Don’t be overwhelmed by the job search
I got started writing about career/jobs last year with this post. To summarize, my point was that students spend far too much time on their resumes and not enough time working the phones, making real progress, and treating the job hunt with the seriousness and organization of a 5th class. The same applies this year. And at the beginning of the school year, it’s particularly easy to be plagued with information overload: your head is swimming with semester due dates, used book costs, new Proctor crushes, whatever it is. Simultaneously, the spring and graduation seem distant, so it’s easy to procrastinate because there is no immediate consequence. And the job search takes a backseat.
Make no mistake: this is a problem. By the time you’ve returned your attention to the job search, it’ll be November. To combat this, seniors get the pleasure of going to the Career Services’ “senior meeting” (Sept. 20th, FYI) where you get slapped upside the head with statistics from last years’ class, recruiting info, resumania, mojo, senior blog, etc. For half of you, the meeting will add to your anxiety. For the other half, you’ll dismiss it as unhelpful, and it will still add to your anxiety. Nevertheless, the goal of the meeting is to jump start seniors’ job search with force. They will tell you: do not let this sit on the backburner. But the reality of the senior meeting is that it is a cram session of information, and there is no way you’re going to do all you need to do because of one meeting.
To make things worse, you’ll be told about all kinds of new deadlines. Complete this form by Thursday. Fill-out the online application by next Tuesday. Meet this recruiter a week from Saturday. Deadlines can be an important motivator. But it does not help with information overload. If you’re not prepared, it is going to add to your anxiety and further lead to a propensity to put your entire career search on the backburner for the Fall.
I propose this: Give yourself a deadline to gather your thoughts, and come up with a plan for the year. Your plan might be to allocate specific time in your weekly schedule to work on career stuff. It could be that you want and need to set up conversations with the people you’re close to in order figure out what type of career you might consider pursuing. It could be that you plan on maximizing use of the CSO through their recruiting program. Whatever it is, spend at least a little time (an hour? a day?) collecting your thoughts before the senior meeting and the year starts. The goal of this is to fight information overload. Note that you don’t have to (and probably won’t) stick to your plans in the long-term, but if you start the year with nothing, you will be overwhelmed (whether you know it or not) and may fall prey to false urgency from your peers, CSO, family, etc.
When you get to your cram session (aka senior meeting), you will be going in with some basis to be discriminating about what information is most useful to you. Do not consign yourself to being overwhelmed. Overwhelmed = inaction = the worst. With your plan, do what you feel like you need to do. If you aren’t ready for the looming deadlines, don’t pay attention to that. If you aren’t ready to hear about specific industries, block it out until you are. If you want no part of CSO, that’s fine too. Aside: I mean don’t let the whole world go by without you (you will miss out if you wait too long), but generally speaking in today’s data surplus age, there are ways to come back to a lot of the information you will need.
A career search should not be a cram session anyway. Non-seniors should know that this is ideally multi-year process. You can and should be thinking about post-Midd before senior year. I don’t really buy this notion that you should not think about a job search until your junior summer where you need an internship that will set you up to be hired post-graduation. You can start thinking about a career search as soon as you step foot on campus for the first time, regardless of whether you see yourself climbing the corporate ladder, working freelance, or pursuing something abroad.
Ultimately, I am not saying every senior (or junior) is walking around campus tormented by the anxiety of not having a job, but not enough people admit upfront that it’s okay to worried about the process as long as you are making progress. Middlebury students project success everywhere they go, but there are huge parts of the process that make for a fundamentally different challenge than most students are used to (more on that in later posts). There are, however, familiar challenges that you know how to battle: feeling overwhelmed, procrastination, and cramming. This is a simple reminder to compose yourself before beginning the year.
Some students at Middlebury know exactly the path to where they want to go or already have plans. My series of posts is not for them. My experience is that many liberal arts students don’t know what they want to do but have a deep desire to do meaningful work across disciplines as part of balanced life post graduation. If that fits your profile, I invite you to continue reading, comment on these posts, and encourage others with your own stories. Tell me about what you are challenged with; I read every comment.
Next post: “That could be me”-syndrome and preconceived notions about the job search