreaming seems too daunting a task, take a look at this Ted Talk that has been my go-to strategy for dreaming since high school.
Just because you didn’t get the job doesn’t mean you aren’t worthy
This is probably the most important part for anyone to consider when searching for professional opportunities. Remember that finding a job is not a race, nor is it a reflection of who you are. I’m sure we all know people who seem to have skipped the job hunting process entirely and jumped straight into their personalized dream career. Though that’s fabulous for them, it is not the norm. Finding the right opportunity takes time — not to mention energy which students don’t always have the ability to give while maintaining an education. Setting small goals for yourself like applying to three jobs a week or looking up campus resources to utilize like the Career Center can help to keep you focused on your own journey instead of feeling jealous of someone else’s.
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Entering the workforce is not only an intimidating feat, but it’s also a right of passage into the world of adulthood. No matter how stressful and tedious the search can be, don’t forget that you are the one in control of what you do and where you end up. Take pride in this ultimate freedom of choice, remembering who you are all the while.