Way Back Home: Finding the sweet spot between living in the present and investing in your future
How to live in the moment while planning for life after college.
October 8, 2020
Black suit. White shirt. Professional background. Zoom-ready. As I write, we are now five weeks into school amidst a pandemic with career fairs, fall recruiting, HireVue and Zoom interviews raging on. As we are all juggling our school work, internship applications, interview preparation and extracurriculars, I can’t help but wonder why we suddenly become so stressed about internships and jobs once we hit junior year. A simple and recurring answer I’ve heard from a number of my friends is: we are adults now, let’s be realistic and find a job that pays the bills.
Living through a pandemic and an unfavorable market situation is not ideal for job searching. Even more, securing a job or an internship is even harder for international students. I’ve come across numerous job postings that specified “permanent US residency” on their requirements and even for those that do not list it as a requirement, I’ve gotten automatic email responses upon submitting my application stating that I am not eligible for hire because of my immigration status. Given the current immigration policies, more and more companies, including commercial banks, Big Tech, consulting and Fortune 500 firms are closing their doors to international students. In the face of such grim circumstances, all I have been able to do is cast a wide net and hope for the best.
At the beginning of the semester, I set a goal of applying to three firms per day, and I did that every day. I committed to such a high volume of applications because I knew my chances of finding an internship are much smaller than my peers who don’t need to work around an unfavorable immigration status I am extremely happy for my friends who have received amazing offers from prestigious banking and Big Four accounting firms because they’re set for the rest of the year. But at the same time, I’ve grown increasingly more anxious and desperate as time seems to run out. I started to frantically apply to every job post on Doreways and on other job boards. After weeks of robotically applying for internships, I started to feel numb and indifferent towards the process. I was once excited about the prospective job opportunities, but they have now felt almost like a routine chore.
I’ve done everything I can to ensure I have a successful future. I always thought that in order to properly invest in my future, I must sacrifice the present. I thought of it as a black-or-white choice between happiness now or happiness later. But, I was wrong. I have not invested in my future. In fact, I did the exact opposite. I was so on edge and desperate for a job or something to hold on to, I never let myself spend time to think about life and be excited about anything in the present. How am I investing in my future when I am not even mildly excited about what the future holds? After just a couple of weeks of my rigorous commitment, I was burnt out, and I couldn’t see a future for myself yet.
After acknowledging my feelings, I started to fix the problem by taking a break from internship applications. I spent three whole days going through all of the applications I submitted, and I actually looked into all the companies and what they offer. I also discovered a list of international friendly companies and firms with strong diversity and inclusion initiatives, and leveraged my time and effort by applying to these firms that offer potential visa sponsorships. During this time, I got excited about my future again, and I found the motivation to recommit myself to the job hunting process without focusing on the mundane routine of endless job applications. Instead, I tried to find a balance, to slow down a bit and let myself truly understand and be excited about every opportunity I pursue.
Collectively, college students are so focused on the next stage of our lives, we spend every second of our present planning for the future. Yet, the future is uncertain. Six months ago, who would have thought a pandemic would devastate the lives of billions of people around the world? Recently, I’ve learned to stop trading the present for an uncertain future. That’s not to say that we should neglect the future and focus solely on the present, but we should learn to stop and smell the roses from time to time.
There is a famous Chinese saying, “If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.” Recruiting is overwhelming, but I assure you that you are not alone. We are all in this together. The only piece of advice that I have is to not forget to enjoy where you are in the midst of where you’re going.