Junior Jolt: You are more than your credentials
During internship recruitment season, it’s important to remember that outcomes don’t define your worth.
September 28, 2020
Endless rows of 20-somethings dressed in suits that make them look ten years older fill my computer screen. I see some people fidgeting nervously, while others look bored before the event even starts. Sometimes, I can’t see any of my fellow participants on screen but am forced to stare instead at a group of often intimidating recruiters and a graphic-filled presentation slide. How friendly recruiters’ faces look varies to a surprising extent from event to event.
If you haven’t guessed by the headline and the description above, in this article I want to talk about internship and job recruitment. No, I won’t be doling out any advice or giving you a LinkedIn style pep talk. Instead, I hope to remind all readers, particularly juniors and seniors attempting to lock in their first jobs, that we’re all more than our resumé and what job we land (or don’t). For full disclosure, I’m not writing this out of confidence and comfort having secured a highly coveted offer; I’m just as entrenched in this crazy process as everyone else. But, as results start to trickle in and interview season gets into full swing, I’ve been thinking a lot about why so many of us are feeling as stressed and anxious as we are.
This semester reminds me of college application season, which feels like a lifetime ago. Remember the anxiety you felt that caused you to apply to way too many schools, including schools you would never attend even if you were accepted? From my observations of the recruitment season, I see a lot of the same behavior (e.g. applying to top, middle and more target companies to fend off any uncertainty about the immediate future). While I understand the need to feel career and financially secure, especially with the economic downturn we can expect to continue into the beginning of our professional lives, I think it’s important to keep everything in perspective and maintain a healthy sense of optimism.
I’ve had multiple friends and acquaintances express a lot of distress over recruitment season. While no one likes to be told “no,” and I think for many, our fear of being rejected goes beyond a simple dislike of being denied an opportunity. As high-achieving, intelligent students, perhaps we feel like a rejection is a question of our intellectual ability or willingness to work hard, which can feel insulting. Or, maybe our anxiety comes from a place of fear for what others, including family and friends, will think if we don’t land a high-paying, and thus, highly coveted post-grad job. I don’t want to dismiss anyone’s concerns or fears, as I obviously don’t know every person’s situation. But, I think we’d be better off approaching this whole post-grad consideration process with an open mind and positive attitude.
I know that’s easier said than done. But, as many business and world leaders, including everyone from former President Barack Obama to Disney CEO Bob Iger, have mentioned in their memoirs and interviews, having a positive attitude with a touch of “go with the flow” can be a huge contributor to success. There are a plethora of quotes that read along the lines of “if you don’t fail, it means you’re not trying hard enough.”And, as cheesy as it sounds, I think there’s more than a kernel of truth there. At the end of the day, whether you retire having been the CEO of a top company, inventor of a life-changing technology or more in the middle of the pack, who we really are aren’t our credentials. How we treat others, our relationships with family and friends and how we give back to the world are much greater reflections on our character and whether our life was lived in a meaningful way. While balancing practical demands, which often include needing a decent job and salary, and personal fulfillment can be tricky, it’s never too early to start practicing. I know that I don’t want to be seen as “just” a professionally successful person at the end of my life. How I contributed to society and moved it towards a positive direction means much more to me.
So, for those who are (or will) go through the craziness of job recruitment, I encourage you to take a deep breath, and take a moment to put things in perspective. Any results are not necessarily a reflection of your worthiness, intelligence or chances of succeeding in the future. Success often requires a dash of luck, so if things seem to be going downhill, keep your head up and get excited for what is waiting for you a little further down the road.