Regardless of class year, Swatties often encounter a dreaded word through our conversations with friends, professors, mentors, parents, or sentient pets — employment. The world after college is full of terrors, and job-searching is probably one of the biggest besides learning to do taxes, renting apartments, dealing with health insurance, and in general, being a functional member of society. Forget about Halloween for a second — application forms, resumés, networking sessions, and interviews may haunt our nightmares more than the fiercest fiends and ghastliest ghouls.
Those of us who choose to further our education may end up in similar circumstances — thoroughly spooked — as we apply to graduate school or fellowships, frantically typing out essays or emailing people for recommendation letters. No matter what we decide to do after Swat, the stress of adulthood gets more pronounced the closer we get to graduation. Even underclassmen are not exempt from the pressure as they search for summer opportunities that could help them figure out their post-Swat plans.
When we are caught up in a frenzy of summer applications and career concerns, it is crucial to remember that we are not alone. Many college students struggle to find scholarships, internships, and jobs. Behind every success story are countless rejection emails, but we don’t see them because few people enjoy publicizing their failure, so don’t think any less of yourself if you don’t get your dream job or internship.
I remember countless sleepless nights in my junior fall, when I was recruiting for what seemed like a hundred finance internships. Sometimes I locked myself in my room and cried into my pillow, even though I presented a smiling, confident version of myself to the world. On a desperately gloomy evening, I called one of my closest friends, and she told me something I will never forget.
“You must separate your self-worth from your internships and job applications,” she said.
To me, that was the key ingredient for keeping my sanity intact. We are all marvelous individuals in our own right, whether we end up in our ideal summer opportunity, full-time job, or postgraduate program. Getting rejected doesn’t diminish your virtue and inherent value as a human being.
You may see 10, 20, 50, or 100 rejection emails in a semester, but your friends, family, mentors, and sentient pets still love you. Heck, if none of them do, I will find you on Cygnet, visit your room, and profess my (platonic) love to you. A rejection phone call or email does not define your character because you are more than your resume. You are more than an interview. You are more than your GRE test scores.
You are a living, breathing person, capable of compassion, empathy, and goodness, and that cannot be captured in a simple job or grad school application.
When you don’t succeed, it’s normal and okay to feel upset. People preach the importance of bouncing back from setbacks, but it is easier said than done. We see so many social media posts from our friends excitedly announcing their new job offer or acceptance letter from an Ivy League school that we can’t help but compare ourselves to them. Are they somehow more qualified, and, by implication, more worthy?
The answer is often uncertain because there are so many factors beyond our control. Sometimes they are innocuous and arise out of sheer luck. Other times, socioeconomic capital plays a large role. Students from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds can face bigger challenges when applying to jobs, internships, or postgraduate programs because they may lack the relevant network, guidance, or familial support to help them get ahead on these opportunities. Rejection may not be an indicator of your ability, but instead a product of systemically inequitable access to resources because we don’t live in a perfect meritocracy, despite some people in power trying to convince us otherwise.
Although Swat cannot offer an immediate solution to these structural problems, there are resources on campus that can help us alleviate the pain of job or graduate school applications. Career Services and the Office of Fellowships and Prizes are staffed by knowledgeable personnel who offer information and advice, host various events, and help you prepare for your post-Swat plans. Career Services also hires Career Peer Advisors, students that can assist you with resumés, interviews, and networking, if you prefer to talk to a student first.
If you are interested in opportunities for community engagement and social justice, the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility is a great place to connect with faculty, staff, and students who share the same interests in topics such as public education and immigration. For guidance on developing leadership abilities and creative thinking, visit the Center for Innovation and Leadership to learn more about their events, such as the Tri-Co Hackathon.
The Dean’s Office organizes initiatives for first-generation and low-income students to support them at Swat and beyond, such as the Richard Rubin Scholar Mentoring Program, which matches scholarship recipients with faculty or staff mentors and connects the recipients with summer internship or research opportunities. Nakia Waters and Dean Karen Henry are in charge of these initiatives and are always approachable if you have any questions.
Give yourself time to heal if the constant waves of applications, interviews, deadlines, or rejections begin to overwhelm you. Seek help from the campus community whenever available. If you find your mental health suffering, schedule a C.A.P.S. appointment with a qualified therapist as soon as possible, or speak to your peers if it is more comfortable to do so.
Speak2Swatties is a student organization that offers peer counseling services where you can talk to a fellow student about any concerns that you may have. You may also approach one of the peer leaders in your dorm, such as the Residential Assistants, and they can point you in the right direction if you have questions about campus resources.
College itself is hard enough, and on top of that, most of us are still plagued with anxiety about what’s to come after. It’s alright to feel sad, frustrated, angry, or disappointed. It’s alright to ask for help when you need it because searching for a job or postgraduate program is difficult, at least for the majority of students. Don’t let anyone invalidate your feelings or self-worth as you search for your place in society, and if everything is a downer, at least there is fish taco bar.