Each day, as I walk into the Ross School of Business, I face a similar scene. Upperclassmen, running around in suits like chickens with their heads cut off, trying to locate any source of a potential career gain: peers, faculty, recruiters or a “professional” cup of Starbucks coffee. For juniors, there is no better time than the present to start recruiting. For sophomores, they’re watching the clock gradually tick down to their moment.
As a second-year business student, I constantly feel pressure to figure out my future path. I feel as though I have big-picture ideas and options — business, law school, sports management — but no real concrete plan for how to attain them. Thus, I am embarrassed when I listen to my friends talk about their upcoming summer plans or the millionth career fair they attended. I’ve acquired an urgency to throw myself into career preparation.
Except, the truth is that I have no idea what I’m doing. I created a LinkedIn and am diligent about updating my resume, but I know that isn’t enough. I always apply for the mentorship programs within the clubs I am a part of, hoping (albeit idealistically) that I will be assigned the right person and network my way to success. But the more advice I seek, the more disappointed I become in learning that there is no one way to approach the recruiting cycle. Or, as my peers and mentors have said, “it just kinda happens.”
There are a few statistics that may motivate your recruiting process: since 2013, at least 60% of students in their graduating class have completed an internship during their time in college. Just over 70% of employers end up offering their interns full-time positions. Furthermore, students who completed an internship are 15% less likely to be unemployed after graduation. Sounds pretty good, right?
Maybe not as much as we think. Eighty-three percent of students reported that “it’s difficult to tell which companies are actively hiring” and another 74% said “companies (they are) applying to seem unresponsive” to their applications. Moreover, 72% said that the “stress and uncertainty from COVID-19” has made their job search “even more difficult to navigate.”
While it’s true that these claims are just numbers, there is something to be said about the ambiguity of recruiting. The theory that one person’s process is different from another person’s makes the unknown feel somewhat ominous. Worse yet, there is no definitive way to shake that interpretation until you receive an offer. Thus, it is rather easy to become stressed about something that will eventually define the majority of your life — especially when it feels like everyone around you has their plans figured out. I’m waiting for the “aha” moment, the invisible lightbulb to pop up above my head to tell me what I’m doing and where I’m going after graduation. Except what no one tells me is that I have to generate the power to light it.
In my case, I feel foolish that I haven’t narrowed my options. Part of me just wants to spin a wheel and let it decide my major, internship and career; it would be a lot less of a hassle. However, I know that if I am not careful and deliberate in my reasoning, I am less likely to be happy 15 years from now. For me, an internal conflict has arisen between immediate and long-term satisfaction. While I know the latter is infinitely more beneficial, it’s hard to ignore the former when you’re surrounded by the grind of internship recruitment every day.
In an already competitive environment, amplified by the pandemic, I sense I am not the only one searching for answers. According to CNBC, the best practices to alleviate perpetual career uncertainty are to network, use social media to your advantage and learn new skills. Sadly, telling us what is often considered self-explanatory doesn’t really make us feel any better.
So, I’m working to embrace my situation. I’m normalizing not knowing exactly what I want down to every minute detail. I’m focusing on schoolwork, clubs and cherishing time with people I enjoy — also sometimes known as savoring the college experience. I am tired of everyone looking past the current moment and accelerating into the future.
I am not pushing aside recruiting; it’s important to build the foundation for your career while pursuing a degree, and at some point, I am going to prepare myself in hopes of securing an internship. For now, though, I’m not going to force anything, and that’s okay. I shouldn’t have to.
Sam Woiteshek is an Opinion Columnist and can be reached at email@example.com.