I was in an appointment with the Office of Personal and Career Development (OPCD) last week spilling out every single point of stress I have regarding my future, which has built up since I started college classes. Once I stopped shaking, my advisor looked at me, took a deep breath and said, “Stop talking to your friends about this stuff.” It was then that I realized I wasn’t exactly afraid of failure in my future in a personal manner but was comparing myself to my peers in terms of whether they had internships or were in impressive summer programs, while I was not. I know what my goals for this summer are: make money to go abroad and get some sort of experience anywhere to put on my resumé. Although this was a pretty simple plan, I found myself writing cover letter after cover letter, joining every job-search site and tweaking my resumé any chance I could get. I was making myself sick with employment-induced stress. Only within the last week or so, I came to the conclusion that if my intention for post-graduation is law school, I shouldn’t be pulling out hair trying to look just as impressive as my business school friends or the ones doing research in a lab for a summer. Being a lifeguard and perhaps shadowing at a law firm would be just fine.
It is as if when one enters an institution like Wake Forest, the option of ‘taking your time’ has been eliminated. ”
Having gotten into one of the most prestigious schools in the country (yes, that does sound pretentious but hear me out because it’s true) indicates that each of us has an engrained characteristic: competitiveness. We may not all acknowledge or believe it, but every time we study or work to be a leader of an extracurricular, we are competing against ourselves and others. The combination of both work ethic and pressure does not end with clubs and grades, however, and what you are doing after graduation becomes the new competitive threshold. Whether this pressure comes from your parents, your classes or within, there is no denying that once you are on a roll in pushing yourself to the limit, there are vast challenges in stopping. The university’s alarming 98% rate of students who are employed or in grad school after graduation does not ease any stresses. What this rate often leaves out is whether these jobs are your average entry-level jobs like waiting tables, a financial analyst or a law intern. We students see that number and think “I cannot be that 2% that ends up unemployed after earning a degree at “Work” Forest.
Those in the business school have been learning the ins and outs of networking, applying, interviewing, accepting or denying and a plethora of other skills since their first enrollments in business classes. In contrast, pre-med, political science, psychology and other majors are not as focused on getting you a job in the real world. Perhaps it is an entitled expectation of mine that since I’ve worked so hard, it is as if I am expecting the biggest law firms in the country to be calling me first, begging me to get them coffee and file cases for them. What I need to be slapped in the face with — along with a plethora of other non-business majors — is that careers take time. You must build yourself up before you are established in your dream position. For some, this could include volunteering or taking a gap year to find out what you actually see yourself as. It is as if when one enters an institution like Wake Forest, the option of “taking your time” has been eliminated. For example, the university’s rolling Early Decision process is one of the most fascinating methods of college acceptance. Many apply in the summer before senior year and get in early fall. We are so used to the “get it over with” and the “I have to get it before everyone else does” that we don’t realize how rare and unrealistic obtaining perfection, especially right after graduation, is. Unless you are in a major that hires junior interns as sophomores or expects you to be making six figures before you are 26, you can breathe a bit. Take your time to get the right experience, not just any job or internship, and make sure your career path is actually what you desire before you’re multiple summer programs deep into something that you find unsatisfactory.