Friday, January 23, 2015

Job Anxiety

What am I going to do this summer?

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I have never been professionally employed, and I think this reflects poorly on me. I get into a lot of opportunities when the application is written, but I interview poorly and I am sure that I come across as a robot or with an off-putting blend of entitlement and self-pity. I am not a particularly considerate person, and I follow up slowly, and I forget to email people after they interview me, and in general I am often unaware and foolish.

Despite this, people who work with me on projects generally seem to get a favorable impression of me, and I am capable of working hard and being dedicated. Sometimes, I feel as though I am getting mixed messages from the world: you're awesome! You suck! You're a good person! You are a selfish louse!

On Tuesday, one of my sophomore friends was telling me how he got his summer-after-freshman-year internship, and it was basically the same way that I got my first summer-after-freshman-year-internship rejection, except he did things right and I did not. As he spoke, I noted the things we did differently when approaching this company, and fell into a funk when I realized that the differences formed a pattern of behavior, and that that means that I have been going about this wrong.

For most of the things I have applied for--college, namely--the application focuses on what you have done, on your past record. Why are you awesome? is the question these kinds of applications ask. This has not apparently worked well in finding an internship in a field about which I know nothing. The approach to take there seems to be to acknowledge that you do not know much, but to let them know about your honest passion and desire to learn.

Am I qualified to do everything an intern must do? No. But I do know, or at least strongly believe, that I can grow into it--and that I will want to.

I have gotten two internship rejections thus far. One was from the construction company that hired my friend last summer (and wants him back this summer), and I think I approached it all wrong, with the mentality that this would be my break, this would be my chance to get something squared away early on, to check the box "job offer within the first two months of school." A stupid, entitled, short-sighted mindset; and even though I wish they had said yes to me, I cannot deny that I did not deserve to get anything handed to me with those sorts of thoughts running around in my head.

The other rejection came from a startup where I had a mediocre technical interview. I think this rejection came more from a lack of skills than a personal defect on my part, because the non-technical portion of the interview went well. Though the thought also arose "ah, yes, this is my chance to work at a startup," which is still dubious.

I've applied to a few fellowships and will apply for a few more in the coming weeks. Do I expect something to come of this? Honestly, yes. I write my way into opportunities. But that's still an entitled and foolish way to think, when there are many qualified applicants competing for a few spaces, and I cannot operate under the assumption that I'll get chosen.

I need to ask myself why. Why do you want to do something over the summer? Why do you want an internship over a fellowship over research?

Because I want to prove myself. I want to learn how to operate in the real world, I want to grow, I want to become a real human being and hold real responsibilities and be held accountable. I have never been employed, can't even get hired at a flower shop, and I know that I pull back. I don't do things that could fail--sports, card games, board games, etc. I have held back from confronting my weaknesses and this will not do. Do I deserve this education if I am not going to do anything with it? Do I deserve all these opportunities if I do not take them?

When I got elected to band staff my first reaction was delight and my second reaction was panic. I did not know if I could handle it. But then, I told myself, whatever you can't do now you will figure out how to do. Damned if I am going to let my high point be sophomore year. I am better at eighteen than at fifteen, and if that statement is wrong then I had better fix it.

One time in junior year we were having a class discussion about colleges and people started saying "some people think that just because they have Stanford on their resume that they will get the job" and I do not want to be that person. I said this at the start of the year: by the time I graduate, Stanford will no longer be the most impressive thing on my resume. I will have done things, by then. I have to start now. I do not want to waste time.

We are constantly told that we have to be leaders, that we will be leaders. But I am not there yet. I am at the bottom of the heap again and I have been fighting with that fact for the past four months. Thinking of myself as a leader may keep me blind, keep me from realizing that I have to learn and grow and change. I am not a worm, but I am not optimized yet. I have to work on it. What else can you do?

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Have a good weekend.

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